On June 2, 2013, the United States Women’s National Team took on rivals Canada at BMO Field in Toronto, and it was a heated contest between Concacaf’s two women’s soccer powers. One player on the USWNT at that time was the focus of the ire of the Canadian fans in attendance: Sydney Leroux. Leroux, who was born in Vancouver and had Canadian and American citizenship, began her international career at the youth level for Canada before switching to join the USWNT.
The Canadian fans, who didn’t like this one bit, let Sydney Leroux know their disdain with her choice throughout warmups. Leroux, who didn’t start the match, took it all in, waiting for her chance to get the last laugh.
Leroux entered the game in the 74th minute as a substitute for Tobin Heath, and the Canadian fans rained a world of boos and jeers down on the dual national, and whenever she touched the ball or came near it, they would get louder and louder. Leroux just kept playing. In the 93rd minute, she got that last laugh. Off a beautiful feed by Abby Wambach, Leroux broke away from her defender to sprint and win the ball, leading to a breakaway on goal. Calmly, she made a move to get the Canadian goalkeeper to dive for the ball and miss, and she went right around her to finish the play for the USWNT’s final goal.
She was ready. She scored the goal right in front of The Voyageurs, Canada’s supporters group, and she looked dead into their section as she held up the Centennial crest on her jersey in front of them. She popped it a few times, and then put her finger to her lips to shush the crowd. No one in a Canadian shirt in the crowd or watching on TV liked Leroux’s celebration. Everyone in an American jersey did. Leroux showed her home crowd how American she really was. The score may have been USWNT 3, CANWNT 0 on the scoreboard, but in reality it was Sydney Leroux 1, All of Canada 0.
Leroux earned a yellow card for her celebration, but no one on the American side cared. She was one of us, and she started a wave that led to her becoming a major contributor on the 2015 Women’s World Cup championship team. She popped her collar, she showed that Centennial crest off to anyone who wanted to see it and even her haters. And at that point, she became one of the fan favorites of the USWNT.
For more Black History Month stories, check out our Black History Month hub. We will be bringing a story each day this month to highlight some of the biggest moments in black American and world soccer history.