To say that Sydney Leroux’s career has been unique would be an understatement.
The 26-year-old has already experienced much in her time in women’s football. On the pitch, she has been a prolific goalscorer from an early age. Yet, initially at least, she earned as much attention for her decision to change international allegiances from her birth country of Canada to USA, where she lived as a teenager.
Born in Surrey, British Columbia, Leroux was only 14 when she became the youngest player to appear at the FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championship Thailand 2004, then in the colours of Canada. Coach Ian Bridge’s side that year also included three players who recently won a bronze medal for Canada at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Rio 2016: goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe, midfielder Sophie Schmidt, and forward Josee Belanger.
Having given Leroux her break into the international game, what stood out for Bridge was the striker’s desire to find the back of the net with regularity. “What you saw from her was a player who loved to score goals, wanted to score goals, ran through players to score goals,” the former Canada international told FIFA.com.
“All the things that defenders hate and goalkeepers hate, she enjoyed doing. You put the ball in a scoring opportunity, she would do anything to score. She had pace and strength, but her attitude towards scoring was very impressive.”
Making the switch
Soon after that appearance with Canada’s U-19 squad, Leroux made the decision to change international allegiances to the USA, for whom she was eligible to play for through her father. "I knew that I wanted to live in the US and I knew that I wanted to go to college there," she told USA Today back in 2012. "I figured if I'm living there, then why not play for such an awesome, legendary team like the US women's national team."
While Leroux’s decision to play for the Americans left an unsavoury taste in the mouths of many Canadian football followers, Bridge saw no issue with the forward’s choice to pursue an international career with the US. “The three of us - Sydney, her mum Sandi, and I - sat down and she told me she was wanting to switch [and play for the Americans],” Bridge said. “Obviously, with dual citizenship, she had the opportunity to do that and who am I stand in her way of making that decision?
“The controversy was more of a media controversy than anything between player and player or player and staff. I still have good relations with her, and have seen and spoken with her many times after that. She is a great person.”
With her adopted country, Leroux began to flourish. Her five goals in six appearances at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Chile 2008 not only led the Americans to the title, it earned her the adidas Golden Ball as the tournament’s top player and the adidas Golden Boot as the competition’s top scorer. She then added to her scoring total at U-20 Women’s World Cups with five goals in four appearances at Germany 2010.
By early 2011, Leroux fulfilled a childhood dream when she made her senior debut for the USA before establishing herself in Pia Sundhage’s squad that won Olympic gold at London 2012. Three years later, she returned to her birth country and helped the Americans triumph at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™.
More recently, Leroux’s career has taken a back seat. After marrying fellow footballer Dominic Dwyer - a striker with Sporting Kansas City of Major League Soccer - in early 2015, she gave birth to the couple's first child, named Cassius Cruz Dwyer, a week ago.
Now a new mother, it remains to be seen if Leroux will return to the football pitch in the near future. Bridge, for his part, hopes to see this goalscorer supreme back in action very soon. “Becoming a mum sometimes changes things, but if she has anything close to the fire she had [to play] when she was a young girl, I can see her continuing on,” Bridge said.
“She’s not too old to be playing international soccer by any means. It’s totally up to her if she has the drive to return, but it would be great to see her back playing again.”