VANCOUVER — Erin McLeod joins Christine Sinclair and Sophie Schmidt in the spotlight Tuesday at B.C. Place Stadium.
But unlike the other two, the 40-year-old goalkeeper from St. Albert, Alta., won't be suiting up for the friendly against Australia.
"I'm just really happy to be there, to be honest," said McLeod, who announced her international retirement in January after 119 senior appearances and 47 clean sheets. "The thought of dressing hadn't even crossed my mind until Sophie was talking about if she was going to dress or not.
"Not for me. I'm just super-happy to be there and support the team and Sophie and Sinc and get to see a lot of former players. And then acknowledge Sinc for what she's done for the country."
McLeod is also close to Schmidt, whom she calls "an absolute joy."
"Sophie has the ability to brighten a room. She's so just unique and her authentic self … Salt of the earth, that one," said McLeod.
The 35-year-old Schmidt, who plays for the NWSL's Houston Dash, announced earlier this year that she was retiring from international football after this summer's World Cup. But she agreed to pull on the Canadian jersey twice more to go out the same night as the 40-year-old Sinclair, who announced in October that she would retire from the international game after the December international window.
Sinclair and Schmidt both came on as substitutes on Friday's 5-0 win over Australia in Langford, B.C., earning cap No. 330 and 225, respectively.
McLeod still has one more year on her contract with Iceland's Stjarnan W and plans to spend it as a player-coach, doing analysis and prepping videos for the team. She is also taking her UEFA B coaching licence and has already started a goalkeeping academy in Iceland.
"I'm very bad at relaxing," McLeod, who is also an artist, musician, entrepreneur and LGBTQ spokeswoman, said with a laugh.
McLeod, who last played for Canada on Oct. 26, 2021, in a 1-0 friendly win over New Zealand in Montreal, was 19 when she made her Canada senior debut in a 4-0 victory over Wales in March 2002 at the Algarve Cup. An 18-year-old Sinclair scored twice that day, her 22nd and 23rd career goals.
Five months later, Sinclair and McLeod were key players on the Canadian team that finished runner-up at the 2002 FIFA U-19 Women's World Championship on home soil. Canada made it to the final, losing 1-0 to the U.S. after extra time before 47,784 at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium.
McLeod played every game while Sinclair was named the tournament's top player and leading scorer after scoring 10 of Canada's 16 goals, including an eye-popping five in a 6-2 quarterfinal win over England.
"She just played out of this world," said McLeod. "That was just kind of her normal for us. There was Sincy and then there was like everyone else. I think we were all in awe of her."
It was a performance McLeod puts up with Sinclair's hat-trick in a losing cause against the U.S. in the 2012 Olympic semifinal at Old Trafford.
McLeod was front and centre that game. With Canada leading 3-2 in the 76th minute, Norwegian referee Christina Pedersen controversially ruled that McLeod had broken the rarely enforced six-second handling rule.
The ensuing indirect free kick in the Canadian penalty box led to a penalty for handball. The Americans tied the game from the penalty spot and went on to win 4-3 after extra time.
McLeod was outstanding in the bronze-medal match that followed, helping Canada make the Olympic podium with a 1-0 win over France.
McLeod started throughout the 2015 World Cup on home soil. She was an alternate with the team that won gold at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 but dressed for the game against Chile when Kailen Sheridan stepped in for the injured Stephanie Labbe.
McLeod expects Tuesday's farewell to be emotional.
"I know I'll probably ball my eyes out," she said with a laugh. "This has been my family … It's going to be tough. But at the same time, it's kind of time. It's a good time. I look at that (current Canadian) squad of players and there's fantastic players. But there's also fantastic humans and leaders. And I think that's a testament to the people before them, Sinc and Sophie. Hopefully I rubbed off on a few of them too.
"It will be emotional but it's so natural in sport to pass the torch."
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2023
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press