After Olympic gold, Christine Sinclair looks to run the table with Portland

One country cheered when Christine Sinclair led the Canadian women’s soccer team to Olympic gold this summer. Now the Canada captain is looking to help her club team, the Portland Thorns, win a remarkable fourth trophy this year.

Portland (13-6-4) won the National Women’s Football League Shield – similar to the Major League Soccer Fan Shield – with a 1-0 victory at the Houston Dash on Sunday that secured the Thorns the best ever the regular season.

Earlier this year, Portland won the NWSL Challenge Cup and the International Champions Cup, a four-team tournament also featuring Houston, Lyon in France and Barcelona in Spain. Now the Thorns have their eyes on the NWSL Championship.

“We set a goal early in the season to win everything – every competition we’ve been in – and so far it’s been going well,” said Sinclair. “(I am) very proud to have won the NWSL Shield.

“I think in North American sports people are so addicted to the championship game. As you go to Europe you win a league – that’s the best thing… As an athlete this season has been What? Eight months? This title means so much to me and so much to my team because it is the real testimony during a season who was the best team.

“It’s a nice one and it’s one in Portland that we haven’t won in a while (since 2016), so it’s good to get it back.”

After the international break, which sees Sinclair back with Canada for friendlies against New Zealand on Saturday in Ottawa and Tuesday in Montreal, the Thorns will end the regular season on Oct. 30 against North Carolina Courage. Portland’s playoff race begins Nov. 14 with a home semi-final.

Portland coach Mark Parsons said the Thorns were on a “special mission”. Sinclair leads the way.

“There is no other leader like Sinc,” Parsons said. “She’s the best of the best on the pitch, she’s the best of the best off the pitch. She sets an example by having the highest standards all the time, in everything she does.”

With 187 international goals, Sinclair is the all-time leading scorer in the world. Happy to avoid the limelight off the field, the 38-year-old from Burnaby, BC, is all about the team.

“All of her work is often done behind the scenes, behind the curtains,” Parson said.

He noted that Sinclair spoke to the field team at halftime about the victory over Houston, which they only do once or twice a year.

“This is her. She knows the moment when she has to share the wisdom that will move everyone,” he said. “When I talk about players from whom I have learned as a coach and as a person, I think of a lot, but of nobody like Sinc who is often there for me. Often times I lean on her for support. , I ask her about the right thing that can help the team at the right time

“She always prepared me to help the team in the best possible way. And that’s her. She puts everyone first and therefore we not only have the best player, but the best. leader of our club and we are proud of that. “

This is the last season at the helm of Thorns for Parsons, who leaves to head the Dutch women’s national team. With 82 wins, Parsons, 35, leads all coaches in the NWSL.

Sinclair credits Parsons with making the Thorns a competitor year after year.

” We will miss him. We wish him all the best. As a Canadian, I don’t wish him too much success, ”she said with a laugh.

“I have no doubt that he will kill him there too,” she added, more seriously.

While Portland missed the captain of Canada and other international stars as the NWSL continued to play during the Olympics, Sinclair called the Shield a “tag team championship”.

“What we’re proud of in Portland is the depth of our list. And this year, probably more than any other year, Mark has used absolutely everyone. Everyone has a part. is stepped up. team. “

It was also painful, with allegations of sexual misconduct and inappropriate comments and behavior rocking the 10-team league.

“I think it’s easy for people to point out the difficulties in the NWSL,” Sinclair said. “But as a woman, these things happen in every professional leagues around the world. They happen in businesses and office buildings. It’s just in the NWSL that this has arisen and we as players, refuse to remain silent any more.

“And I hope we can be an example for women moving forward, no matter what situation they find themselves in, whether they are in a sporting environment or in an office. We just refuse to stay. silent. I am very proud of the players in the NWSL and the demands that are being made. It is an honor to be part of this movement. “

Earlier this month, the Thorns put general manager / football president Gavin Wilkinson on administrative leave from his duties at the club pending the results of an independent investigation into his handling of the sexual harassment allegations involving the former coach Paul Riley.

Sinclair and the Thorn players have requested the move.

Internationally, Sinclair is happy to be back with Canada. This week marks the first time the team has reunited since their triumph in Tokyo.

“It’s good to see them. And to play on the same team, not against them, again,” she said.

Fellow Allysha Chapman unleashed a Sinclair shot at the Houston goal line this weekend.

“She’s annoying like that,” Sinclair said wryly. “She couldn’t let that one in. But it’s okay.”

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published on September 20, 2021

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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