Every week at The Center Circle, we are highlighting a different player in a feature we call “On the Spot”. We’ll take a look at superstars, underrated gems, aging veterans, and young unknowns who should be known. We’ll peruse their club and international careers, taking note of their teams, statistics, and highlight reels. We’ll illuminate their strengths and weaknesses and comment on their personalities and reputations. It will be some fun. If there is anyone you want to see “On the Spot”, feel free to comment below.
As the FIFA Women’s World Cup nears its opening match on Saturday, Canadian hopes of claiming their first ever title on home soil will rest largely on the shoulders of their most storied player, Christine Sinclair. The 31-year-old forward leads the nation not only in appearances (222), but also in goals (153). Will the national spotlight bring out the best in the lethal striker, or will the pressure cause her to crumble on the biggest of stages?
As soon as Christine Sinclair suited up for the University of Portland, it was clear that there was a star in the making. During her freshman year at the northwestern school, Sinclair made waves in the NCAA as she led the team with 23 goals and eight assists (54 points in total). Not only did she lead her team in scoring, she led all of the Division I freshman class in the category as well. The rampant scoring pace continued in her sophomore season with the Pilots as she upped her tally to an NCAA-leading 26 goals in just 21 games. This outstanding season from the Canadian striker led the university to a national championship in which Sinclair scored the game-winner.
Her outstanding college career was put on hold during the 2003 season, however, as she took time off from Portland to represent her nation at the 2003 World Cup. The season-long hiatus did little to stop Sinclair’s amazing form in college ball as she again led the team in scoring with 22 strikes the year she returned to the Pilots. This amazing season earned the striker her first of two Hermann Trophies (equivalent to the Heisman Trophy in college football). In her senior season with the team, Sinclair scored a career-best 39 goals in just 25 games and led her school to a second national title in less than four years. At the conclusion of her college career, the Canadian set school records for points (252) and goals (110).
Upon her graduation, Sinclair returned to her home nation and played with the Vancouver Whitecaps in the USL Women’s League. During her short two-year stint with the club, the striker scored ten goals in 21 games and helped the Whitecaps claim a league title. The rise of the WPS in 2008 led to Sinclair getting drafted by FC Gold Pride where she was able to pair up with arguably one of the greatest women’s players in history, Marta. Before the club disbanded in 2010, Sinclair was able to rack up 16 goals through two seasons, and helped the club to the league title in its final year of existence, where she scored two goals in the championship match.
After FC Gold Pride folded, Sinclair and Marta again found themselves together when they moved to the Western New York Flash. In their first season with the club, the two players jointly led the league in goals scoring ten apiece. In 18 matches, New York lost just twice en route to Sinclair’s second league title in as many years. This would be Sinclair’s only year with the club as a lack of attendance/interest forced the entire league to cease operations.
In the latest reincarnation of professional women’s soccer in the United States (the National Women’s Soccer League), Sinclair found herself back where it all began: Portland. Again the legendary Canadian forward was paired with a proven international player in the attack, and this time it was Alex Morgan. In the 2013 NWSL Season, Morgan and Sinclair led the team in goals with eight each, and in typical Sinclair fashion, her team won the championship.
Few players in any country can boast the career numbers that Christine Sinclair has on the international stage. Her illustrious Canadian career began when the forward was just 16 years old. Over the years, Sinclair has represented her national side in over 15 tournaments including both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics and the previous two Women’s World Cups. Numerous records have been broken by the Canadian legend including most goals in a single national team season when she broke the record she set in 2000 by scoring 16 goals in 2007.
Perhaps her most famous performance came during the 2012 London Olympics. In the semifinal match, Sinclair’s Canadian team faced off against a seemingly unbeatable American side. I think it’s fair to say that despite Canada losing the match 4-3, Sinclair was the best player on the field. Her three-goal performance against a formidable US backline showed the world just how deadly she can be, and every team will be on notice when she steps on the field this World Cup.
Style of Play
Christine Sinclair is about as close as you can come to a complete striker in today’s game. The 31-year-old can seemingly find a way to score no matter what opposing defenses throw at her. She can just as easily blast a shot into the back of net as she can float a ball over a helpless goalie’s head. If you take away the ground route to Sinclair, she can punish you with her unstoppable aerial ability (as seen with her hat-trick against the US in the Olympics). Expect to see her unbelievable goal-scoring record grow during the latest edition of the Women’s World Cup.