Canada captain Christine Sinclair made soccer history Wednesday, notching goals No. 184 and 185 to pass retired American Abby Wambach and become the world’s all-time leading goal-scorer.
The 36-year-old from Burnaby, B.C., scored the milestone 185th goal in the 26th minute at H-E-B Park in south Texas against an outmatched St. Kitts and Nevis at the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship.
Jessie Fleming stole the ball from a St. Kitts player and sent it to an onrushing Adriana Leon in space. Leon and Sinclair found themselves in a two-on-one and Leon passed the ball to an unmarked Sinclair, who took a touch with her left foot and then slotted the ball into the corner with her right foot from six yards out.
A smiling Sinclair turned, her arms outstretched, and then pumped her fists before Leon arrived to hug her. The goal celebration continued at the sideline with Sinclair rolling the ball into her teammates, who went down like bowling pins.
St. Kitts, ranked 127th in the world, offered about the same type of resistance, falling 11-0 to eighth-ranked Canada in a game that was one-way traffic.
Goal No. 184 came in the seventh minute as Canada pressed from the get-go and a defender bundled Sinclair down in the penalty box.
Referee Crystal Sobers of Trinidad and Tobago pointed to the spot immediately. Unlike the round-of-16 match against Sweden at the World Cup last summer, when Sinclair ceded the spot kick to Janine Beckie, the skipper took charge.
Sinclair walked over to the goal-line to retrieve the ball, walked back to the spot and then rolled it the ball to the right of St. Kitts goalkeeper Kyra Dickinson to tie Wambach. Once again Sinclair put the ball where the keeper wasn’t.
St. Kitts becomes the 41st country Sinclair has scored on. Her A to Z of goal victims ranges from Argentina to Zimbabwe.
Ironically the historic goals came against a Canadian. Dickinson is from Brampton, Ont., one of a half-dozen Canadian-based players on the St. Kitts roster through family bloodlines.
Sinclair had a chance at her hat trick in first-half stoppage time but shot just high. She started the second half but gave way in the 47th minute to 18-year-old Jordyn Huitema.
It was job done for the Canadian skipper. Very well done.
Leon (12th, 26th, 43rd and 80th minutes), Ashley Lawrence (18th and 57th), Jayde Riviere (49th), Fleming (54th) and Huitema (74th) also scored for Canada in the rout.
Sadly not many were on hand to see history in the making, with the stadium virtually empty. Mexico-Jamaica was the marquee nightcap game, no doubt because of Edinburg’s close proximity to the border.
Sinclair was playing in her 290th career game for Canada. Wambach, who retired in 2015, compiled her total in 255 games.
Wambach tweeted her congratulations.
“Christine: History is made. Your victory is our victory. We celebrate with you. And to every girl coming up in the Pack with a dream to achieve that which doesn’t yet even exist: We believe in you. Your Pack is with you. And history awaits you.”
CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani, a fellow Canadian, called Sinclair’s record “an amazing feat.”
“She transcends the sport and is a wonderful role model for people across the country.”
Added Canada Soccer president Steven Reed: “Christine’s achievements have made her an icon in Canada. She transcends the sport and is a wonderful role model for people across the country.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted: “She did it! Christine Sinclair is now international soccer’s all-time leading goal scorer. Congratulations, @sincy12 — you rock!”
The goal chase focused plenty of attention on the shy Sinclair, who was eager to get the record just to get it off the news agenda.
“Let’s goooo Sincy!!!” former NBA star Steve Nash tweeted ahead of the game.
Sinclair’s 185 goals are more than Cristiano Ronaldo (99) and Pele (77) combined. Ali Daei leads the men’s international goal list with 109 in 149 appearances for Iran between 1993 and 2006.
Dwayne De Rosario tops Canadian men in scoring with 22 goals in 81 games, although 20-year-old Jonathan David is making waves with 11 goals in just 12 appearances.
Canada continues Group B play Saturday against No. 51 Jamaica before facing No. 26 Mexico on Feb. 4. Sinclair has 11 career goals against Jamaica and 16 against Mexico.
