The Canadian women’s team will head to Brazil for this summer’s Olympics without their starting goalkeeper.
Erin McLeod, a 33-year-old native of Alberta, confirmed on Wednesday that her knee injury will keep her out of the Games.
McLeod injured her anterior cruciate ligament on March 23 while playing for Swedish club FC Rosengard in the UEFA Women’s Champions League. It’s the third time she’s injured the same knee.
In a statement released by Canada Soccer, McLeod said, “because I have already had two operations it makes a third one, well, extremely complicated. What I know for sure is I won’t be ready for August. My surgical options mean it will take between one and two years to come back, and there are no guarantees, as there never really are in life.”
McLeod said the news is “heartbreaking,” but did not rule out eventually coming back to play after she’s recovered.
A key member of the Canadian team, McLeod has earned 43 shutouts in 115 appearances for Canada. She helped the Reds win bronze at the 2012 Games in London, and Canadian coach John Herdman has called her the best women’s goalkeeper in the world.
Sportsnet’s Soccer Central podcast, hosted by James Sharman, takes an in-depth look at the beautiful game and offers timely and thoughtful analysis on the sport’s biggest issues.
Listen now | iTunes | Podcatchers
Needless to say her absence is a big blow for a Canadian team that will try to reach the medal podium for a second straight time.
“Erin is an incredible athlete and her absence in the lead up to and during the Rio Olympics will be felt,” Herdman said as part of the same media release.
Canada Soccer president Victor Montagliani offered: “As a veteran leader of the team and a world-class goalkeeper, her presence will certainly be missed both on and off the pitch and we wish her the best for a full recovery that will see her represent Canada again in the near future.”
Canada plays the Netherlands in an international friendly on April 10 in Eindhoven. With McLeod ruled out, either Stephanie Labbe or Sabrina D’Angelo will start for Canada in that contest.
Labbe, 29, has earned 27 caps for Canada since 2008 and currently plays for the Washington Spirit in the National Women’s Soccer League.
D’Angelo, 22, also plays in the NWSL with the Western New York Flash and has two caps to her credit.
Who will start in Brazil?
“Stephanie Labbe has a great deal of experience playing professionally in Europe. She’s barely two years removed from being named one of the top three goalkeepers in Sweden and has faced high-pressure situations in Cup games, along with the UEFA Champions League. She’s made the move to playing pro in the NWSL, which will only help her game,” said Sandra Prusina, who writes a weekly women’s soccer column for Sportsnet.
“In addition to Labbe, another strong goalie is waiting in the wings in D’Angelo. At 22, she has a very bright future.”