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The View from the North: Matheson clear choice for Canada’s best in 2013

Diana Matheson is columnist Duane Rollins' clear choice for Canada's player of the year. (Photo Courtesy Canada Soccer)

For eight consecutive years the naming of the Canadian women’s player of the year has been an exercise in acclimation.

It’s Christine Sinclair’s award. Her brilliance has been so clear that there was a half-serious discussion a couple years ago about whether it would make sense to give her a lifetime achievement award of some type and then award the player of the year to the second-best performance.

Last year, 2012, was the peak of her glory. In addition to winning the soccer award she was also named the top Canadian athlete, period. It was the first time a soccer player had captured the top award and it was a proud moment for everyone associated with the game in Canada.

Flash forward a year and we are once again in award season. Sinclair is not in the conversation for the overall award this time, but it is almost certain she will win her ninth consecutive award on the soccer side.

She shouldn’t. And, as a voter for the award, this writer did not include Sinclair on his ballot for the first time.

The reason for the omission had a little bit to do with a below par (by her standards) year, but it had much more to do with the emergence of other players in the national team set-up.

Erin McLeod came into her own in 2013. After years of platooning, she clearly established herself as Canada’s No. 1, an accomplishment based as much on strong NWSL play as with the national tem. She was my No. 3 selection.

The glue that often holds Canada together, and likely one of the biggest breakouts of the NWSL season, was Desiree Scott. She plays a tough, fearless game and was my No. 2 choice for player of the year.

However, the No. 1 pick was an easy selection. Those in Canada always knew her importance, but 2013 was the year that the rest of the WoSo world learned, too. My vote for Canadian player of the year went to Washington Spirit midfielder Diana Matheson.

She simply had the best year of any Canadian at both club and country level.

Matheson’s breakout didn’t fully surprise John Herdman, but he still remains inspired by her at every camp.

“She just keeps getting better,” he said via email. “Her performances remain consistent and we hope she can start translating her NWSL goals to national team goals.”

However, Herdman went on to stress that Matheson’s contributions go beyond the 90 minutes.

“(She’s) a true leader in every way who sets a wonderful example to her teammates with an unshakeable performance focus.”

Those that followed the Spirit closely agree with Herdman’s assessment.

“Anyone who didn’t know Diana Matheson before the NWSL season knows her now,” journalist/author Beau Dure said. He was in a position to know, having written a book about the Spirit’s first season.

“Other teams did their best to stop her reasonably figuring that if they stopped here they would stop the Spirit.”

Dure speculates that if Washington had anyone to take some of the offensive burden away from Matheson, who had eight goals, the Spirit would have been far more competitive.

Like Herdman, Dure said that Matheson’s value goes beyond goals, however.

“She became a fan favorite with her dry wit, her willingness to stand up to Alex Morgan and her embrace of living quarters in a nearby retirement home.

“She simply exuded class all season.”

She’s exuded class her whole career. This year it’s time to recognize that officially by naming her the Canadian player of the year.

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