The top two teams in the group will then join the top two from Group A (No. 21 U.S., No. 37 Costa Rica, No. 53 Panama and No. 68 Haiti) in the semifinals in Carson, Calif. The semifinal winners book their tickets to Tokyo, representing the region covering North and Central America and the Caribbean.
The Canadians have finished runner-up to the U.S. in the last three CONCACAF Olympic qualifiers. They finished third in 2004, failing to make the Olympics after an upset loss to Mexico.
Canada is coming off back-to back bronze medals at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. But the Canadian women have had some off performances since a disappointing round-of-16 exit at the hands of Sweden at last summer’s World Cup.
Canada lost back-to-back 4-0 games in Asia against No. 10 Japan and No. 9 Brazil in October and November before bouncing back to blank No. 23 New Zealand 3-0 with Sinclair scoring goal No. 183.
With Canada facing a possible five games in 12 days, coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller blended in some youth in his starting 11.
Kailen Seridan got the start in goal — and could have slept through the match given her lack of work — behind a back three of Kadeisha Buchanan, Shelina Zadorsky and Sophie Schmidt with 19-year-old Riviere, 21-year-old Gabbie Carle, 19-year-old Julia Grosso, Fleming and Lawrence in the midfield and Sinclair and Leon up front.
It was tough debut at the CONCACAF Olympic qualifier for the unheralded Sugar Girlz, who made it here by winning their Caribbean qualifying group. St. Kitts, whose part-time coach is 32-year-old American Jene Baclawski, went 3-0-1 in outscoring host Trinidad and Tobago, the Dominican Republic, Antigua and Barbuda, and Guyana 20-2.
St. Kitts has a population of some 54,000 — about the same as North Bay, Ont. — and has looked abroad for talent with ties to the islands. About half of the team comes from abroad thanks to family bloodlines.
Other Canadian-based players include Brittney Lawrence, Kaleah Smith and the three Uddenberg sisters — 14-year-old Kayla, 17-year-old Cloey and 19-year-old Carley.
A former star goalkeeper at Howard University, Dickinson plays for Masters FA in the Ontario Women’s Soccer League. Junior Groves, academy director at Masters FA, said he recommended Dickinson to the Canadian Soccer Association but to no avail.
Cloey Uddenberg, Smith and Lawrence also started Wednesday.
Wambach now 39, broke fellow American Mia Hamm’s record haul of 158 in 2013 with a four-goal performance against South Korea.
Hamm was quick to congratulate Sinclair.
“Simply amazing! Congratulations, Christine on becoming the all-time international goals leader. You continue to carry yourself and the game to new heights. Thank you.”
The U.S. women’s team also offered kudos.
“We know greatness when we see it. Congrats … We tip our hats to you,” the team said on its official Twitter feed, adding a goat emoji.
Sinclair was 16 when she made her senior debut March 12, 2000, becoming Canada’s youngest-ever player at the time. She opened her scoring account one game later, beating star goalkeeper Bente Nordby in a 2-1 loss to Norway two days later at the Algarve Cup.
Sinclair scored goal No. 183 in November in Canada’s last game before the CONCACAF qualifier, a 3-0 win over New Zealand at a tournament in China.
Sinclair’s glittering career has already garnered the Portland Thorns captain a slew of honours.
In December, she was named the Canada Soccer player of the decade. Sinclair has won Canada Soccer’s female player of the year 14 times and led the Canadian team in scoring 16 years.
Sinclair, who led Canada to back-to-back Olympic bronze medals in 2012 and 2016, was named the 2012 Lou Marsh Trophy and Bobbie Rosenfeld Award winner.
Canada’s flag-bearer at the London Olympics’ closing ceremonies in 2012, the veteran forward is a four-time finalist for FIFA World Player of the Year.
Sinclair is also the first soccer player appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada and the first to have her name engraved on Canada’s Walk of Fame.
She won WPS club titles with FC Gold Pride and the Western New York Flash in 2010 and ’11 and the NWSL championship in 2013 and 2017 with Portland.