All Scores

Q&A with Christine Sinclair: Canada captain releases memoir

Christine Sinclair criticized Canada Soccer for its “culture of secrecy and obstruction.” (Silvestre Szpylma/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

Canadian women’s national team captain Christine Sinclair has always been private about her personal life. But now, after two decades in professional soccer and the all-time record for international goals, she’s ready to tell her story.

Sinclair’s memoir, “Playing the Long Game: A Memoir,” comes out Nov. 1, a mere three days after she plays in her fourth NWSL championship game with the Portland Thorns. The captain was a part of the Thorns when they won their first championship in 2013, the year the NWSL began, and on Saturday they’ll look to claim their third title against the Kansas City Current in Washington, D.C.

In her book, co-authored with Stephen Brunt, Sinclair discusses everything from growing up in Burnaby, B.C, to winning national championships at the University of Portland, to making Portland her permanent home with the Thorns. Through it all, she’s lost loved ones, helped Canada win its first Olympic gold medal in 2021 and pushed for equal pay between the men’s and women’s teams.

Just Women’s Sports sat down with Sinclair, 39, recently to discuss the writing process, reliving memories from her career and creating a better future for women’s soccer players.

First, I have to ask, based on a revelation in your book: What was your favorite part of ballet class in college?

[Laughs] When it was over. I mean, easy credits … I needed an easy credit. It was like, “Ballet? OK.” A bunch of us took it and, like, oh my God.

Was there a specific moment or conversation that sparked the idea that now was the time to write and release a book?

It wasn’t a specific moment. Obviously it was after Tokyo, and opportunities are being thrown your way and it seemed like the right time. Our national team had never been at such a high, and it was people within Canada paying attention to the sport. It was just time to change the script. And young kids can now idolize women. I grew up idolizing male players and male figures, and what better time to change that? So, let’s do a book.

How long have you known that writing a memoir was something you wanted to do?

It’s actually been quite a while where, not that I wanted to do it necessarily, but whether it’s teammates or just people that I’d meet at [university] told me to write a book. I mean, obviously I’ve had a journey. I’ve had a career that has been pretty cool. So with help, it made sense.

As a naturally private person, how did you adjust to the writing process?

There are definitely certain things where, going into it with Stephen Brunt, I was like, these are off limits, these are no go’s. But yeah, it was just weird. For me, talking about soccer is easy. People who have followed my career know that we won gold, and know that this happened and this. It’s the little behind-the-scenes things that people don’t know of, which was cool. But for me, writing parts and putting parts about my family out there is … showing some vulnerability with that is the most difficult part for me, especially my parents and things like that. So that’s the part where you feel a little like, “Uhhh,” but that being said, I’m proud that it’s out there.

“Playing the Long Game” is dedicated to your biggest inspiration — your mother. How has she inspired and impacted you?

Obviously her living with MS for as long as she did, and being a kid, seeing one of your parents go through that and the struggles and seeing physically everything be taken away from her — the way she handled it inspired me and taught me a whole lot of perspective in life. And those days that I thought were so bad, in the grand scheme of things, are not bad at all. A lot of hard work and a lot of perspective and how to face things with a smile on your face, and trying to make the best out of situations that sometimes are very hard.

Many of your coaches had a big impact on you as well, especially former Canada women’s coach John Herdman. What did you learn from him?

He joked that he wants his players, when he’s done coaching them, to have a PhD in soccer. In terms of soccer knowledge and understanding the game, I’ve never had a better coach. I see the game and play the game differently because of him. But as a person, he is able to get the most out of every single individual on the team and that’s not necessarily on the soccer field. He prides himself on the individuals and the people that you are and you become. He’s just a good guy. I mean, he spoke at my dad’s service and he’s one of the few guys in my life where I count on him for anything. Very rarely do you get that in a coach. I’m so thankful that I had him as a coach and now as a friend, and seeing him take on the world with the men’s team, I’m his biggest fan.

As a captain, your lead-by-example style is just a part of who you are, but who has influenced your leadership along the way?

John definitely was the one that kind of challenged me the most in terms of, “OK, yes, you lead by example. Yes, you tend to do the right things day in and day out.” But he knows how to get you out of your comfort zone and try new things. He was the one that helped me find the power of my voice and when to speak up. And then having teammates like Diana Matheson and now bosses Rhian and Karina, they’re more upfront and honest and to-the-point type leaders, and they’ve definitely helped me find that within myself.

