Soccer player Olivia Smith, 15, was called up for an invitational tournament next month in Yongchuan, China. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Soccer player Olivia Smith, 15, was called up for an invitational tournament next month in Yongchuan, China. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Canadian women’s soccer team calls up 15-year-old midfielder Olivia Smith

Canada coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller first noticed Olivia Smith last year when he travelled with the Canadian youth teams. Now the 15-year-old midfielder is going to get a closer look with his senior side.

Heiner-Moller has called up Smith for an invitational tournament next month in Yongchuan, China.

“She caught my eye,” said Heiner-Moller. “I guess she’s been catching a lot of eyes from coaches throughout her career.”

Born Aug. 5, 2004, Smith will become Canada’s youngest international footballer if she plays next month. That honour currently belongs to the retired Kara Lang, followed by Jessie Fleming and Jordyn Huitema, who were also 15 when they made their senior debut.

Captain Christine Sinclair, now 36, had played in 66 internationals — with 49 goals — before Smith was born.

The seventh-ranked Canadians face No. 11 Brazil on Nov. 7 while No. 16 China meets No. 23 New Zealand. The two winners will face off in the Nov. 10 final while the other two teams play for third place.

Heiner-Moller is using the China tournament to prepare for the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament in January/February 2020.

The Canadian women are coming off a 4-0 loss to No. 10 Japan in Shizuoka on Oct. 6.

“If you want to take something positive out of a 4-0 defeat, it’s the impact it does have on people,” Heiner-Moller told a media conference call Wednesday. “I can tell you we had a meeting just after the loss against Japan where we had a very hard conversation from me to them and inbetween players as well — like what it is to pull that (Canada) jersey over your head.”

The Dane said his squad was still suffering from the hangover of its early World Cup exit during the summer in France, where Canada was beaten 1-0 by Sweden in the round of 16.

He wanted more commitment to the cause.

“Canada is about a team — a team of very good individuals but the team’s more important than anything.”

The talk seemed to work. Canada played Japan to a 0-0 draw in a closed-door match the day after the 4-0 loss.

The trips to Asia are also a chance to test the local waters ahead of the Olympics in Tokyo.

Smith is one of six players on the aged 21 or younger. The others are Huitema and Jayde Riviere (18), Julia Grosso (19), Deanne Rose (20) and Gabrielle Carle (21).

Smith started playing soccer at five in Whitby, Ont. She was 12 when she made her debut in the Canadian youth program in 2017 and represented Canada at the 2018 CONCACAF Girls’ Under-15 Championship. She has also attended four under-17 camps.

Excellent on the ball with good pace, she can beat defenders and feed teammates. Smith can also win the ball back.

In watching Smith, Heiner-Moller was drawn by how she kept on getting up and going after opponents after they had chopped her down.

Smith made another impression in May when she was one of several local players summoned to fill out the numbers at a camp in Toronto before a pre-World Cup friendly with Mexico.

“If she comes in and she looks as good as I hope she will then she could definitely see some game action,” Heiner-Moller said.

Veterans on the team include Sinclair (287 caps) and Sophie Schmidt (189 caps). With 182 international goals, Sinclair is two away from tying retired American striker Abby Wambach’s world record of 184.

Heiner-Moller says he hopes Tokyo will not mark Sinclair’s last Olympics, saying she continues to play at the highest level.

“Her movement, her attacking movements are just second to none,” he said.

“She impacts this group of people in a lot of ways … I cannot speak highly enough of her as both an athlete, as a footballer, and also as a person,” he added.

Heiner-Moller has elected to not to bring Desiree Scott or Fleming to China, saying he is well aware of their talents and wants to give others a chance to show their skills given limited game opportunities in advance of the Olympic qualifying tournament.

The goalkeepers include veteran Stephanie Labbe, who just won the NWSL title with The North Carlina Courage, and Kailen Sheridan of Sky Blue FC, a finalist for NWSL ’keeper of the year. The third ‘keeper is Sabrina D’Angelo, who plays for Vittsjo GIK in Sweden.

“What a problem to have as a coach — to actually have three ‘keepers that are as good as we’ve got,” said Heinern-Moller.

The 23-woman Canadian roster also includes midfielder Maegan Kelly in her first call-up since March 2018. Kelly plays for Florentia Sangimignano in Italy. The roster also includes players from leagues in England, France and Sweden.

Canada has played the four-nation China tournament twice before. Canada’s most recent participation was in 2013 when it beat China 1-0 and lost 3-1 to South Korea.

The Canadian women are 7-3-3 in 2019. Canada has a career 8-7-6 record against Brazil, winning the last three meetings including the bronze medal game at the 2016 Olympics.

CANADA

Goalkeepers: Sabrina D’Angelo, Vittsjo GIK (Sweden); Stephanie Labbe, N.C. Courage (NWSL); Kailen Sheridan, Sky Blue FC (NWSL).

