Lauletta’s League Lowdown: Beat Eyed Leroux All Along
It was just a no-brainer at the end. There was nobody else that we were even considering. It was Sydney all the way.
— Atlanta beat head coach James Galanis
To talk to Sydney Leroux is to know she is a player worthy of having on your team. Born in British Columbia to dual US-Canadian citizenship, Leroux decided at age 4 that she wanted to be a professional soccer player (the WUSA did not sprout up until she was almost 11.) Later, when given a choice of representing either the United States or Canada at the height of international soccer, she definitively chose the more difficult path.
“I guess I enjoy how hard it is to break through. There are millions of little girls that would want to be in my position,” Leroux said from the US National Team camp a few hours after the Atlanta Beat made her the first overall pick in the WPS draft. “I wouldn’t change it. I like to fight. I like the path that it takes to get here because it’s a long, hard one. I’m happy that I’m kind of on the path to getting my name up there.”
The path for Leroux has been as decorated as any female player in the youth National Team system. No one has more caps or more goals at the U-20 level than Leroux. And she made them count, hitting for five goals, including one in the final to help capture the U-20 World Cup in 2008. Two years later she nailed the tournament-winner in the CONCACAF U-20 Championships.
“I would never change the opportunities that I’ve had with the US,” she said. “Everything that I’ve accomplished with the U-20s and kind of putting myself in position to be with the National Team on a consistent basis.”
(It is duly noted by the writer, that the pioneers of US women’s soccer did not have U-20 teams to play for, and many of them were on the full team as teenagers anyway.)
Leroux was also a goal-scoring machine at UCLA, and her exploits there and in a US kit put her squarely in range of the Beat. Asked when he made the decision to draft Leroux with the top pick, Beat coach James Galanis quipped, “About a year ago.”
Leroux found out the day before the draft when a jersey arrived at her room and she later recorded a message thanking the Beat which was aired in the draft room immediately after the selection was announced.
“I know a lot of girls in the National Team setup and I always asked the question of the girls in there, ‘How is Sydney doing?’ and they would say she’s doing great,” Galanis said. “I always kept tabs on her. From the last two years of just asking questions about her she just continues to progress. She’s getting closer and closer to cracking the full team.
“It was just a no-brainer at the end. There was nobody else that we were even considering. It was Sydney all the way.”
Leroux is just a small part of a major philosophical change at the Beat. After a season when the roster was reduced to the worst in WPS, the club has brought in several top players this winter. Many of them were with Leroux at National Team camp. Abby Wambach, who does not currently have a club affiliation, squirted Leroux with water upon hearing she had gone No. 1.
National Team camps are legendary for their competitiveness, and Leroux’s attitude about playing for the US instead of Canada seems to fit right in. She also addressed her feelings on being taken with the top pick, an honor that most experts had as a toss-up between Leroux and Melissa Henderson (who went No. 2 to Sky Blue FC.)
“I think for any competitive person who has gone through the process, I think everyone wants to go No. 1. I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t have been disappointed.”
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Dan Lauletta is a freelance writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s, and not necessarily those of Women’s Professional Soccer or womensprosoccer.com.