Thorns coach Rhian Wilkinson and GM Karina LeBlanc are two of your closest friends. How do you balance friendship and professional relationships with them in Portland?

It’s been a challenge at times, just because we are such good friends — best friends. Especially with Rhian and I, the coach-player dynamic, we’ve definitely set our boundaries that we are a player and coach and for right now, that’s it. I mean, that sounds so mean, but right now it’s, how can we help the Thorns win and succeed? With Karina, I don’t see her as much day to day, but it’s been cool to see her family and her little kid, Paris, down here. I know Rhian and Karina both played here for a year, but it’s cool to be on this journey with them and other staff members and slowly making this a little Team Canada down here. I’m proud of that. I like to think we’re good people and we’re building something special.

While writing this book, was there a moment or chapter that you had fun reliving, having not thought about it too much beforehand?

It’s not specific moments. I think of the 2015 World Cup, the 2011 World Cup, and in a way, leaving those tournaments, they left such a negative taste in my mouth because we weren’t as successful as we would have hoped. But then, years later reflecting back on it, there’s some great memories from those tournaments that, in the moment, you don’t think about because it’s wins or losses and that’s all that seems to matter. But looking back, there are moments that brought the team together. Without those two experiences, I don’t think we would have had the success we’ve had recently. It just brought the team closer and made friendships stronger.

Knowing how much Canadians love to beat the Americans, were you any more determined to break the international goal-scoring record knowing Abby Wambach (184 goals) held the title at the time?

So, as I was chasing Mia [Hamm] down and Abby down, it wasn’t so much that they were American. It was just as it got closer, it’s like you want it, and the pressure and stress that came with that. But now that it’s been taken care of, I’m more proud to see a Canadian at the top of the list and not an American flag. It wasn’t the driving force behind what I wanted to do, but now that it’s done, it’s pretty cool to see Canada on top.

You joke about Even Pellerud, a Norwegian, becoming more Canadian during his time coaching Canada from 1998-2008. It got me wondering, in your case, do you feel you’ve taken on any American tendencies while living and playing in the States for so long?

I mean, I don’t think so. But then I go home to Canada and my family makes fun of some of the things I say, and they’re like, “Oh, you sound American.” But that’s also why I like Portland so much. To me, it just reminds me of Vancouver. It has that vibe. It’s not like I’m living in Texas. So, I think I’ve stayed close to Canada.

Hypothetical question: If the NWSL were to expand to Vancouver, would you prefer to stay in Portland or move to Vancouver, which is closer to your hometown?

I’d stay in Portland. It was brought to me a couple years ago when the Whitecaps were dabbling in the potential of joining the NWSL. They were like, “Part of it would mean you would have to come back,” and I was like, “The Thorns are my club now.” Yeah, I couldn’t. I couldn’t leave. I’m not saying that, when I’m done playing, I wouldn’t venture up North to help out there, but in terms of playing, I’m pretty set here.

You mention in the book that you didn’t feel a lot of pressure on the field while growing up. Do you think you would have felt more pressure if you had been more aware of the opportunities that were at stake?

Maybe. I think of the younger kids now, that they’re just faced with different decisions than I was faced with. Do you go to college? Do you go straight to pro? Do you want to play in the U.S., or do you want to go overseas? They have different options and different pressures than I had when I was growing up. There was one path, pretty much.

But I think for me, what helped were my parents and my family. They never let it become bigger than what it was. They never let me live and die by how a soccer game went. I think they saw that I love the sport and they wanted it to be fun for me as much as they could. They allowed me to just grow up in that kind of world. There was no pressure. There was no stress. It was, for my brother and me, just doing what we loved. They didn’t put excess expectations on us or me, like, “Well, you know, there are college scouts at this game.” There was none of that. It was just, “Go do what you do because you love it. And whatever happens, happens.”

There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done to grow soccer in Canada. Obviously, there are calls for a domestic league, but what about the sport at the grassroots level needs to be improved?

I don’t know a lot about the inner-workings of youth soccer within Canada, besides my nieces’ experiences. I sense that there just needs to be more direction. More as John used to put it: We want players to succeed by design, not by chance. I thought that was actually very truthful and fitting for the way soccer is in Canada, where players are successful by chance, not necessarily by the inner-workings of clubs and the development of players. I don’t necessarily know how to fix that, but that’s just my observation. And it’s like, how many players have we lost along the way that have just fallen through the cracks?

