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Labbe, Chapman ready to get back on Canadian soil

Steph Labbe was subsidized back to the Washington Spirit, but she did not want to talk about the team's offseason (photo copyright EriMac Photo for The Equalizer)

Steph Labbe was subsidized back to the Washington Spirit, but she did not want to talk about the team’s offseason (photo copyright EriMac Photo for The Equalizer)

VANCOUVER, B.C – There will be some familiar faces in some NWSL places when the 2017 season kicks-off in April. Canada’s Allysha Chapman will be shipping up to Boston, and goalkeeper, Steph Labbe will be making a surprising return to what will be a very different Washington Spirit side. Canada Soccer’s ten NWSL player allocations were announced on January 25, and many are wondering why Labbe is returning to a team with such an offseason exodus.

“Yeah, I don’t really have much comment on that right now,” Labbe said following training at B.C Place on Wednesday ahead of Canada’s friendly against Mexico on Saturday. “We’ll leave that one for now.”

{RELATED: Dunn to Chelsea, no NWSL in ’17 | Spirit send Krieger to Orlando Pride}

Diana Matheson and Allysha Chapman were both involved in separate offseason trades to Seattle, and Boston, respectively but not Labbe. The former Houston Dash left-back had a bit of an inkling that she might be moved to a new club.

“I thought maybe at the end of the season,” admitted Chapman, “As more time went on, I just figured I wouldn’t get traded. It was late November that it went through. I was a little surprised, but I think it’s for the best.”

Springtime represents a new beginning across North America. Daylight is getting longer, flowers are starting to appear, and frozen pitches are starting to thaw. For Chapman, and Labbe, the 2017 NWSL season offers a chance for a new opportunities. A chance for a clean slate, encouraging environment, and some new teammates to strive towards an NWSL Championship.

Having previously played in Sweden’s Damallsvenskan League, joining up with Houston offered Chapman a chance to better her craft in preparation for the 2015 World Cup and 2016 Rio Olympics. Going forward, she can’t wait to get started in Boston.

“I’m really excited,” said Chapman, “Matt Beard’s a great coach. He has great accolades from England. I’ve only heard great things about him, so I’m really excited to play for a coaching staff that is a little more experienced.”

The 20,000 spectators that are expected to watch Canada vs Mexico 0n Saturday, should see Chapman and Labbe in action. It’s been a long road of patience for Labbe. She hasn’t played a competitive minute in net, since Canada’s Rio Olympic bronze medal win over Brazil.

“Last week some girls were saying it feels good to get back on the field after a couple of months,” said Labbe. “I made the joke, I haven’t played since the Olympics. It was definitely fun to get back on the field and feel that game intensity again. I think the biggest thing is getting back to the speed of play. That’s the biggest thing at this level. It feels good to be back with the girls, being back here in Canada, and having the whole team back together.”

Canada is 4th ranked while Mexico is sitting 26th in the latest FIFA rankings. On paper you would expect Canada to ripple the old onion bag with high succession. What exactly is Canada working towards against Coach Roberto Medina, and his young Mexico team?

“We agreed on no steps backwards,” revealed Chapman. “Mexico has a new coach, a new team coming in. We’re also a team in a little bit of a transition period, where we have a few players retiring, and we have some new players coming in. We just won a bronze medal, we don’t want to take any steps backwards. We’re looking to keep the clean sheet, and score three or four goals to go with it.”

Labbe wants this to be a memorable match for the fans, but especially for retiring players, Melissa Tancredi, Rhian Wilkinson, and Marie-Eve Nault. They’ve given, and done so much for soccer in Canada. An appropriate sendoff vs Mexico is just what they all deserve.

“I think for us, it’s to build off the excitement of the Olympics and have an incredible sendoff and celebration for these three women who are retiring,” Labbe said. “For sure, to bring some excitement for this Canadian crowd. They’ve been waiting to see us play since the Olympics. For us to come out with a win, and score lots of goals to get them excited. I think that’s the biggest thing.”

Notes: Canada Soccer’s Carmelina Moscato will be honoured at halftime during Canada vs Mexico. Moscato has transitioned into a role as Women’s EXCEL Program Regional Talent Manager for Canada Soccer.


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