LEROUX A RISING STAR

Canada goalkeeper Erin McLeod (1) makes a save as United States forward Sydney Leroux, right, and Kadeisha Buchanan (14) close in during the first half of a soccer game on Friday, Jan. 31, 2014, in Frisco, Texas.
AP Photo/LM Otero

U.S. international forward Sydney Leroux seems to really enjoy playing against Canada; she is always the center of attraction when the North American rivals meet. The U. S. forward rose to the occasion again when she scored the lone goal to propel the American women to a 1-0 victory against their Canadian counterparts in an international friendly last Friday, Jan. 31, in front of a crowd of 20,862 at the Toyota Park in Frisco, Texas. Leroux also scored for the USA in a 3-0 win over Canada on June 2, 2013, when the USA visited BMO Field in Toronto.

The 24-year-old forward has much reason to be pumped for these clashes: she is Canadian born, played for Canadian youth teams and is always chided by Canadian fans who think that she is playing for the wrong team. Since Leroux cannot pay for Canada again, she is making the best of the opportunities to play for the USA. She claimed in the past that she was racially abused by fans because of her decision to play for the U.S.

Born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, Leroux was the youngest player at the 2004 FIFA Under-19 World Cup in Thailand when she represented Canada at age 14; she went on to captain Canada’s U-15 team at a tournament in Germany in 2005, just before moving to the USA at age 15. Under international soccer rules, a player can switch countries only while playing at the youth level; once a player suits up for a country’s senior team, there is no going back.

Leroux went on to become the most prolific American player ever at the U-20 level. She made the most international appearances (39) for a USA U-20 player and became the highest scorer all-time (24, goals). Against Switzerland, Leroux scored only the third hat trick in history for an American U-20 player, during the 2010 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Chile, and she has the record for most World Cup goals (10) for an American at this level.

The 5-7 forward attended UCLA on a soccer scholarship, where she honed her skills; as a junior at UCLA in 2011, she was one of the best college players in the country and became part of the USA senior national program. She set a scoring record with the senior team tallying 14 times as a substitute and has now played 44 times for the USA and scored 25 goals. The fast forward also plays for the Seattle Reign in the New Women’s Professional Soccer League.

Leroux’s 25th goal came on Friday when, with 12 minutes to play in a very close game, defender Becky Sauerbrunn sent a cross from the right wing that rolled past three defenders in the goal area before Leroux came in from the far left side to tap the ball into the net. It was one of the few chances for the Americans in the very competitive game and Leroux proved her value to the team.

Leroux’s enthusiasm for the game is infectious! Her excellent technical skills, tremendous speed and very high work rate makes her the envy of many coaches and gained the attention of the world’s top defenders. In last Friday’s game, she was closely marked throughout by Canada’s strongest defender, Kadeisha Buchanan from West Virginia University, but managed to elude her marker for a moment – ultimately the most important moment of the game.

The U.S. women are now unbeaten at home in their last 78 matches and have won 47 of 55 matches against Canada all-time. Canada won five of those contests and three were drawn. The Americans will play Russia twice next month on Feb. 8 at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Florida, and at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome on Feb. 12.

USA MEN BEAT KOREA

Last Saturday’s USA-South Korea friendly international at the Stub Hub Center in Carson (CA) was a chance for fringe players to stake their claim for a spot on the USA men’s World Cup team for Brazil next summer. Ditto Korea! The visitors were without most of their first teamers as well. At game’s end, only San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski made an impact in a game that had few interesting moments and was sloppy at times; the Earthquakes forward scored both goals in the Americans 2-0 victory in front of a sell-out crowd of 27,000.

As the lone forward in coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s 1-4-2-3-1 system, Wondolowski showed that he has a knack for scoring; he showed up in the right places at the right times to score both goals. It was no accident that Wondolowski was positioned right in front of goal where Korean goalkeeper Sung-Ryong Jung failed to hold onto Brad Davis’ shot as he pushed the rebound into the path f the Earthquakes forward for the first score only four minutes into the match; at the 60th minute, it was Wondolowski again, who pounced on a loose ball in front of Korea’s goal for the second tally. He exhibited good anticipation and acute positioning in front of the goal, the trademark of a good scorer.

Potential starters for the U.S. in Brazil, Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez, were at central defense, with Michael Parkhurst trying out at left full back and Brad Evans, who did well at right full back. Central midfielders Kyle Beckerman and Mix Diskerud did little to improve their claims for a trip to Brazil, but Brad Davis on the left side of midfield improved his chances for a trip to South America, especially since the U.S. has few worthy left-sided players.

“The guys showed a lot of quality, a lot of effort,” U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “Wondo is a wonderful example of (what happens) if you are committed, if you’re hungry, if you give everything you have over a long period of time,” Klinsmann said. “Sooner or later, you’re going to get rewarded for it. It’s nice to see a player like him is still hungry.” The U.S. will next play the Ukraine on March 5, in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

Edu back

U. S. midfielder Maurice Edu will return to MLS for the 2014 season, according to reports from the Philadelphia Union. The said it acquired the player on loan from English Premier League club Stoke City.

Edu, the MLS rookie of the year in 2007 with Toronto FC who played in the 2010 World Cup and is probably the best two-way midfielder for the U.S. in recent times, was transferred to Stoke in August 2012 after a stellar four-year career at Scotland’s Glasgow Rangers, but was scarcely used by the English club. He was loaned to Turkish club, Bursaspor.

Edu, who played 47 times for the U.S., joins two other U.S. internationals who returned to MLS for the upcoming season; Clint Dempsey went to the Seattle Sounders from England’s Tottenham Hotspurs, and Michael Bradley, left Italy’s Roma to join Toronto FC.

USA forward Sydney Leroux (2) and Canada defender Lauren Sesselmann (10) chase the ball during the first half of a soccer game Friday, Jan. 31, 2014, in Frisco, Texas. USA won 1-0.
AP Photo/LM Otero

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