Defenders: Lindsay Agnew, Houston Dash (NWSL); Kadeisha Buchanan, Olympique Lyonnais (France); Allysha Chapman, Houston Dash (NWSL); Vanessa Gilles, FC Girondins de Bordeaux (France); Ashley Lawrence, Paris Saint-Germain (France); Rebecca Quinn, Reign FC (NWSL); Jayde Riviere, University of Michigan; Shannon Woeller, Eskilstuna United DFF (Seden); Shelina Zadorsky, Orlando Pride (NWSL).

Midfielders: Gabrielle Carle, Florida State University; Julia Grosso, University of Texas at Austin; Maegan Kelly, Florentia Sangimignano (Italy); Sophie Schmidt, Houston Dash (NWSL); Olivia Smith, Ontario REX.

Forwards: Janine Beckie, Manchester City (England); Jordyn Huitema, Paris Saint-Germain (France); Adriana Leon, West Ham United (England); Nichelle Prince, Houston Dash (NWSL); – Deanne Rose, University of Florida; Christine Sinclair, Portland Thorns (NWSL).

Just Posted

Red Deer South MLA Jason Stephan addressed the Rotary Club Red Deer East at Pidherney Curling Centre on Tuesday.
Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Central Alberta MLAs comment on UCP members kicked out of caucus

A pair of central Alberta MLAs have commented on the two United… Continue reading

Contributed photo
Johanna Hannaford: Central Alberta designer offers inclusive clothing

By Stephanie Rhodes Local designer Johanna Hannaford’s inclusive clothing creations are smashing… Continue reading

Red life-ring with splash
Started from the bottom: How a family business started and grew in central Alberta

By Carina Moran We started our business in the basement of our… Continue reading

Shiree Appleman
Innisfail RCMP looking for missing woman

Innisfail RCMP is asking the public to help locate a woman who… Continue reading

Rotary Club of Red Deer logo.
Red Deer Rotary Club hosting tree planting event later this month

The Rotary Club of Red Deer will host a tree-planting event later… Continue reading

Bo’s Bar and Grill owner Brennen Wowk said the hospitality industry is looking for more clarity from the province around what conditions must be met to allow for restaurants reopening. (Advocate file photo)
Frustated restaurant owners want to know government’s reopening plan

Restaurant owners feel they are in lockdown limbo

Welcoming cowboy boots at the historic and colourful Last Chance Saloon in the ghost town of Wayne near Drumheller, Alta., on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. The bar and hotel are up for sale. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘It was a going concern’: Remaining bar and hotel in Alberta coal ghost town for sale

WAYNE, Alta. — Built during the First World War, it survived the… Continue reading

A letter from a bottle that washed up in New Brunswick in 2017 is shown in an undated handout photo. A team of researchers from Université du Québec à Rimouski are trying to solve the mystery of whether a letter in a bottle that washed up in New Brunswick in 2017 was indeed from a young victim of Titanic shipwreck or simply a hoax. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, N. Beaudry, UQAR *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Real or hoax? Quebec scholars probe mystery letter allegedly from Titanic passenger

MONTREAL — Researchers from Université du Québec à Rimouski are trying to… Continue reading

Minister of Transport Marc Garneau takes part in a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019. Advocates, experts and opposition MPs say correspondence showing close communication between the federal Transport Department and the Canadian Transportation Agency regarding passenger refunds throws into question the independence of the CTA, an arm’s-length body. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Emails reveal close communication between government, transport regulator on refunds

OTTAWA — Advocates, experts and opposition MPs say correspondence showing close communication… Continue reading

Pharmacist Barbara Violo shows off a vial of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Toronto on Friday, March 12, 2021. Several family doctors and physician associations across Canada say they welcome questions from anyone concerned about second doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca or any other COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Family doctors say they can answer vaccine questions, after Trudeau recommends them

Several family doctors and physician associations across Canada say they welcome questions… Continue reading

The Olympic rings float in the water at sunset in the Odaiba section of Tokyo, Wednesday, June 3, 2020. A new Leger poll suggests Canadians are divided over plans to send athletes from Canada to the upcoming Olympic games in Tokyo as Japan grapples with climbing COVID-19 cases. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Eugene Hoshiko
Canadians divided on sending Team Canada athletes to the Tokyo Olympic Games: poll

OTTAWA — A new poll by Leger and the Association of Canadian… Continue reading

Harley Hay
Harley Hay: Insert your name here

Back in the Paleolithic Era when a McDonald’s cheeseburger was 29 cents… Continue reading

Black Press file photo
Job search: Write a request that will get accepted

Last Thursday, when I logged into LinkedIn, I had nine connection requests… Continue reading

T-shirt with vaccine shot. (Contributed photo)
Letter: Hand out T-shirts with vaccine shots

I made myself a graphic T-shirt recently after getting my vaccine shot.… Continue reading

Most Read