Leroux making strides, but room for improvement remains

USWNTBS111013240

Photo by Brad Smith/ISIphotos.com

By FRANCO PANIZO

FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Less than two years ago, Sydney Leroux was in Princenton, N.J. partaking in one of her first U.S. Women’s National Team camps. Leroux’s talent was easy for all to see and so was her aggressive style of play, but then-head coach Pia Sundhage tempered expectations by saying that it takes time for young players like Leroux to find consistency and truly grasp how to play at the international level.

Leroux might be reaching that point now.

With all the success Leroux has had since joining the U.S., it is easy to forget that she is still just a 23-year-old forward with plenty of room to grow. Even so, Leroux is already widely considered one of the top strikers in the world of women’s soccer, a scary proposition for other nations given that she might only be scratching the surface of the player she can become.

“I think that the more I play the more I understand,” Leroux told SBI. “At first, when I first got on here, all I wanted to do was go forward because I needed to score goals. But now I feel definitely more comfortable and I feel like I can slow down a little bit and play soccer and not just go 100 miles per hour.”

Leroux already has 26 goals in 45 caps, her latest coming in last Saturday’s rout of Russia, and an Olympic gold medal. But achievements like those are only expected to multiply in the coming years so long as she continues to develop certain areas of her game, and there are areas of her game that could still use some polishing.

“I think there’s a reasonable amount of improvement and playing games will obviously help that,” U.S. head coach Tom Sermanni told SBI. “Situations where she looks to make runs, where she looks to hold the ball up and take on players, all those areas. She’s got the ability to do that so it’s just continuing refining the ability that she’s already got.”

While Sermanni knows there are other levels Leroux can reach, he is also aware how much she has improved in the past year. In fact, Leroux’s most recent performances have helped the U.S. not feel the absence of star striker Alex Morgan, who is struggling with an ankle issue.

Leroux attributes a good portion of her progression to world-class teammates like Morgan and fellow forward Abby Wambach, but the charismatic forward has also gotten better because of the amount of playing time she has received under Sermanni.

Under Sundhage, Leroux was integrated into the national team set-up at a steady pace. But now she’s a key figure in Sermanni’s squad, one that is preparing for World Cup qualifying later this year.

“What happened last year with regards to Syd is that she got more opportunities to start and that helped her confidence, that helped her development,” said Sermanni. “She’s gone on from there and I think she’s continued to grow as a player, and scoring goals as a goal-scorer, that gives you more and more confidence when you go out on the field. All of that combined I think has really made her a potent striker.

“Still development to go, but at the moment she’s in great form, she’s fit, she’s healthy and playing very well.”

Even when Leroux is not playing at her best, she has a tendency to still make an impact. That was the case against her birth nation Canada a couple of weeks ago, as she broke a scoreless deadlock with a late winner for the Americans.

Much has been made of Leroux’s relationship with Canada and its fans, and with good reason given that she has been the target of plenty of criticism from Canuck supporters who feel she turned her back on her country of birth. But Leroux insists that any hostility or negative feelings from her towards them are in the past, and that she is focused on what lies ahead.

“Not anymore. It’s over. It’s whatever. It is what it is,” said Leroux when asked if scoring vs. Canada has any significant meaning to her anymore. “I’m pretty sure they understand that I’m not coming back and I’m here in the U.S. to stay whatever happens. It’s over. It’s last year.

“Who knows what it’ll be like when we play them in April (in Winnipeg), but for us here it doesn’t matter.”

That said, Leroux cannot help but wonder what it would be like for her to play in her first World Cup, especially given that the 2015 edition is being held in no other place but Canada.

“Assuming we qualify and assuming I’m on the roster, obviously I’m really looking forward to it,” said Leroux. “It’s going to be pretty wild, especially because the final is actually in my hometown (in Vancouver). If we make it all the way there, it’s going to be a pretty crazy story.”

It would also be just the latest achievement in Leroux’s blossoming and promising career.

This entry was posted in Featured, U.S. Women's National Team, Women's Soccer. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Leroux making strides, but room for improvement remains

  1. Dinho says:

    Girl can fly. She needs to work on her technique as she will not be able rely solely on her pace all the time.

