This is a guest interview by frequent contributor and USWNT expert Dan Wiersema.
The USWNT kicks off the Four Nations tournament Friday in Chongqing, China against Sweden
Check out Dan’s site and novel concept here: The Free Beer Movement
Think back to when you were just 20 years old.
What had you accomplished at such a young age?
Most of us we’re slogging through college, working, trying to make ends meet.
Were you also the Golden Boot winner at the U-20 Women’s World Cup? Were you also leading your college side deep into the NCAA playoffs? Were you off to such places as Chile and China to represent your country? Were you eagerly awaiting your first cap for the National Team? Did you have to balance a life of school, soccer, and dating a professional baseball player?
The answer is probably “no” for most of us, but for University of California at Los Angeles junior and U.S. Women’s National Team forward Sydney Leroux these are just daily deposits in a life already chock full of success.
Leroux was called into her second National Team camp this January and is now in China preparing for the USWNT’s participation (and possible her first cap) in the Four Nations Tournament. The speedy front-woman is regarded as one of the women’s program’s brightest prospects. She’s got the pace and finishes lethally as demonstrated by her five goals in the U-20 World Cup and her 30 goals in total in 36 matches for the youth team.
TSG got a chance to catch up with Leroux via the Gmailer as her hectic schedule created chaos around a phone time. Here’s our exchange below.
The Shin Guardian: You made a decision, at a very early age, that you wanted to play for the U.S. National Team. (Leroux was eligible to play for Canada).
How hard of a decision was that to make at the time? What were some of the “pulls” of playing in the United States?
Sydney Leroux: It was a really hard decision. I have nothing against Canada and Vancouver is my favorite place in the world and is still what I call home even if I do play for the US. Leaving friends, family, and school at such a young age is tough but if I could do it all over again I would. This is exactly where I want to be and I knew it when I was a little girl. I wanted to play for the USA.
TSG: You burst onto the national scene when you bagged five goals for the U-20s back in 2008 en route to the team winning the U-20 World Cup. How did that feel to have such an impact, especially after coming on as a sub against France? What was your frame of mind going from the bench to then, well, blowing up?
SL: It was the best feeling I’ve ever had. I go back to that moment when things aren’t going so well and remember how good it felt to come from behind when no one really expected anything. I was young and expected to come off the bench and when I got my chance against France I wasn’t going to let that be my last. I wanted to continue to create chances for myself by playing well so I could get more chances the next game. It wasn’t necessarily about blowing up, for me it was more about staying calm and going back to my roots and realizing the strengths I had to make the team in the first place.
TSG: Kristine Lilly retired last week. You’re thoughts on her? Disappointed that you won’t be able to line up on the field with her?
SL: I really enjoyed Lilly the one camp I got to spend with her. She is so soccer smart and will continue to be a big part of the USWNT history.
TSG: Having played at both the collegiate level, and now training with the National Team (now and with the youth teams) what’s the biggest differences playing at the international level?
SL: The biggest difference playing at an international level is the stakes are always higher. You’re not playing for a national championship, saying you’re the best in the country.. you’re playing for a world championship saying you’re the best in the world. It’s a lot bigger and the game is a lot faster.
TSG: You’ve also been led by both male coaches (Tony DiCicco with the U-20s) and female coaches (Jillian Ellis at UCLA and now Pia Sundhage). Does it matter if the coach is male or female? Does it help either way?
SL: I don’t think it matters. I think every coach has different concepts and different ways of coaching. Through all the coaches I’ve had I’ve never had anyone who were exactly alike. Some may do similar drills or passing patterns but their approach to the game and what they expect and want from their players is different.
TSG: The USWNT trained on the field next to the men’s team the other day. In January camp (one of the only times both teams are in Carson) is there any interaction between the two teams? Skills contests? Just “checking” each other out? Exchanging phone numbers?
SL: (Laughs) No interactions really. It was a really busy week for both teams so we were always either practicing, going to meals or meetings. I don’t think anyone exchanged any numbers either!
