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American woman

Canadian-born U.S. forward still calls Vancouver home

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Sydney Leroux's story is compelling and riveting. And, as she is already one of the most gifted soccer players in the world at just 23, there are only more chapters that will be added to her tale.

But she might also be one of the most misunderstood athletes in the game right now.

"Yeah, I think there's a huge part of my story that no one really knows," said Leroux this week after practising with the U.S. national women's soccer team in advance of Thursday's friendly against Canada at Investors Group Field.

"But, hopefully, by the time 2015 rolls around it won't be as hostile and we'll have more of an understanding."

The Coles Notes version of Leroux's story goes like this:

-- Born in Surrey, B.C., her mother is Canadian, her father American. Mom Sandi played for the Canadian national softball team and her father, Ray Chadwick, was also a pro who had a stint with the California Angels in 1986.

-- She played for Canada internationally as a youth, including being the youngest player -- at just 14 -- to play in the 2004 FIFA U-19 Women's World Cup.

-- But Leroux also stated as far back as her early teens that her goal was to play for the U.S. and at 15 she moved to Arizona to pursue that dream. In 2008 she wore U.S. colours for the first time and has since earned over 40 caps with the senior national team.

-- All this led up to an nasty development before, during and after a friendly against Canada in Toronto last June. Booed through the game, she celebrated a late goal in a U.S. win by pointing to the U.S. emblem on her jersey and shushing the crowd.

After the game she tweeted: "When you chant racial slurs, taunt me and talk about my family don't be mad when I shush you and show pride in what I represent. #america." Later, U.S. Soccer said Leroux had "endured abuse both verbally and in social media" since switching allegiances from Canada to the U.S.

And just like that you have a potential powder-keg Leroux and the American federation is careful of igniting or even revisiting. An example: Leroux's interview with the local media Tuesday was temporarily interrupted by the media-relations liaison when she was asked about her back story.

Leroux, for her part, wants to make something clear: she can't wait for Thursday's game and next year's World Cup, loves playing in Canada and still visits home in Vancouver often.

"I'm happy that I have my team and my teammates behind me," she said. "I love Canada, so there's no issue from my part. I'm excited. I'm excited to play here.

"I constantly go home and am in Vancouver all the time. I have my friends and family and people who have been there since Day 1. Vancouver is home to me, even though I play in the USA."

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 7, 2014 C4

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