Veterans Diana Matheson, Erin McLeod ruled out of World Cup squad through injury

TORONTO — Veteran midfielder Diana Matheson and goalkeeper Erin McLeod, who have a combined 321 caps for Canada, have been ruled out of the World Cup through injury.

Both players have been integral to the Canadian women’s success over the years — McLeod made her senior debut in 2002 and Matheson in 2003. Both have also endured a long list of health issues.

Matheson is currently dealing with a toe injury that requires surgery while McLeod is dealing with foot pain due to plantar fasciitis.

“A huge loss,” said coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller.

Canada has until May 24 to name its 23-woman roster for the World Cup, which opens June 7 in France.

McLeod, who holds the Canadian record for caps by a goalkeeper, has appeared at four World Cups and two Olympics.

“I have had a nagging injury that has hindered my ability to push my limits — which is the main reason I love what I do, it makes me feel alive,” McLeod said in a statement. “So in my heart I know it’s time for me to get healthy because I still believe I have more soccer to play.

“This is a special group which is why it is even harder to step away. They will do incredible things and continue to make history.”

Matheson, who along with captain Christine Sinclair is the only Canadian player to surpass the 200-match milestone, has played at four World Cups and three Olympics.

“It’s extremely disappointing not to be able to join Canada at the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019,” she said in a statement. “Unfortunately, despite great support from Canada Soccer and Utah Royals FC, I am unable to play through this injury and will be undergoing surgery as soon as possible to start the recovery process. I look forward to cheering on our team from home along with the rest of Canada.”

The 35-year-old Matheson has 203 caps for Canada while the 36-year-old McLeod has 118.

Both returned from injury for the Algarve Cup in February. Neither has played for Canada since.

Kenneth Heiner-Moller will take three goalkeepers to France. With McLeod’s injury, the trio will likely be No. 1 Stephanie Labbe, Kailen Sheridan and Sabrina D’Angelo.

Labbe and Sheridan are in camp for Saturday’s friendly against Mexico.

The 36-year-old McLeod, from St. Albert., Alta., returned to the Canada fold in November 2017 after a 21-month absence following her third knee surgery.

McLeod suffered ligament damage in December 2015 playing for Canada at a tournament in Brazil. Things got worse two months later in the CONCACAF Olympic qualifier in Houston.

The knee finally gave out in March 2016, kicking a ball in FC Rosengard’s Champions League quarter-final game against FFC Frankfurt.

The latest surgery saw a part of her kneecap inserted into a hole in her tibia from a previous surgery and a small strip of quadricep used as her new anterior cruciate ligament. An extra ligament, from a cadaver, was also inserted.

The long recovery road included sitting out the Rio Olympics, where Canada won bronze.

Four years ago, Matheson won an injury battle to make the World Cup roster. She had torn anterior cruciate ligament in a 3-0 friendly loss to Japan in October 2014.

Named to the team, she was an unused substitute for the first four games before starting the quarter-final loss against England.

Matheson, from Oakville, Ont., had knee surgery to repair torn cartilage in her knee in November 2011. The recovery time was longer than expected but she recovered to play in the 2012 Olympics, scoring the stoppage-time goal that beat France in the bronze-medal match.

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