If you want to beat the Canadian women’s soccer team, you have beat goalkeeper Erin McLeod.
Seems like a simple and straightforward formula, except defeating arguably the world’s best goalkeeper is much easier said than done.
This was the case in Beijing just four years ago, when Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod and her team were in promising shape heading into the knockout rounds of the 2008 Olympic soccer tournament.
After leading her squad to a 2-0-1 record in the Beijing games, the former Nittany Lion exuded an aura of invincibility heading into the quarterfinal, only to suffer a game-ending knee injury in the 19th minute of the contest.
After being forced to leave the pitch, McLeod and the team’s Olympic chances were shattered as they eventually lost the match, 2-1, against the USA.
Despite this heartbreaking defeat, it was not the end of the Canadians, and especially McLeod’s, Olympic aspirations.
If a goalkeeper is going to provide his or her team a competitive advantage, it’s going to be through their level of experience – something that simply oozes from the former All-American goalkeeper.
“Experience for a goalkeeper is very important, and I’m fortunate to be one of the most capped goalkeepers in the world,” McLeod said.
Not only has the Canadian keeper been through a World Cup and Olympic games for her country, but McLeod also faced high-pressure situations in her collegiate career that has helped season her as a player.
After she moved to Happy Valley from Southern Methodist University in 2004, McLeod made her impact on the Nittany Lions immediately, leading the team to a couple of Big Ten championships and a Final Four appearance.
Despite being encompassed with expectations and pressure, McLeod has been able to put aside her arguable title of “best keeper in the world” and focus on the lighter side of the beautiful game.
“You kind of become paralyzed by that title of being the best in the world; I learned that the hard way,” McLeod said. “You try to get better as much as I can and continue to love what you do. For me, it’s just about enjoying playing.”
Despite her reformed, loose attitude, the 2005 semi-finalist for the prestigious M.A.C. Hermann Trophy still holds high expectations for her squad, which currently sits at seventh in the FIFA World Rankings[JM2].
“I know we expect to step on the podium,” the 29-year-old said. “I don’t think that’s the easiest thing but I think we have it in us and the connection that we have off the field we’re applying on and I think if we work for each other we can upset any team.”
And even though the goalkeeper will be 33 years old heading into 2016 summer games, McLeod doesn’t feel as though this is her last Olympic hoorah.
McLeod said that as long as she continues to progress and improve on the pitch, there shouldn’t be anything holding her back from making another Olympic run.
But for now, the fearless shot-blocker and Canadian catalyst will be just that — the leader of this team going forward.