Since he debuted as head coach in the fall of 2011, John Herdman has continuously searched for left-footed fullbacks. They certainly are a tough find, but it looks like he may have struck gold with Allysha Chapman.
The Oshawa native recently spent time playing in Sweden’s Damallsvenskan and nearly closed the door on playing for Canada. The last time she put on a red and white kit in game action was during the 2008 U-20 Women’s World Cup in Chile, while her last Canadian camp was in the winter of 2009 when Carolina Morace was at the helm.
Now, fast forward to the fall of 2014. The 25-year-old was invited to residency camp and is pushing for a spot on the team ahead of next year’s Women’s World Cup. In fact, the Canadian bench boss told us Allysha withdrew from her final three weeks of professional play to get acclimated with the national team.
She debuted for the senior side on October 25th in Edmonton during a friendly against Japan. Although the home team suffered a 3:0 loss, Allysha played 90 minutes and was named Canada’s player of the match.
This has to be an overwhelming time for you, making your Canadian debut for the senior side and earning your first cap. How has the experience been?
It feels great. The girls have really got me hyped up about it and everyone is congratulating me. My friends and family back home are excited. It really does feel great. I’ve been waiting a long time for this, so I’m very happy about it.
You mention that you’ve waited a long time and your journey hasn’t been the conventional one where you naturally go from the U-20s straight to the senior squad. How did this all come to be?
I did go to one camp after U-20s. I had a good U-20 tournament and that was with the old coach, Carolina [Morace], and I guess she didn’t really like me because I didn’t get invited back after that. So when John came in, I thought ‘Ok great. This is another opportunity’, but he was going for experience and players that were already there and bringing in youth. I was kind of that in between player. I think that’s why it took so long for me to get here with John as the head coach.
And you’ve spent a lot of time in Sweden. We don’t always have the chance to keep up with what’s happening in Damallsvenskan, but it’s been a great spot for Canadian players over the years.
The league, I think, is great. It definitely is top three in the world. From top to bottom, there’s less of a difference. I mean you go to France and you have Lyon, which is an amazing team, but then the drop off after the first three teams is huge. Teams are getting beaten 8:0 on a regular basis. In Sweden, it’s definitely more even across the league and I think it’s a great league. The Swedish national team is a great one, so that means there’s a lot of competition. Swedes are friendly and I really liked it.
I think, and correct me if I’m wrong, I saw a Swedish feature about you, which mentioned you were teaching during your time there?
My first year, I was working at an English speaking daycare there. So it was kids that have parents that are Swedish and English or people that have their parents have come in from a different country and aren’t staying for a long time. I was just there as an English-speaking daycare teacher.
For people who haven’t seen you play in the past, how would you describe your style?
I run a lot. I’m a little sporadic at times and I think I’m good 1 v 1. That’s what I take most pride in as a defender. As a fullback, I like to attack also. That’s where all of the running comes in because I’m up and down that flank the whole game.
Coach Herdman has always said he’s looking for a leftie. Do you pride yourself in having strength in your left foot?
It’s definitely helped being a leftie throughout my career. I wasn’t really happy with my crosses in the game [vs Japan in Edmonton], but that will come hopefully. I just need to clean it up a bit. Being a leftie is huge and it honestly helps so much.
It’s so rare, isn’t it?
Oh yeah, it’s very rare. Lauren Sesselmann, she’s a leftie and I think she’s the only other one that we’ve got.
It’s a hectic time for you with residency camp and the upcoming schedule that will be the push toward the Women’s World Cup in June. What’s next for you?
I just think improving my form as a defender, things like staying with the line and just getting better at team defending, is going to be my main focus moving forward. We haven’t really worked on that yet, the team defending aspect I mean. We’ve been working on attacking and getting good platforms to create final acts and score goals. That’s been our main focus right now. I’m looking forward to getting into my bread and butter, which is the defending and the team defending aspect of it. I want to deny teams those opportunities.
About the author:
Sandra Prusina is a journalist and broadcaster based out of Calgary, Canada. She has covered women’s soccer since 2010. She is also a segment reporter for Olympic Broadcast Services, traveling to Vancouver, London and Sochi to work for the host broadcaster.