Sky Blue FC forward Evelyne Viens (20) kicks the ball as OL Reign defender Taylor Smith, right, defends during the second half of an NWSL Challenge Cup soccer match at Zions Bank Stadium on Tuesday, June 30, 2020, in Herriman, Utah. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Rick Bowmer

Canadian forward Evelyne Viens enjoying first taste of international soccer

Canadian forward Evelyne Viens enjoying first taste of international soccer

It has been an eventful 13 months for Canadian forward Evelyne Viens since being taken fifth overall by Sky Blue FC in the 2020 NWSL draft.

The 24-year-old from L’Ancienne-Lorette, Que., made her pro debut in last summer’s NWSL Challenge Cup. opening her scoring account against the Chicago Red Stars, before travelling to France to join Paris FC on loan to get some more playing time.

And Viens, finally called up by the Canadian women’s team, has won her first two caps coming off the bench at the SheBelieves Cup in Orlando.

Canada (1-1-0) wraps up play at the four-country tournament on Wednesday against Brazil (1-1-0) in what should be a battle to see who finishes second behind the top-ranked Americans.

“I think we’re going to be ready for Brazil and score some goals,” said Viens.

Canada and Brazil, who are ted for eighth in the FIFA world rankings, have played each other 23 times. Each has eight wins with seven draws.

The teams tied 2-2 in their most recent meeting last March at a tournament in France.

Viens earned her first cap off the bench in Canada’s 1-0 loss to the U.S. last Thursday.

“It was a pretty amazing feeling when I got in,” she told reporters Monday.

“For me just being able to step on the field and getting my first minutes against the best team in the world was a such a learning experience,” she added.

While her family was unable to attend the game at Exploria Stadium, Viens had support in the stands in the form of friends from the University of South Florida where she had been a goal machine.

Viens scored 73 goals in 77 career games for the USF Bulls, setting school and American Athletic Conference all-time records. Her 25 goals as a senior also set school and conference single-season marks.

She left a trail of defenders in her wake at South Florida and showed she can beat goalkeepers with both her feet.

Her career 169 points and 360 shots were also school and conference records. She also set conference records for points per game (2.19), goals per game (0.95) and shots per game (4.68).

A three-time All-American and 2019 Scholar All-American, she was named AAC Offensive Player of the Week a conference-record six times in 2019.

But a call-up to the Canadian camp took its time. Part of the reason is the fact that Viens, while growing up, was not part of Quebec’s provincial team because it would have meant leaving her family to go to Montreal.

New Canada coach Bev Priestman has liked what she’s seen.

“What I see in Evelyne — and what you all have seen — is she finds the back of the net really well,” said Priestman. “That stood out to me more than anything. She’s a No. 9 that likes to run off the back of defenders.”

Viens, who also saw action in Sunday’s 1-0 win over Argentina, is one of four players to earn their first cap under Priestman. Jade Rose, Jordyn Listro and Samantha Chang have also seen action at the tournament.

The only uncapped player remaining in camp is goalkeeper Rylee Foster.

For Priestman, the new faces bring their talent and “a desire and a hunger to do whatever they can to wear the shirt.”

Viens said she used the time ahead of her first call-up to improve her game, to make sure she was ready when the call came.

Viens is the second-highest Canadian ever taken in the NWSL draft. Quinn, a defender-midfielder who goes by one name, was taken third overall in 2018 by the Washington Spirit.

Viens’ first NWSL training camp lasted just five days because of the pandemic. She rode out the lockdown with other Sky Blue rookies before the team returned to training.

She will return to France after the tournament, finishing our her loan in Paris before returning to Sky Blue FC in a month or so. She says she has enjoyed Paris, despite the pandemic.

“I mean it’s living in Paris,” she said. “It’s not the worst place in the world to live.”

—-

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 22, 2021

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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