The next couple of weeks will be something special for Melissa Tancredi. First up is her 100th appearance in red and white silks, when the squad takes to the pitch for their friendly versus England. Not only will she achieve the milestone in Canada, she’ll do it surrounded by family and friends in the city where she grew up. Just a week and a day later, the 33-year-old will hit the field in Edmonton for the opening match of the Women’s World Cup.
The neat thing about this interview is that Melissa wasn’t totally aware that her century mark cap would take place in Hamilton. Canada Soccer confirmed it for us and she was absolutely thrilled to hear the news.
The Road to Canada 2015 interview series wraps up with striker Melissa Tancredi:
Hamilton, your hometown, and you’re going to be playing your 100th cap there. That doesn’t happen for a lot of soccer players. How does it feel?
Wow. It’s a dream because a lot of people play it on the road. I’m just finding that out now. Wow. It’s crazy! I think it’s going to mean a lot to me, but it’s also going to mean a lot to my family to be able to be a part of that moment with me. Wow. That’s kind of crazy.
100 appearances certainly is a milestone. What stands out to you as a career turning point when you think back to all those matches?
I think my career didn’t come with consistency until, probably, 2012. I feel like I was an up and down player. In big games, I would show up, but I was kind of under the radar. I think London for sure was a turning point, not only for me personally, but our whole team and the sport in our country. I think it put us on the map and I think it gave us a new found confidence. I’m looking forward to seeing that just explode this World Cup.
John Herdman spoke to the media about how the Women’s World Cup is not just about the players on this team. He said it’s also about the family members who have supported you and been there every step of the way. What have your parents gone through over the years to have you playing at this top level of soccer?
They’re definitely a special bunch. My whole family, my sister included and my grandparents, they’ve been nothing but supportive. They’ve given all of their time to me and my sister. I remember my mom not ever having a schedule. She was always working around my schedule and driving me places. They’re always traveling across the world just to see me play. To know that your family supports you that much is just incredible. I would do anything to give them a championship at this World Cup at home and to just feel that with them and have them be a part of it — along with all of Canada — would just be unreal. I think that’s what we’re looking forward to and allowing this momentum and this passion to take over.
I remember being in London and a British journalist was sitting beside me at one of the matches and he said, “That one group of Canadians over there, they’re really into it.” I grabbed some binoculars and of course first saw that memorable sign your family was holding up. They were really a hit at the Olympics.
“I Love Tancredi Women”? Yeah, that was my brother-in-law and my dad with the hardhat. I asked him to stop wearing that, but he’s probably going to bring it out. He actually told me he got rid of it, but my mom said he didn’t and he just put it downstairs. They’re crazy! But you know what, I love it. They’re just as excited for the games as I am and they love the whole atmosphere about it. The sport has grown with them and grown within our family. That’s the cool thing about being able to look into the stands and see that your parents are likely one of the rowdiest ones out there. It gives you that extra oomph on the field.
Just to take it back a little bit, think back to 2011 and the aftermath of the World Cup in Germany. What do you think has changed from that time to now?
I feel like we’ve changed as people for sure. I think that we’re now the best teammates and the best Canadians. We’ve put that out there because that’s who we want to be. We want to be very genuine human beings. Aside from that, as players, I think we’ve embraced the whole knowledge of the game. We want to learn more and we want to push ourselves more. We’re smarter tactically and I think we’re fitter, stronger. We understand the game much better than before and we can read opponents on the field instead of after. I also think these are just tiny little tweaks we’ve added to our games that has brought our game to a higher level. We’re very passionate, but at the same time, what we want out of this tournament is that everyone has the same common goal and the same vision. That’s hard to do. It’s hard to get a whole team to buy into, but this team is very, very special. I think we have a great balance of youth and old — wait I mean older! — I shouldn’t say old because I’m one of them. It’s great to see this kind of camaraderie and we’re able to mesh together so well.
So, as a veteran on this team, what do you say to the youngsters like Ashley Lawrence or Jessie Fleming?
You know, I tell them to eat their vegetables, do their homework and go to bed early! No, I mean, I remember having a talk with Ashley during the China tournament where she was my roommate and I just told her, “You just need to go out there and play.” The more the younger players let go, the better they play and the creativity just flows. If you allow them to do whatever they want on the field and whatever they’re feeling instinctually, they’ll just start doing it over and over again. That’s where they gain their confidence. I think Jessie, Ashley and Kadeisha [Buchanan] have had their breakthrough moments. Now, you’re just working on that consistency. It’s about allowing them to be themselves as players and be comfortable to make those decisions and know that your teammates are backing you no matter what.
Do you think that’s different from when you started?
Oh absolutely. When I started, I had to worry about the girl that was going to take my position and that kind of feeling. Now, it’s about nurturing the game and nurturing the younger players to become better, become the best players in Canada. There’s the rivalry, the in-house competition, but at the same time, her getting better is going to make me better. I think that’s how we see it as a team.
The final question is a big one, but when this tournament is in the rearview and you look back on it, what do you hope you see?
Wow. Well, I hope it’s a success. That’s number one and I’ll put that out there. I hope it’s inspiring. I want to see our performances get better as the tournament goes and I want to see a team that was strong, never gave up, poured everything out there on the field. Any time you watch a sporting event or anytime you fall in love with a team, it’s someone or a team that gave everything. You feel for them, that win or that loss or whatever it was. I want people to be able to feel our passion, but be a part of it at the same time. I hope that this team brings that this World Cup.
Melissa is on Twitter. Give her a follow as she celebrates her 100th cap and suits up in her third Women’s World Cup. A big thank you to Melissa for her time when we recently sat down with her in Vancouver.