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.
One of the key players to the United States’ success in this Canadian World Cup will be a former Canadian. Sydney Leroux has emerged as one of the key cogs in the US attack, and with Alex Morgan still regaining fitness, Leroux’s form will be very influential in determining how far the States can go in this year’s tournament.
Coming to America
Leroux’s life started a little north of the United States in British Columbia. After spending the better part of her childhood in Canada and becoming the youngest player to appear for the Vancouver Whitecaps Women’s team, a 15-year-old Leroux decided that in order to further her blossoming soccer career she would move stateside and push for a place on the powerful US Women’s National Team. The move to the US placed a young Leroux in Scottsdale, Arizona. The complete change of scenery was very difficult for the teenager and she has repeatedly said that the difficulty adjusting to her new surroundings almost forced her to give up on her American dream, but reassurances from her mother convinced her to push on.
After a successful high school career, Leroux’s career continued with the famous UCLA soccer program. In her freshman season during 2008, the Canadian-American striker joined a roster that contained another future national team player in Lauren Cheney. Despite being just a freshman, Leroux still played in 19 games, scoring six goals and providing five assists in the process. Her sophomore season showed the college world what a young Leroux was truly capable of as she led the team with 48 points (23 goals and two assists), and helped push the team to a 21-3-1 record. Leroux was unable to match this outstanding point total during her junior year only managing 27 points (which still led the team). Her senior year saw the striker lead the squad in points for a third consecutive season and led to a lot of interest from WPS squads for the draft.
Life After UCLA
After a brief return to the Vancouver Whitecaps after the conclusion of her UCLA career, Leroux was taken first overall in the 2012 WPS Draft by the Atlanta Beat. Unfortunately, the fledgling league was dissolved before the young striker could ever play for the Georgia club. This led to Leroux joining fellow national team players like Hope Solo and Alex Morgan on the Seattle Sounders Women’s affiliate in the W-League. Another brief stay with her new club came to an end when she was allocated to the Boston Breakers of the newly-formed National Womens Soccer League (NWSL). In her 19 matches for the Breakers, Leroux scored 11 goals, and sat tied with Abby Wambach for second most in the league.
Despite this amazing season, Leroux again found herself being relocated after getting traded to the Seattle Reign. The forward helped push her new squad to the best regular season record of the 2014 NWSL season winning 16 games out of 24, and losing just two. However, Seattle fell just one match short of claiming the title, losing to FC Kansas City 2-1 in the final. For the 2015 campaign, Leroux will yet again be wearing a different kit as she lines up for the Western New York Flash.
Leroux began her international career playing for various Canadian youth national teams, but officially changed allegiances to the US in 2008. After becoming a part of the USWNT system, Leroux spent two years with the U-20 system and recorded 24 goals through 39 appearances. This impressive scoring record with the U-20 side earned the former Canadian her first call-up on January 21, 2011 against Sweden and scored her first senior goal a year later in a match against Guatemala where she ended up scoring five in the match.
2012 would prove to be a breakout year for Leroux as she earned 27 international appearances, all as a substitute, and managed to still score 14 goals with this limited time on the field. According to the USWNT’s statistics, Leroux averaged a goal for every 37 minutes of playing time. She was the youngest member of the US Olympic Qualifying team for the 2012 London games and contributed her only Olympic goal in the quarterfinal match against New Zealand.
A heated return to Canada saw the home crowd consistently boo and harass their former compatriot which would eventually come back to bite them. A late Leroux goal led to the American striker shushing the Canadian crowd and later tweet complaining of being racially abused by the Canadian faithful. Leroux is now a consistent starter for Jillian Ellis’ national team, and has managed to rack up 35 goals through her 72 appearances in the stars and stripes.
One of the main reasons Leroux is such a potent striker is her pace. The 25-year-old possesses an uncanny ability to run past opposing defenders, and her powerful shot gives her the ability to score from outside the box as well. Even with the impressive pace and shot power, perhaps the most important aspect of her game is her work ethic. Leroux consistently gives 100 percent effort on the field, and this can be the difference between scoring or getting her shot blocked. This tenacity will be key to America reclaiming the Cup.