WINNIPEG – Life for Jordyn Huitema is a little surreal these days.
The 16-year-old gets to put on the Canadian women’s soccer team jersey, surrounded by players she once idolized, and to cap it off, she doesn’t look out of place.
Huitema’s 10-minute cameo towards the end of Canada’s comfortable 3-1 win over Costa Rica in a friendly on Thursday night provided a tantalizing glimpse at the latest attacking prospect produced by the Canadian system.
“It’s still crazy,” Huitema told Sportsnet about earning her third cap for the Reds.
“I never thought I’d be teammates with my idols. I always thought they’d just be my idols and it’s incredible to be able to call them my teammates and they’ll forever be my teammates, even after I stop playing.”
A native of Chilliwack, B.C, Huitema entered the game as a late substitute with the result still very much in doubt. Canada overpowered the visitors for much of the first half but only had a one-goal lead.
After Jessie Fleming opened the scoring in the third minute, Christine Sinclair netted Canada’s second goal from the penalty spot shortly after halftime before Costa Rica capitalized on some shaky defending and scored in the 56th minute to get back into the game. Canada turned on the pressure and had scoring chances, but wasn’t putting them away until Adriana Leon added Canada’s third goal in the final minute of regulation.
Huitema came in and had a couple opportunities of her own, but far from being happy with that, she wants to learn from the experience and turn those chances into goals.
“It’s soccer. It happens. I can’t go back into the moment and change it but, obviously, there would be some things I would change that I did,” she said.
“You learn and you grow from mistakes and that’s what I’m going to do and understand that you’ve got to change some things to get the ball into the back of the net.”
Even though Sinclair may not be planning her retirement anytime soon, there’s no denying she has more days behind her than in front of her in the Canadian national team shirt. It’s hard to imagine anyone will ever match her scoring rate.
But what Canada has now is a veritable glut of scoring options, with Huitema joining the likes of Janine Beckie, Deanne Rose, Nichelle Prince, a resurgent Leon, and Fleming.
“When you talk about bringing Jordan on, she’s ,” Canadian coach John Herdman said. “It’s crazy to think about what lies ahead for a young player like that. She had a couple of good chances so she’s getting closer.
“But a special mention to Adriana. She’s fought back to get herself back into this team and she claimed it with a goal tonight. I’m sure she would be happy with that. And I thought Nichelle Prince really showed her pace.”
Herdman sported a wide grin when listing all the options he has at his disposal, and with teenagers such as Huitema and Rose on the rise, the potential is there for very heady days ahead for Canada’s attack.
“When you don’t always have to rely on Christine, that’s crucial for this team and Christine can trust her teammates to step up for her, as well,” Herdman offered.
Huitema looked dangerous during her short time on the field, with the 14,434 fans in Winnipeg representing the biggest crowd that she had ever played before. She previously earned a handful of minutes in a game vs. Sweden in front of about 10,000 spectators, but with the burgeoning women’s soccer culture in Canada and a reputation for loud, boisterous crowds, it was a whole other level on Thursday night.
“It’s indescribable the amount of energy you get from the home crowd just cheering you on,” Huitema stated. “There are moments in the game where you just start feeling rundown and tired and once they get going your adrenaline really kicks in and I’ve never felt that in a game. Usually when I’m at an international level at that high intensity, I’m usually feeling like I’m about to puke.”
Changes are a possibility for Sunday’s return match between these two teams at Toronto’s BMO Field, and Huitema could be handed a second career start for the senior team. She earned her first start at the Algarve Cup in April after previously turning out for Canada’s under-17 side.
Despite the relatively brief appearance against Costa Rica, she had poise beyond her years and she may very well have to get accustomed to being a regular for the senior team.