Canada's women soccer stars begin Olympic qualifying in Houston tonight
Kadeisha Buchanan is a rising soccer phenom in Canada and beyond
Canada's women's soccer team has its eye on the summer Olympics in Brazil. But first, it must pass through Houston.
Starting Thursday night, the team will be in the Texas city to compete in a series of qualifying matches on the road to Rio de Janeiro.
This year's team features several players from the Toronto area, including Toronto's Ashley Lawrence and Brampton's Kadeisha Buchanan.
Last year was stellar for Buchanan. At the 2015 Women's World Cup, she won the Young Player Award, and started for the team against China.
And then, she got her face on a postage stamp.
"That was definitely interesting, because I never use postage stamps, because I use the Internet," she said. "But it was definitely cool because sometimes when people send fan mail to me, my postage stamp is there. It's very cool to see that."
It was a string of successes that no one could've predicted.
"I didn't expect any of it," she said. "I love playing the game. When I lace up my boots, it's not to win anything."
She was voted the Canadian Female Soccer Player of the Year — an award usually reserved for the greats, like her idol, 32-year-old Christine Sinclair, the captain of the Canadian team.
"It just shows that Canada does have other players than Christine Sinclair," she said. "I was surprised that I got it."
Buchanan looks up to Sinclair for her leadership, both on the field and off. But the 21-year-old is also becoming a leader.
"I've been on the team for almost three years now. There's a younger group coming in, so I'm trying to do the same thing when I was younger and the older players took me under their wing."
She credits her family for her love and skill at the game. She told Metro Morning she had a ball at her feet as long as she can remember.
"I take everything after [my dad]," she said. "All his soccer friends and all my family members say, 'Wow, you look just like him on the field.'"
The Canadian team won a bronze in the 2012 Olympics, and Buchanan hopes to be back in 2016.
The team faces off against Guyana on Thursday night in the first of a series of Olympic qualifying matches.