Obviously, I see what’s happening here in the U.S., with the ECNL leagues and the regional leagues. They have such a foundation, and it’s designed for success and designed for growth. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in Canada and been with youth soccer in Canada, but that does seem to be lacking.

How do you feel the national team’s past battles have impacted the current fight for gender equality, and what do you want the future to look like for Canadian women’s soccer players?

There’s been a battle — I say battle, it’s not really a battle — with the Canadian Soccer Association. It’s been a constant struggle. Unfortunately, with the way FIFA operates, you need your men’s team to be successful to help fund your programming in terms of bonuses for qualifying for the World Cup. So, it’s just been a struggle to get from Canada Soccer what we as successful women’s players think we deserve.

However, now that our men’s team has qualified for the World Cup and Canada Soccer has come out publicly and said that our next CBA will be equal pay, it’s definitely a giant step in the right direction. We’re actually negotiating that right now. And I assume it’ll be done before the men’s World Cup starts. So yeah, I wish this was something that was in place 15, 20 years ago. But the veterans on the national team said that one of our goals is to leave the program in a better place. Hopefully this is one fight that our young players on the national team won’t have to have again, and that once there’s equal pay and equal compensation structures in place, there’s no going back from that. When it does get signed, that’ll be one of the things that a bunch of us are most proud of, and that future generations won’t have to have the same battles and struggles that we had.

Jessa Braun is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering the NWSL and USWNT. Follow her on Twitter @jessabraun.

Nelly Korda ties LPGA record with fifth-straight tournament win

Nelly Korda of the United States celebrates with the trophy after winning The Chevron Championship
Nelly Korda poses with her trophy after acing her fifth-straight tour title at The Chevron Championship on Sunday. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

25-year-old American pro golfer Nelly Korda secured her spot in LPGA history on Sunday, notching her fifth-straight title at this weekend's Chevron Championship in The Woodlands, Texas.

Ranked No. 1 in the world by Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, Korda joins Nancy Lopez (1978) and Annika Sörenstam (2005) as just the third LPGA player to rack up five consecutive tour wins. She is also the third No. 1-ranked player to capture The Chevron Championship victory since the rankings debuted in 2006, accompanied by Lorena Ochoa and Lydia Ko.

The Florida native shot three-under 69 in Sunday's final, besting Sweden's Maja Stark despite Stark's valiant come-from-behind attempt in the 18th. Korda finished with a four-day total of 13-under 275, celebrating her two-stroke win by cannonballing into Poppie's Pond, much to the crowd's delight. She left The Club at Carlton Woods with $1.2 million from an overall purse of $7.9 million.

It wasn't long ago that the two-time major champion's current winning streak seemed unimaginable. After maintaining her No. 1 position for 29 weeks, Korda underwent surgery to remove a blood clot from her left arm in 2022. She returned to the course not long after, but failed to win a single tournament in 2023 before seeing a surge in form during the first four months of 2024. As of today, she hasn't lost a tournament since January.

Korda will attempt a record sixth-straight win at next week's JM Eagle LA Championship at Wilshire Country Club in Los Angeles, where she'll vie for a cut of the $3.75 million purse.

Smith and Swanson shine in action-packed NWSL weekend

sophia smith celebrates after a goal for the portland thorns
Sophia Smith's 27th-minute goal paved the way for Portland's first win of the season. (Soobum Im/USA TODAY Sports)

USWNT regulars Sophia Smith and Mallory Swanson furthered their cases for Olympic inclusion with their respective club victories on Saturday and Sunday.

After a roller coaster of a week that saw former Thorns head coach Mike Norris reassigned and a flurry of last-minute roster reshufflings as Friday's trade window closure loomed, the NWSL sprung to life over the weekend with standout performances from ninth-place Portland and third-place Chicago, among others.

After her blocked attempt at goal set up a volleying sixth-minute opener from veteran Christine Sinclair — now the only player in history to record a goal in all 11 NWSL seasons — Smith swiftly netted her own in the 27th minute off a breakaway run that eluded Houston's backline. The goal represented Smith's third of the season as well as her 35th for the Thorns, ultimately leading to the home side's first win of the season in a 4-1 routing of the Dash.

But that wasn't Smith's only stat of the evening. The star forward also lapped former Chicago Red Star Sam Kerr to become the youngest player to reach 50 NWSL goal contributions across all games, chalking up 40 goals and 10 assists at the age of 23 years and 254 days.

