A late goal that didn't affect the outcome of Sunday's Canada-U.S. women's soccer friendly (a 3-0 win for the Americans) might be the biggest talking point coming out of the match. That goal came in stoppage time from 23-year-old striker Sydney Leroux, who was born in Surrey, B.C. and played for Canadian teams growing up (including the U-19 national team), but moved to the U.S. at 15 and chose to represent them internationally. Leroux always hears plenty of boos (and has heard "Judas" taunts) from Canadian fans for that decision, but she's no stranger to responding on the pitch, and she did so again with an impressive goal Sunday:
It's the celebration that she performed afterwards that really caused people to talk, though, as you can see from this GIF:
That celebration outraged many of the Canadian fans in the crowd and the commentators in Sportsnet's broadcast booth, with analyst Craig Forrest calling Leroux "classless," adding "That's way too American for me" and saying "You can have her." The debate over her actions on Twitter has raged intensely, too. Here's a sampling of some of the reaction to Leroux from fans and media on both sides of the border:
Good on @craigforrest1 for calling it like it is on Leroux - "You can have her."
— Jason deVos (@jasondevos) June 2, 2013
Sydney Leroux is a traitor and an embarrassment to the country of Canada. Tell Christine Sinclair you deserve to play for a better nation — Jamie Carrigan (@therealjamiec) June 2, 2013
Amused by Canadian angst over Leroux goal celebration. Don't boo her beforehand next time, and maybe she won't do it.
— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) June 2, 2013
To those asking, Leroux shushed crowd and pointed to crest on her uniform. Meant to antagonize, sure, but standard stuff as far as I saw — Daniel Squizzato (@DanielSquizzato) June 2, 2013
Just doubling back on 2nd half of USA/Canada. People really had a problem w/ Leroux's celebration? Any idea how much abuse she's taken? — Greg Brady (@bradyfan590) June 2, 2013 @andrewbucholtz A Canadian goes and plays for our country's mortal enemy in women's soccer and fans are upset. Go figure. — Chris Fantini (@FantiniOnVirgin) June 2, 2013
Sydney Leroux was booed with every touch. To label her classless without discussing the context isn't fair, in my opinion. — Richard Farley (@richardfarley) June 2, 2013
There are plenty of solid points from different sides there. Fandom's an individual thing, and some Canadians are always going to hate Leroux for the decision she made to choose a different country. They're welcome to boo her and to find her celebration over the top. At the same time, it's worth noting the abuse Leroux regularly takes from Canadian soccer fans both on Twitter and in person. It's also worth noting that Canada's men's and women's soccer teams have benefited tremendously from players who were born elsewhere, including American-born Lauren Sesselmann, who played Sunday. (This is the case in plenty of other Olympic sports, too: see Daniel Igali and Lacelles Brown for a few examples of athletes born elsewhere who won Olympic medals for Canada.)
The Leroux situation is a complicated one. Even before you get to how differently she's viewed in Canada and the U.S., you have to admit that not even all Canadians feel the same way about her. Some see her as an out-and-out traitor and still despise her, while others see it as her own decision and have decided to move on. What we really learned from Sunday is that many Canadians are still sore about Leroux's decision, and she obviously isn't unwilling to poke them back. That's going to be an interesting story to follow in the buildup to the 2015 Women's World Cup in Canada.