Canada’s Rebecca Quinn on the verge of reaching 50-cap milestone at World Cup

REIMS, France — A late injury call-up, Rebecca Quinn made her senior debut for Canada in March 2014 in a 3-1 Cyprus Cup win over Italy.

Quinn, then 18, came off the bench in the 72nd minute — out of position at fullback.

“I was kind of getting a little bit nostalgic on it the other day thinking about it,” Quinn, a holding midfielder who is equally comfortable at centre back, said in an interview Monday. “I remember how big a deal it was to just get one cap with the national team. Like that was a hope and dream.

“It’s just crazy how the time has flown. All of a sudden, I had one cap and now I’m (one from) 50. Where were all those games? It’s incredible. And it’s fun to look back over the time. You start to realize how many unique experiences you’ve had with the team and how many awesome memories you have.”

Quinn has represented Canada at the Pan American Games, Olympics and now the World Cup.

The 23-year-old from Toronto will become the 13th member of the 23-woman World Cup roster to reach the 50-cap milestone — perhaps as early as Thursday when the fifth-ranked Canadians play the eighth-ranked Dutch at Stade Auguste-Delaune.

Having dispatched No. 19 New Zealand and No. 46 Cameroon, Canada and the Netherlands have already qualified for the round of 16. Thursday’s game will decided the order of finish in Group E and who they play next.

The Group E winner moves to Rennes to play the Group D runner-up — either No. 3 England or No. 7 Japan, who meet Wednesday. The Group E runner-up goes to Paris to play the second-place team in Group F — either the top-ranked U.S. or No. 9 Sweden, who meet Thursday.

Today the stylish Quinn is one of a half-dozen members of the World Cup team who represented Canada at the FIFA U17 World Cup in 2012 at Azerbaijan (reaching the quarterfinals). The other alumni are Lindsay Agnew, Kadeisha Buchanan, Ashley Lawrence, Nichelle Prince and Kailen Sheridan, who along with Quinn have 287 senior caps between them.

Foot surgery cost Quinn time with the team earlier in the year, with Canada coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller happy to have her back.

“She has a very bright future,” said the Dane.

“She’s got so much composure in her game and on the ball,” he added. “So she can play out of the back. She can defend. She takes pride in defending … She’s a versatile player and she can playing within all of our structures in different positions.

“She reminds me a little bit of Sophie (Schmidt) … Different experiences. Same kind of versatile player.”

It’s high praise. The accomplished Schmidt, a 30-year-old who has 186 caps, is a midfielder who drops back as a centre back when Canada switches to a 3-5-2 formation.

Quinn opened her senior scoring account with a bang in February 2016, recording a hat trick in a 10-0 win over Guatemala in the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament. The goal spree came in a seven-minute span.

“It’s definitely not something I woke up thinking I was going to do today,” she said at the time.

One came from the penalty spot, another via an elegant shot curled into the corner and the third via a header with Melissa Tancredi serving as playmaker for two of them.

Quinn, who now has five goals for Canada, fulfilled a lifelong ambition in February when she signed with Paris FC after spending the 2018 season with the NWSL’s Washington Spirit. The soccer in Europe has not disappointed, both the level of play on the field and the interest in the sport off it.

“It’s been good. Everyone there is really technical,” she said. “I think that’s probably the biggest change. You don’t get that drop-off that you can sometimes find in the NWSL.”

Quinn became the highest-drafted Canadian in NWSL history when Washington took her third overall in the 2018 draft after a stellar collegiate career at Duke. Quinn appeared in 69 games and helped the Blue Devils to two College Cup final-four appearances.

She comes from a sporting family. Her father played rugby at Western and her mother basketball at Waterloo while sisters Lauren (swimming, Western) and Jillian (soccer, Northeastern) also competed.

“I loved playing every sport that I could get my hands on,” said Rebecca, who also played basketball through high school. “It was definitely part of our culture as a family.”

Jillian, a goalkeeper who was also in the Canadian system growing up, is her fraternal twin.

“We look nothing alike and we could not be more opposite,” Rebecca said with a laugh.

“I saw the other day when we were in Grenoble. We walked downstairs and we were wearing the exact same shirt, which was quite bizarre. So sometimes it catches up with you and (it’s like) ‘Yup, we’re definitely twins.”’

A biking enthusiast and avid reader, Quinn majored in biology and, after winning bronze at the Rio Olympics, spent time at Duke’s marine biology lab in Beaufort, N.C. It was long hours but she loved it.

“It was incredible,” she said. “That was super-unique to do … Pretty intensive but probably the most rewarding thing I’ve done academically, for sure.”

It remains an interest. Her World Cup reading has included books on jellyfish and octopuses.

At Duke, Quinn helped organize her team’s first Pride Game and served on the executive board of the school’s Athlete Ally chapter. According to its mission statement, the organization “believes that everyone should have equal access, opportunity, and experience in sports — regardless of your sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”

“If I can make an impact in the LGBTQ community, then I’m doing something greater with my time in sports,” said Quinn, wearing a rainbow-themed Nike T-shirt.

“It’s something that I think gives me value just beyond soccer within my athletic experience,” she added.

She says the Canadian team is all about inclusion.

“We like to highlight the differences that we have in our team … Maybe other teams would see it as a threat or a problem. But for us we’ve all been through those experiences and we understand what those people need. And so instead of throwing other things at them, we support and we try to help them along the way.

“We really enjoy that we have younger players that are coming in with new thoughts, new ways of playing, new skills. We all love it. We think it’s really cool down from (captain) Christine Sinclair through us to the new players.”

Monday was an off day for the Canadian women with no training scheduled.

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