TSG: Players such as yourself, Alex Morgan, and Tobin Heath have been called the future of the USWNT and a clear break from the 1999 Cup team or the losses in 2003 and 2007. What’s your take on that? Do you feel a lot of pressure to meet these high expectations and meet the team’s previous successes?
SL: I love pressure but I don’t think any of us are really looking at it like it. For me I’m just playing soccer, what happened in the past is in the past I’m hoping I can be a part of not allowing history to repeat itself.
TSG: What are your playing goals moving forward for the USWNT?
SL: Just to become better, to make other players around me better by playing my best. I want to continue to be challenged and that’s exactly was the USWNT brings to me. It’s a constant challenge playing with some of the best players not only in the country but also in the world and I feel honored being a part of it.
TSG: You’ve still got one more year at UCLA. What are your thoughts about the current shaky situation with the Women’s Professional Soccer league? Are you concerned there won’t be an American league to play in when you graduate?
SL: I really hope that the WPS survives this next season and I’m able to play in such a competitive environment. If not, it won’t be the end of the world; if I couldn’t play for a team in the states I would look to play in Europe.
TSG: OK…. A few questions about you off-field.
You’re engaged to be married? He plays baseball right? (Brent Lawrie, currently with the Toronto Blue Jays) Is it tough to balance a relationship like yours when you both a hardly ever in the same place?
SL: I get this question all the time! Yes, of course it’s hard not being able to be with someone all of the time but like my mom said, after all is said and done we will have the rest of our lives to be together. We are both very passionate when it comes to our sport and we both understand the type of commitment it takes and we are there for each other through the good games and the bad. The only time when things get tough is when Brett tries to tell me that baseball is harder than soccer, that’s when the fights start.
TSG: Without risking personal injury from your fiancé I’ve read that you’ve got quite a few tattoos. Eleven…. if I’m not mistaken. What’s the story behind them?
SL: Yes I have a few. For me my tattoos tell a story, maybe that’s why I enjoy them. If a tattoo doesn’t tell a story that involves someone emotionally and they’re just there for decoration I wouldn’t count it as a valid tattoo. I feel like there has to be some emotional appeal or they aren’t really (in my way of thinking) a real tattoo. I think tattoos tell people what you are and what you believe in.
I have a bow on my foot and within the ribbon says, “truth, strength, freedom, and love” which again is what I believe to be the most important things in my life. I also have a silhouette of my mother and I on the side of my back and underneath us says, “You believed in me first” without my mom I wouldn’t be where I am today, I wouldn’t have left my home, my friends, my family, too chase this “dream” of playing for the US. My mom had a way of pushing me to do and be my very best but was also very caring and understanding.
TSG : I read (from USSoccer.com profile) that you’re an avid shopper. Favorite places to hit up? Things to buy?
SL: That would definitely have to be Lululemon; I’m a huge fan of pretty much everything in that store I get made fun of constantly because sometimes I look like a walking mannequin, .but it’s comfy!
I’m also really into make-up and skin care and once I’m finished with soccer I’d love to go to cosmetology school. Not necessarily having it as a job, but it’s a hobby of mine and something I really enjoy. So another place would have to be Sephora or MAC but only for their colorful eye shadows and fun collections.
TSG: And a music lover, too? What’s heavy in rotation right now on your iPod?
SL: I listen to anything and everything depending on my mood… except the screaming kind of music isn’t really my type. I like keeping an open mind when it comes to music because I think every song says something. As of right now, my top 5 most played songs on my iPod have to be:
Would U Love Me – Uness Ft. Drake
Water – Brad Paisley
Dog Days Are Over – Florence and the Machine
Change of Seasons – Sweet Thing
What’s My Name – Rihanna Ft. Drake
TSG: You’re a history major at UCLA… ever breakdown and just starting teaching lessons for your teammates?
SL: Haha, no that doesn’t really happen! Though I get relatively good grades I hate talking about school when I don’t have too!
TSG: Ladies and gentlemen… Ms. Sydney Leroux.