It’s been a wild ride for Allysha Chapman.
Eight months ago in Edmonton the defender made her debut for the Canadian women’s team in an international friendly against Japan. On Saturday she was back in Edmonton, this time playing for Canada against China in the opening game of the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Chapman, a 26-year-old native of Courtice, Ont., came up through the national youth system and after playing for Canada at the 2008 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Chile, she was invited to a senior team training camp the following year by then-Canadian coach Carolina Morace.
Morace wasn’t too impressed with her, though, and Chapman never received another camp invite from the Italian. John Herdman took over as Canada’s coach in 2011, and didn’t call up Chapman until last October’s pair of games against Japan—five years after she was first briefly considered by Morace.
Sportsnet spoke to Chapman one-on-one about her journey from trialist to starting left fullback for Canada, and the Reds’ 1-0 win over China at the World Cup.
How would you rank the team’s overall performance against China?
When you re-watch the game you realize that we had a lot more opportunities than what we thought we had at the time. We were getting frustrated out there but we had the majority of possession and we were dominating them—we just weren’t putting away our chances and we weren’t creating enough in the final third. Overall, we did dominate the game, though. We’re happy with the result, but we’re also looking to build on this performance.
How do you think you did?
Early in the game, I gave away the ball a little too much and I wasn’t playing like I should have been. I was a little bit tentative. I worked my way into the game as it went on. I wanted to get forward more often and be creating more. It’s something to improve on. I was happy with how I defended, it was more on the offensive end—it was hard to create against them at times.
Well, they were set up to stop you guys at all costs, and put 11 players behind the ball for long periods of time.
Yeah, that can get very frustrating.
Eight months ago you made your debut for Canada in Edmonton vs. Japan. I interviewed you a few days after that game and you told me how you were thinking you had to make the most of this chance—how you saw yourself as being on trial—when you stepped out onto the pitch in Edmonton. What was going through your mind as you walked into Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday?
I was just trying to think about the basics—get my defensive shape right, don’t let them get in behind me and make the easy passes. I was concentrating on the simple things so that I wouldn’t panic and try to do too much in the game.
I was nervous last time in Edmonton but this time it was a different kind of nervousness because you’re on the biggest stage and you’re expected to do well. I had no expectations in the last game; this game the expectations were a lot higher so I was carrying that with me a little bit in the first 20 minutes.
What’s the transition been like for you, going from a player on trial who had to fight to even earn a chance to play for Canada to the team’s starting left fullback at the Women’s World Cup in a span of eight months?
The biggest thing has been trying to take in as much information as I could when I first got into camp. John Herdman is the most amazing coach I’ve ever had—he has a strategy for everything. It was a big learning process for me, and I just had to get in there and overcome the learning curve as quickly as I could because everybody else had a few years on me. Applying what he taught me but also not losing my instinct, that was the key to the transition. That and keeping my confidence.
What role has Herdman played in your development as a national team player?
He’s played a big role, no doubt. He’s so prepared. He gives us PowerPoint presentations on everything, and inspirational speeches all the time. The organization is really incredible—he’s ruined every other coach for me. (laughs)
After playing for Canada’s U-20 side, you were overlooked by previous coach Carolina Morace at the senior level. You had to really pester Herdman to even get your chance, and that didn’t come until you went to go play professionally in Sweden. There had to have been times when you didn’t think it was going to happen for you. What’s this journey been like for you on a personal level?
It’s been a pretty roller coaster ride of a journey, I’d say. It’s been frustrating at times. It’s been rewarding, though. I look back on it now and I wouldn’t change anything because if I had been in with Carolina the entire time then it could’ve have ruined me as a player and ruined my confidence. I’m really thankful to be here now. It is frustrating that I’ve missed all these years, and wasn’t part of the bronze medal team. That would’ve been an amazing experience but playing a home World Cup in Canada is the biggest gift of all, so I’m really excited for this.