A league title in the National Women’s Soccer League is exactly the motivation Maple Ridge’s Karina LeBlanc needed to continue her dream of playing in the 2015 World Cup on home soil.
LeBlanc helped lead the Portland Thorns FC to a 2-0 win over the Western New York Flash to win the inaugural National Women’s Soccer League Championship before 9,129 fans at Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester, N.Y. on Saturday night.
“Having such a great ending to the season is going to be a catalyst to motivate me to keep going towards my goal of playing in the next World Cup and the Olympics.
LeBlanc said playing in the soccer-mad city of Portland has been one of the highlights of her pro career and it has stoked her drive to continue to play internationally for Team Canada.
“We routinely play in front of crowds of 17,000 in Portland,” said Leblanc, “but it feels like 60,000. It has a real European atmosphere at the games. It’s a soccer crazy city.”
Portland also featured Canadian Olympic hero Christine Sinclair. The team won the NWSA title on the road despite being shorthanded for the final 34 minutes of the game. Rookie Kathryn Williamson was tossed from the game for her second yellow card.
LeBlanc kept the Flash off the board with two spectacular saves early in the match, deflecting a header from Western New York forward Samantha Kerr that caromed off the crossbar in the 12th minute. She was also able to grab a failed clearance attempt by her defense a few moments later, ending the threat. LeBlanc said her team faced adversity all season and Saturday’s victory was testament to her team’s perseverance. But she said the biggest thing coming from the win is the will to keep on. LeBlanc has appeared in 105 games for Canada and is setting herself up for one more run at a 2015 World Cup being played across Canada and 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
“Having the World Cup being played on our home soil, that’s certainly the goal for me,” said the 33-year-old goalkeeper. “I’m hoping everything works out. I can only control what I can control.”
LeBlanc will take the next six weeks off from the pitch and plans to do some speaking engagements before she meets up with her Canadian teammates to start training for the 2014 season.