"Obviously it feels good to get a win," said Smith in a post-match press conference. "But this is the standard the Thorns have always had. So a win is great, but a win is the expectation — we're hungrier than ever after the way we started."

170 miles up the road, Lumen Field similarly showcased some promising Olympic prospect footwork on Sunday. In Chicago's 2-1 victory over the lagging 13th-place Seattle Reign, striker Mallory Swanson racked up an impressive counterattack assist on fellow forward Ally Schlegel's fourth-minute goal. Swanson went on to find the back of the net herself before halftime, lacing an explosive ball into the top corner in the 31st minute, her second of the season after returning from a lengthy sidelining injury.

Speaking of injuries, fellow USWNT favorites Alex Morgan and Tierna Davidson were not as fortunate as their national squad teammates this weekend. Each exited their club matches early, Morgan with an ankle knock in San Diego's loss to Orlando and Davidson with an apparent hamstring incident early on in Washington's win over Gotham.

LSU takes first-ever NCAA gymnastics title

Kiya Johnson of the LSU Tigers reacts after winning the national championship during the Division I Women's Gymnastics Championships
Gymnast Kiya Johnson celebrates LSU's win at the NCAA Division I Women's Gymnastics Championships. (Photo by C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

LSU came out on top at the 2024 NCAA women's gymnastics championship in Fort Worth on Saturday, besting Cal, Utah, and Florida to capture their first-ever title.

The Tigers' win was far from a landslide. LSU took the first rotation handily thanks to 2024 All-Around winner Haleigh Bryant's team-leading 9.9375 backed by four additional 9.9+ scores from her teammates. But Utah then responded with three strong beam performances of their own, causing the Red Rocks to slide confidently into second place by the end of the second rotation.

By the halfway point, all four teams fell within .288 points of one another before Utah overtook the pack with a dominant floor showing after three rotations. LSU then went on to ace the beam event with Konnor McClain's meet-leading 9.9625 score, coming away with the highest collective score ever awarded to the event in NCAA championship history. The achievement propelled the Tigers to victory, ensuring them the title after the final rotation.

"This team is full of individuals that have incredible character and integrity and love for each other and all the things you hear from coaches when they sit at a podium like this in a moment of victory, but I promise you it's a real thing," said LSU coach Jay Clark in a post-meet press conference. "I'm just so happy for them."

Contributing to Saturday's atmosphere of excitement was the absence of last year's champion and this year's heavily favored Oklahoma Sooners. Hot off earning the highest team score in NCAA history just last month, the top-ranked Norman squad suffered a shocking loss in the semifinals, where five major mistakes contributed to a third-place finish and a season-low team score of 196.6625.

With Oklahoma out, it was truly anyone's game.

"Every team was out there fighting for their lives — all four teams, it could have gone any of four ways out there," Clark told reporters. "As much as I feel for what happened to Oklahoma in the semifinals, I think it made for a championship that became so packed with emotion because every team out there believed they could do it. It was just tremendous."

LSU is now the eighth program in the sport's history to earn an NCAA women's gymnastic championship.
They share the honor with Georgia, Utah, UCLA, Oklahoma, Alabama, Florida, and Michigan.

Cameron Brink likes Caitlin Clark for 2024 WNBA Rookie of the Year

Cameron Brink poses with Caitlin Clark at 2024 wnba draft in new york
Cameron Brink poses with fellow draftee — and possible WNBA ROY —Caitlin Clark. (Photo by Emily Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

Cameron Brink already has her rookie of the year pick for the upcoming WNBA season, and it’s Indiana-bound star Caitlin Clark

In the latest edition of Kelley on the Street, host Kelley O'Hara caught up with Brink in New York hours before the Stanford phenom went No. 2 overall to the Los Angeles Sparks at the 2024 WNBA Draft. When O’Hara asked who would win the WNBA's rookie of the year, she answered without pause.

"Caitlin Clark," she said, while a fan commented that she thought Brink would take home the award. Brink later added that the extra foul granted to WNBA players will be "good for me."

"I hope it’s me," Charisma Osborne, who was later drafted by the Phoenix Mercury, said when asked her ROY prediction. "But, I don’t know — we’ll see."

Watch more of Kelley on the Street:

Start your morning off right with Just Women’s Sports’ free, 5x-a-week newsletter.