Jan. 11, 2005. 06:40 PM
More U.S. awards roll in for Canadian women's soccer players
The Canadian Press
There were more kudos for the Canadian women's soccer program Tuesday as Soccer Buzz magazine named Notre Dame forward Katie Thorlakson, a native of Langley, B.C., its U.S. college player of the year.
The award comes four days after Portland striker Christine Sinclair, from Burnaby, B.C., won the M.A.C. Hermann Trophy, another NCAA player of the year award.
And there was more good news for the program when Canadian head coach Even Pellerud revealed Tuesday he had turned down an eight-year offer to coach in his native Norway.
Pellerud, who was named Canadian coach in late 1999 and has four years left on his contract, led Norway from 1991 to 1996, winning the women's World Cup in 1995.
He said Tuesday he was flattered by the lengthy offer, but added ``It is just too early to leave this (Canadian) team.''
Thorlakson edged Sinclair and North Carolina's Lori Chalupny for the player of the year award from Soccer Buzz, an Internet site devoted to women's collegiate soccer.
``She's not a tall player but she has a lot of qualities as a target player,'' Pellerud said of the five-foot-three forward, who has 27 international caps at the senior level. ``Very, very soccer-smart. Very, very tricky. A good understanding of the game.
``If she can continue the success of this fall, I would really like to work with her.''
The award caps a gala collegiate year for Thorlakson, who along with Canadian teammates Melissa Tancredi (Hamilton) and Candace Chapman (Ajax, Ont.) helped the Fighting Irish to the NCAA title.
Thorlakson led the NCAA in points (70) and assists (24) while ranking second in goal (23). Only one player in the history of women's Division I soccer (Mia Hamm of North Carolina) had more goals and assists (32-33 in 1992).
Sinclair and Princeton midfielder Diana Matheson (Oakville, Ont.) were both named first-team all-Americans by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America while Thorlakson and Tancredi were second-team all-Americans.
Penn State goalkeeper Erin McLeod (Calgary) was chosen to the NSCAA third team.
Thorlakson, Sinclair and Tancredi were named to Soccer Buzz's all-American team. Timko and Matheson were selected to the second team.
Matheson was also runner-up for Soccer Buzz's freshman of the year award and selected to the all-freshman side.
Thorlakson, Tancredi and Nebraska striker Brittany Timko (Coquitlam, B.C.) were semifinalists for the Hermann Trophy. Timko was leading scorer at the recent world under-19 championships in Thailand.
``We see again confirmation that the program is developing in the right direction,'' Pellerud said from Vancouver. ``We have seen for quite some years that our younger players are doing very well. And this (Thorlakson award) is for sure another confirmation of that momentum.
``There is no doubt that we have an exciting group of younger players. The challenge we have still is to keep these players developing into maturity so they can peak as individual performers on the World Cup level.''
``There is still a significant jump from college soccer to international soccer,'' he added. ``There are some of them that have taken that step — I can mention Christine Sinclair. Some of the others have not taken that step yet. That is going to be my challenge.''
There will be high hopes for the Canadian women this year as Pellerud and his squad look to forget a 2004 in which the World Cup team failed to qualify for the Olympics and the under-19 team exited the world championship at the quarter-final stage.
Pellerud is assembling his squad for a 10-day camp starting Jan. 20 in Vancouver. He is calling in 24 players, drawing from both the senior and under-19 side. Most of his top talent will be there, although captain Charmaine Hooper is out of the sport for the moment as she is expecting a baby.
A four-game series has already been announced against world No. 1 Germany, with two games in April on the road and one each in Edmonton and Vancouver in early September.
More opponents are to be announced later, with several trips to Europe planned. Pellerud hopes to play 10 to 13 games in 2005, despite the fact that there are no tournaments on tap.
Qualifying for next World Cup isn't expected until the fall of 2006.
As for recent comments by Canadian men's goalkeeper Pat Onstad that the men's team should get more funding than the women's, because the men's World Cup offers financial rewards that the women's counterpart doesn't, Pellerud took the high road.
``I am occupied with the total progress of Canadian soccer, not only on the women's side,'' he said. ``So whatever Frank (men's coach Frank Yallop) needs, I support it, and whatever I need, Frank supports that as well.''
Notes: The Germans may be ranked first in the world by FIFA but Pellerud says he still sees the U.S. as the class of the senior women's field ... Pellerud, who was at the under-19 world championship in Thailand, believes there was an officiating mistake in Canada's 3-1 quarter-final loss to China when goalie Stacey Van Boxmeer was sent off and a penalty called for bringing down a Chinese player in the box in the first minute. ``The PK is hard to argue but she should not have been sent off,'' he said of the goalie. Pellerud called the Canadians a strong, well-prepared team but one with bad luck plus ``some weaknesses . . . and we were a little bit exploited on those when we lost to China.'' He declined to detail the weaknesses.
\"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.\"
Martin Luther King Jr.