January 23, 2012
By Michael Lewis
ANSWERING HER CRITICS
Leroux connects for 5 2nd-half goals in U.S. victory over Guatemala
VANCOUVER -- For most of the second half of the United States' 13-0 drubbing of Guatemala at BC Place, you could hear a bunch of Canadian fans chanting, "Judas! Judas! Judas!"
For most of the final 45 minutes of the CONCACAF women's Olympic qualifying match, Sydney Leroux answered those taunts with goals -- lots of goals -- five to be exact.
Not too shabby for only a half a game's worth of work.
The fans obviously were upset that Leroux, who comes from the nearby suburb of Surrey, decided to switch nationalities and play for the U.S. over her native Canada, even after playing for some Canadian national youth teams.
When Leroux came on for Abby Wambach at halftime, there were boos from the crowd
"I heard that some people were booing me, but after the fourth goal they stopped," she said
When told they continued, Leroux responded, "They should have."
But the 21-year-old Leroux understood that you can't please everyone.
"I know that there's some people who don't respect my decision and some people who do," she said. "Not everyone's going to like you. I feel you have to have some enemies in life or else you're not doing something right. I'm happy. I'm happy where I am. I'm happy to wear this jersey."
For the second consecutive game, a U.S. forward tallied five second-half goals as Amy Rodriguez, also a sub, accomplished the feat in a 14-0 win over the Dominican Republic on Friday night.
Leroux scored her five goals in only her second international appearance.
"This is a unique situation," U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said. "It is astounding, coming off the bench and scoring so many goals like Amy Rodriguez did the other day.
"I'm so proud and happy to be around this team because it just never happened before. So many goals, great goals. I'm happy for the team. I'm happy for Syd, today. It's quality, for sure."
Leroux, the first player taken in the Women's Professional Soccer draft (by the Atlanta Beat) earlier this month, joined am impressive list of players who have scored an American women's record of five goals in a game. That list also included Michelle Akers, Brandi Chastain, Abby Wambach and Tiffeny Milbrett.
With the Americans already leading 6-0, Leroux replaced Wambach at halftime. Barely three minutes after she stepped onto the BC Place field, Leroux had found the back of the net, putting away an Alex Morgan feed in the 48th minute. For the record, Leroux also scored in the 51st, 57th, 70th and 87th minutes.
Leroux was gracious and deflected praise to her teammates.
"Of course, my teammates, they gave me some great balls and I put them away and did what I was supposed to do with them," she said. "It's been an amazing couple of weeks. I'm so blessed to be able to play with these girls. It has made me better every day. So, I give my thanks to them."
It certainly meant a lot accomplishing it in front of friends and family.
It was so important to play in front of my mom and my family, my friends, she said. I grew up here. To have them come and support me, it's pretty special.
Leroux could have had a sixth goal, but goalkeeper Maricruz Lemus denied her in a one-on-one situation in the penalty area in the 90th minute.
"I was thinking that I was going to slot it kind of near post, but usually in that situation I would do something different," she said. "But I tried a little something different out and it didn't work. It's OK. I have something to look forward to in years to come."
Wambach tallied the first two goals of the match, surpassing Germany great Brigit Prinz (128 goals) to move into third place on the women's all-time international scoring list behind retired U.S. legends Mia Hamm (158) and Kristine Lilly (130).
"By her 20th game she should reach my level," Wambach said. "I think that it's awesome. I don't know why it has happened, but me, Amy Rodriguez, and now Sydney have all scored five goals in the second half. A special player.
"Before she went on, I told her, start scoring goals for this country. These are the first of five goals of many, many more to come."