Schmidt set to breach 200-match barrier for Canadian soccer team at SheBelieves Cup

·5 min read

Sophie Schmidt isn't sure what makes her more excited — earning her 200th cap for her country or just getting back on the pitch with her Canadian teammates for the first time in almost a year.

Either way, the 32-year-old midfielder is on the verge of joining a very exclusive club at the upcoming four-team SheBelieves Cup in Orlando this month.

She will become just the third Canadian player to reach 200 national team appearances, joining Christine Sinclair (296) and Diana Matheson (206). The milestone could come as early as Feb. 18 when the Canadians play their longtime rivals, the United States.

"Gosh, 200. I think I'm more excited to go back on the field with my teammates, but with the 200 caps, it's been such an honour to represent Canada time and time again," Schmidt told reporters on Wednesday.

The native of Abbotsford, B.C., has been a fixture with the Canadian squad for the last decade and a half. In that time, she's played in four FIFA Women's World Cups and been to three Olympics — winning back-to-back bronze medals — with one more in Tokyo on the horizon.

WATCH | Sophie Schmidt finds net with wonder strike:

She could have never imagined such a career when she first suited up for the senior team back in 2005 as a 16-year-old.

"I just remember coming in and being so grateful that I was called up. I was so scared," she said. "I remember just looking around and having Andrea Neil, Amy Walsh, Charmaine Hooper, these huge names of soccer, not to mention Christine Sinclair … and they see me as one of them and they're holding me to the same standards, it was just incredible.

"That was definitely a special moment and it gave me a hunger for more, I was like, 'I really like this, I want to stay and come back.'"

And come back she did. Game after game. At one point in her career playing 76 straight matches from 2011-2015. Many national team players don't reach that many caps in their playing careers.

'Durability and adaptability'

Schmidt credits her longevity to "durability and adaptability."

"I'm not the fastest player, I take care of my body, I'm not prone to injury, so that adds to being able to have longevity and durability," she said. "Also hats off to the people taking care of me off the field."

Her adaptability is on display almost every game. She plays multiple positions in the midfield, attacking mid or defensive mid, often in the same game depending on the situation and opponent. On occasion she's also played centre back.

Everything is done with the team in mind.

"I think [what's] been a huge asset to my success is being able to be adaptable and support players in different positions and play what is needed of me," she said.

WATCH | Schmidt converts game-winning penalty for Houston Dash:

Schmidt can be found delivering a steady presence in the middle of the pitch, whether it's going forward in support of an attack, switching the point of play or backtracking defensively to support her fullbacks.

"Her passing ability is fantastic," head coach Bev Priestman noted on a recent call. "I can recall when we played them [when I was with] England before the World Cup and I felt that Sophie played outstanding in that game. She's proven that on a day she can compete with top nations. Sophie's passing ability is something this team needs."

When she's not wearing the Maple Leaf, she plays for the National Women's Soccer League Challenge Cup champion Houston Dash, with whom she recently signed a two-year extension with an option for a third year.

Her professional team duties are on hold for the moment as she prepares for Canada's first trip to the SheBelieves Cup, an invitation-only tournament featuring four of the world's top nations. After the U.S. game, the eighth-ranked Canadians play No. 31 Argentina on Feb. 21 and conclude against the Brazilians, also ranked eighth, on Feb. 24.

Before then, it's about getting the most out of Canada's first training camp together in 11 months and first game action since the Tournoi de France in March 2020.

Schmidt said the team has been working out the kinks in training and that Priestman and her staff were uber-prepared coming into camp, having done pre-camp Zoom meetings going over tactics and philosophies they hope to implement moving forward.

WATCH | Canada coach Priestman targeting podium finish at Tokyo Games:

Practices aside, there is nothing better to get you ready for your first match in 11 months than a game against your fiercest rival.

"Every game against the U.S. is a battle, a fight tooth and nail to the end. We don't like them, they don't like us. I think nothing changes in that regard," Schmidt said. "What an opportunity. They're No. 1 in the world, see where we're at right away heading into this Olympic year."

And that very first game is where Schmidt likely reaches that 200-match milestone, and when she does, she'll be sharing it with all the people who have helped her along the way.

"For me, it's teammates, it's coaches, family members, friends, my husband," she said. "Being there for the highs and lows and just allowing me to pursue my passion, my dreams, no matter what. It's definitely not a sole endeavour."