The Canadian national women’s soccer team kicks off its 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup campaign on June 10 against Cameroon. TSN will profile Canada’s 23 players in the 23 days leading up to their tournament opener.
Hometown: Burnaby, B.C.
Club: Portland Thorns (NWSL)
Christine Sinclair is, quite simply, the best Canadian soccer player of all time, male or female. She is a two-time Olympic bronze medallist, and a 14-time winner of Canada Soccer’s Player of the Year award. She has won the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s athlete of the year, is a member of Canada’s Walk of Fame and is an Officer of the Order of Canada.
She is Canada’s all-time leader in caps (282) and assists (56), and her 181 goals are three back of tying American Abby Wambach for the all-time record.
Sinclair made her national team debut as a 16-year-old on Mar. 12, 2000, earning the start in a group stage match against China at the Algarve Cup. Two days later, she scored her first international goal in a game against Norway. She would finish with a team-best three goals at the Algarve Cup, just one back of the tournament lead. She scored 15 goals in 18 games in her first year with the national team.
Two years later, she was a force for Canada at the 2002 FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championship, the first sanctioned women’s youth tournament held by FIFA. She finished with 10 goals in six matches, including a five-goal outburst in the quarter-final match against England. Sinclair would earn the Golden Shoe and the Golden Ball as tournament MVP, as Canada finished second, losing to the United States in extra time in the final.
That same year, she helped Canada qualify for the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup, netting seven goals at the 2002 CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup, tied for the tournament lead.
Sinclair was named to the roster for the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup, where Canada finished fourth –the team’s best-ever finish to date. She recorded three goals in the tournament, tied with Christine Latham for the team lead.
Four years later, Sinclair once again led Canada with three goals at the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup, but the Canadians narrowly missed making it out of their group. That same year, Sinclair would earn bronze with Canada at the 2007 Pan American Games.
In 2008, Sinclair participated in her first Olympics. She scored twice for her country, including Canada’s lone goal in the quarter-final match against the United States, which the Americans would win in extra time. On Feb. 20, 2010, she became the first Canadian, and the 10th women’s soccer player ever, to score 100 international goals.
One year later at the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Sinclair would score Canada’s lone goal of the tournament – a stunning free kick tally against the hosts, Germany. It would be the sole bright spot for the Canadians, who would finish dead last. Following that disappoint, Sinclair would once again compete in the Pan American Games, winning gold.
Sinclair had one of her most successful campaigns in 2012. She scored a tournament-best nine goals during the 2012 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic qualifiers, including a four-goal effort against Haiti. Then at the 2012 London Olympics, she scored a tournament-leading six goals, an Olympic women’s soccer record.
Her most famous performance came in the semi-final match against the United States, when she scored an unforgettable hat trick. Canada would ultimately lose to the Americans 4-3 in extra time, and the Canadian captain was highly critical of referee Christina Pedersen after the game. Pedersen had made several controversial decisions during the match, including a call on Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod for holding the ball longer than six seconds, a rule rarely enforced at the highest level. That call eventually led to a penalty kick for the Americans, which Wambach converted to tie the game.
Sinclair said shortly after the match, "We feel like we didn't lose, we feel like it was taken from us. It's a shame in a game like that that was so important, the ref decided the result before it started." FIFA would later suspend Sinclair for four matches and fine her a reported $3,500.
But the discipline wouldn’t diminish a fantastic year for Sinclair. Canada would go on to claim bronze at the Olympics, and Sinclair was named Canada’s flag bearer for the closing ceremony. The captain would finish with 23 goals and six assists in 22 matches for her country in 2012, and she won the Lou Marsh Award as Canada’s top athlete, the first soccer player to ever earn the honour.
The following year, she was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame, and on Dec. 12, 2013, she became the first Canadian to earn 200 caps for her country.
At the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup held in Canada, Sinclair scored twice during the tournament, including a clutch penalty in her team’s 1-0 win over China in the opening game. She has nine goals in four Women’s World Cups, tied for ninth-most all-time.
Less than a year later, she scored three goals during qualifiers for the 2016 Rio Olympics, including netting her 159th career goal on Feb, 14, 2016 – moving her past Mia Hamm for second-most all-time. Sinclair would earn her second Olympic bronze that summer in Rio, tied with Janine Beckie for the team lead with three goals in the tournament. In 2017, she was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada.
Sinclair also has numerous accolades outside of international soccer. She is the University of Portland’s all-time leader in points (252), goals (110), and game-winning goals (38), and she won the NCAA Championship twice with the Pilots in 2002 and 2005. She earned the MAC Hermann Trophy in back-to-back years in 2004 and 2005 as the NCAA’s top soccer player, the first Canadian to win the award. She still holds the NCAA record for most goals in a season, scoring 39 times in 25 games in 2005.
Sinclair has also won four professional championships since 2010, including claiming two NWSL championships in 2013 and 2017 with her current team, the Portland Thorns. She is the Thorns’ all-time leading scorer with 43 goals in both the regular season and playoffs.
Despite being continuously overlooked for the FIFA Player of the Year Award, Sinclair remains one of the top female soccer players in the world. Not only is she a clinical finisher in front of the net, but she has proven to be a brilliant playmaker, able to link up with her midfielders or fellow forwards. With her years of experience, she reads the game extremely well, and she possesses many intangibles that make her elite, such as her movement off the ball. She is a proven leader and is known for coming through for Canada in some of the team’s biggest games.