Canada’s Beckie moves on from World Cup omission

Sportsnet’s James Sharman met with coach John Herdman and members of the Canadian women’s soccer team, who are looking to beat the USA in Sunday’s CONCACAF final.

Forward Janine Beckie has been scoring with regularity in recent months for the Canadian women’s team, perhaps offering a glimpse of her potential to become Canada’s next great goal-scorer.

Only 21, she has bagged five goals in 11 appearances (six as a starter) since making her debut for the senior team in 2014, scoring twice—and adding an assist—at this month’s CONCACAF Olympic qualifying competition in Houston. This came after she scored a pair of goals in four games during an exhibition tournament in Brazil just before Christmas.

Beckie was also recently selected in the first round of the National Women’s Soccer League college draft by the Houston Dash with whom she’ll soon begin her professional career after being a standout with Texas Tech. She scored 57 goals in 90 NCAA games, earning back-to-back Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year nods along the way, and she was a semifinalist for the MAC Hermann Award as the top player in women’s college soccer in her senior year.

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So Beckie is riding high now. But it wasn’t that long ago she suffered a major disappointment when she was one of the final players cut from coach John Herdman’s roster for last summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup. Being denied a chance to play on the biggest stage in the women’s game on home soil was a professional blow.

The young forward, though, to her credit has moved on from that setback, and is rightly being touted as one of Canada’s brightest attacking prospects. Looking back, she’s philosophical about not being picked for World Cup duty, and believes she’s actually benefited from the experience.

“I was in a very different place when I was cut for the World Cup than I am in now. That team that went to the World Cup was the team John was the most confident with, and I was fine with that,” Beckie told Sportsnet in a one-on-one interview.

“There were no hard feelings, and I think that was one of the best things that ever happened to me in my career, because it made me step back and evaluate what I need to change about my game and how I approach it to become a player who is relied upon.

“I’m still learning how to approach different games, different opponents and different situations. I’m less than two years into my national team career, so it’s been a process and being cut was part of that process. But I’m happy where I’m at now.”

Although she didn’t make the World Cup squad, Beckie did represent her country as part of the Canadian team that participated in last summer’s Pan Am Games. The side was mostly made up of youngsters who had not yet earned senior caps, so Beckie was one of the “veterans.”

“I was extremely thankful for that opportunity. After being such a late cut with the World Cup team earlier in the summer, it was like I was a new face in that group where I was considered a veteran player. It was an interesting dynamic. For me, the Pan Ams were another opportunity to get experience,” Beckie explained.

The Pan Am experience has clearly paid off, as Beckie has scored four goals in seven games for the senior team since then, and she’s shown well for Canada at the CONCACAF qualifying tournament in Houston.

“Since I’ve been with this team a little bit over a year now I’ve come a long away. Not in my physical game, but in my mental game. That’s taken me to a new level in terms of performance in the pitch. I’m trying to be a consistent player and that’s important at the international level—if you want to be a player who gets big minutes then you have to let the coaching staff know you’re capable of performing at a consistent level,” Beckie offered.

MORE ON CANADA: Janine Beckie moves on from World Cup omission || Canada and USA renew their rivalry in CONCACAF final || Video: James Sharman goes 1-on-1 with John Herdman || Video: James Sharman goes 1-on-1 with Erin McLeod || Video: James Sharman goes 1-on-1 with Desiree Scott || Video: James Sharman goes 1-on-1 with Deanne Rose || Video: Gerry Dobson and Karina LeBlanc preview the Canada-USA final || Video: Canada out for redemption for USA in final

Beckie also has also made use of an ace up her sleeve. Older brother Drew is a defender who spent the past two years with the Ottawa Fury before signing with the Carolina RailHawks this off-season. Having a sibling who is a defender in the NASL has its advantages, as it’s allowed Beckie to pick her brother’s brain.

“He lets me know what’s tough for him as a defender—what kind of movement he looks for, and different things that are hard for him to deal with. I love getting his feedback and he’s so knowledgeable about the game that he’s able to give me pointers,” Beckie explained.

Despite her rapid development, the young Canadian forward isn’t getting ahead of herself or reading too much into her recent performances for Canada, especially in light of the quality of opposition. Beckie knows that in order to really impress Herdman she needs to be in top form against the best sides in the world.

“I haven’t played against the U.S. So I question how I’m going to translate this against a top team. It’s been a big boost to my confidence getting goals in these games, but I hope that can look towards having the same influence against the top sides in the world,” Beckie offered.