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Christine Sinclair is redefining her greatness

Christine Sinclair will very likely go down as the greatest goal-scorer in international soccer history. She is 11 goals shy of Abby Wambach’s recently-set record of 184, and could own the title by this time next year.

Sinclair has long been known as an outstanding striker – a pure finisher with a nose for goal, for club and country. She is a ferocious competitor who is responsible for one of the greatest individual scoring efforts in the history of the game – her hat trick in the 2012 Olympic semifinal loss to the United States, which will forever be overshadowed by the result and the controversy.

There’s nothing overt about why ‘Sinc’ is so dominant – she’s fast but not outrageously so, strong despite a lanky frame. Her game is nuanced, centered around doing all the right things, all the time. The most succinct way to describe her is as the model No. 9 for nearly two decades– a striker in every sense.

Now, at 35 years old and in her sixth season with Portland Thorns FC, that description isn’t so simple. In fact, it’s outdated. Christine Sinclair has reinvented herself.

Midway through the 2017 season, Thorns head coach Mark Parsons had a problem, and a unique one: his team was actually too patient in possession. The Thorns were methodical – a nice term for slow – and where it hurt them most was in their inability to get Sinclair into the game. She was at the top of the formation, in that customary No. 9 role. The ball wasn’t finding her enough for Parsons’ liking, so he made a change. He took who he calls “the best goal-scorer on the planet” and moved her farther away from the goal.

“We dropped her into the [No.] 10 [role] because we felt we could have more of Sinc and have more creativity,” Parsons said this week, ahead of a semifinal against Seattle Reign FC. “And we loved it when she did drop in from the [No.] 9, was faced up and played people through. She gave us a dimension that we didn’t have before.”

That was part of a wider tactical shift for the Thorns which eventually delivered the team’s second National Women’s Soccer League title. Portland is the No. 2 seed in this year’s playoffs and is two home victories away from repeating (the final is in Portland), doing so with Sinclair in this attacking midfield – at times, almost second striker – role for the entire season.

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