(Reuters) - Sydney Leroux, the Canadian-born striker on the U.S. national soccer team, has been jeered in her native country before but vows not to let that distract her at the Women’s World Cup.
“That’s a pretty crazy story. To come into Canada, see my friends and family and be wearing an American jersey,” she told reporters recently at a media day for the women’s team, which begins play on Monday against Australia in Winnipeg.
“That’s obviously going to be emotional but I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Leroux, a high-profile U.S. team member who has graced the cover of ESPN the Magazine’s Body issue in a nude athletic pose, is prepared for a stormy reception.
She left Canada to live in Arizona at age 15 and has been booed by Canadian crowds at previous U.S. matches and hit by stinging criticism in social media that included racial insults.
“I have an amazing bubble with my team and U.S. soccer and the support we have in the U.S., my friends, my family,” said Leroux. “You can’t break that.
“No matter what’s being said about me, I’m in a really good place,” said 25-year-old Leroux, who six months ago married MLS striker Dom Dwyer of England.
Leroux took advantage of her dual citizenship as her father, an American, pitched in Major League Baseball, while her mother, who raised her, played for the Canadian national softball team.
She set her sights on playing with the U.S. after sitting on the couch with her mother and watching the Americans beat China for the 1999 Women’s World Cup.
“I told my mom that’s what I want to do. That I wanted to play on the best team in the world,” Leroux said.
“I was 9 years old and ever since, my mom kind of pushed me and helped me chase my dreams and that’s the only reason I’m sitting here now.”
She was a standout at UCLA and won gold with the U.S. team at the 2012 Olympics.
Now Leroux is intent on helping the U.S. win their first World Cup since 1999 and hoist the trophy in her old hometown of Vancouver, site of the championship final.
“I think the American mentality for the U.S. women’s national team is win or nothing,” said Leroux. “That is the mentality we have for ourselves.
“If we don’t come home with the gold, that’s not good enough.”
Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Gene Cherry