  2. YOLO IS BACK says:

    Is she or Morgan the 2 we need going forward for us? Can they achieve what Wambach has achieved? I’ve a 7 year old niece that I’m grooming to help win us the 2028 Olympics

  3. NATO says:

    we have the best women
    s team in the world. Other than basketball, what are professional sports for women (not many play tennis/golf professionally), I don’t get why we don’t have more support for the women’s league

    at the very least shouldn’t women support them? Or is that sexist to assume? I want a solid, no… I want us to have the best women’s soccer league for the next 50 years, how can this be done?

    • Elite Hunting says:

      Why would you expect women to support the league? Youth females are much more realistic about their future than boys. They don’t expect to play professionally or internationally past college. It isn’t what most dream of. For girls, they mostly aspire to play in college then move on with their life and get jobs. They don’t view professional athletics through the same prism as most boys/men.

      • Anthony says:

        I knew a few female collegiate athletes when I was in college 10 or so years ago. Trust me, they wished playing professionally was more of an option. I knew soccer players, swimmers, hockey players, and track & field. They best ones pushed for youth national teams and hoped for more. If they had a viable league, with viable pay, they would have pursued it.

      • Paul says:

        I knew a few female collegiate athletes when I was in college. Trust me, they wished playing professionally was more of an option. I knew soccer players, swimmers, basketball players and track & field athletes. The best ones pushed for youth national teams, but a few said it they had a viable league, with viable pay, they would have pursued it.

      • JoeW says:

        I support sports and teams that I have absolutely no realistic hope of every playing. That’s got nothing to do with it. Women who played 10 years of youth soccer and understand the sport and were once raving fans screaming “MIA” or “ABBY” at the top of their voices tend to become apathetic about the sport and it’s not b/c of career aspirations. There are exceptions of course but career has little to do with it.

    • JoeW says:

      Culturally, women in the US aren’t sports fans the way that men tend to be sports fans. I remember reading a study about this that had been publicized in the WSJ. For instance, women will often go to games as a group, or to be with someone who wants to go to that game. But they don’t usually stay home alone in order to watch a game on TV. Additionally, how fans develop seems to vary with gender. The WUSA players used to say that they were doing this to convert the young fans into teen fans and then adult fans. Young girls are absolutely strong supporters of women’s soccer. But then the teen years hit and suddenly it stops being cool to be a fan. At a time when with boys, soccer watching and supporting just accelerates (high school), for girls it tends to suddenly drop. Women’s sports have some obstacles to fan success here in the US. Bottom line: all serious women’s sports in the USA (basketball, soccer, track & field, even Olympics sports) just don’t generate anywhere near the level of support and female viewership for them that men’s sports do–even when we’re talking about relatively “minor” sports like….field hockey vs. lacrosse or men’s sports that have next to no advertising. Even women’s sports teams that have done comparatively well at the gate (like the UT women’s basketball team) do it by pulling in large numbers of men. Women’s professional soccer has done poorly partially b/c it’s been poorly run but mostly b/c it couldn’t draw significant numbers of female fans. Some families. Some young fans. Some boys and men (b/c there was no men’s team or they just liked soccer or were fans of a particular female player). But mostly female sports languish b/c they don’t attract women.

  4. H-town says:

    Sydney LeRoux and Alex Morgan could both potentially end up in Houston to play with the Dash. LeRoux is dating JJ Watt of the Houston Texans, and Morgan is marrying Carrasco of the Dynamo

    • Dinho says:

      Who’s to say Watt doesn’t get traded to the Seahawks…. and Carrasco doesn’t seek out a move to the Timbers….

    • Good Jeremy says:

      I had thought she was dating Colin Kaepernick.
      Either way, all signs are that she is ecstatic to be in Seattle right now and calls it home.

    • Elite Hunting says:

      The Leroux/Watt thing ended a long time ago. She is rumored to have been dating Colink Kaepernick for months. More often than not, players in the NWSL are allocated to areas where they are from or have a collegiate connection. They don’t go based on who they are dating … Be serious, please.

  5. i wonder says:

    LeRoux has to be the hottest soccer player ever

    • Matt C says:

      About time this post showed up. Search “photos of Sydney LeRoux” and you’ll see her full talent on display. Bonus that she’s a stud on the field.

  6. prizby says:

    “Not anymore. It’s over. It’s whatever. It is what it is,”…pretty easy to walk away and not face any responsibility when you make up a big lie and then change your story and then still offer no proof