Christine Sinclair and Canada's women's soccer team know milestone goal awaits, but focus is on Olympic berth
Canadian star is 1 shy of record 184 held by Abby Wambach
Christine Sinclair's goals have literally spanned the globe, with her hit list ranging from Argentina to Zimbabwe.
Sinclair's next goal will be her 184th, tying the world scoring record currently held by retired American striker Abby Wambach. While Canada's goal is to secure one of the two Olympic berths available to CONCACAF for the Tokyo Games, all eyes will be on Sinclair as eighth-ranked Canada takes on No. 127 St. Kitts, No. 51 Jamaica and No. 26 Mexico in group play.
While the Canadian women have never faced St. Kitts, their captain has already scored 11 times against Jamaica and 16 against Mexico.
The record sits in the Canadian team background, at least when the captain is around.
"It might get spoken about behind her back," veteran midfielder Sophie Schmidt said with a giggle.
"It's going to happen this tournament," she added. "I know she doesn't like talking about it but as a team we're very excited for her to reach that milestone and if we can, we're just going to give Sincy as many opportunities as possible and she'll be clinical as per usual."
WATCH | Christine Sinclair humble in the spotlight:
The goal — and the record-breaker that will undoubtedly follow — will be celebrated by many.
"I will secretly cry in the corner," said former Canadian international goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc, now head of CONCACAF women's football. "Because this woman deserves every single ounce of this, because you know her to be the most humble woman in the world — and she'll try probably not to talk about it."
Sinclair routinely shies away from the spotlight. The pride she feels in chasing the record is mostly about the Maple Leaf she wears on her chest.
"It would be pretty cool to see a Canadian on the top of that (list)," she said.
Pressed on the issue, Sinclair acknowledges she is "just proud to be in this position, proud of the body of work I've had in terms of a career. It's pretty special."
But Sinclair takes a Zen-like approach to her game.
"If I score, I score. If I don't, it means someone else is which makes me happy too."
Nearly 2 decades of scoring goals
It's almost 20 years since Sinclair debuted for Canada under coach Even Pellerud in a 4-0 loss to China at the Algarve Cup on March 12, 2000. Two days later she opened her goals account eight minutes into a 2-1 loss to Norway at the same tournament.
One of Sinclair's most celebrated strikes came Dec. 19, 2010, against host Brazil in the final of an international tournament.
After a Canadian takeaway, the ball came forward to Melissa Tancredi who beat a Brazilian and found Sinclair plowing a lone furrow up front. Pulling the defence apart, the two exchanged passes again before Tancredi found Sinclair, positioned a yard or so off the corner of the penalty box.
Sinclair has made a career of rising to the occasion, scoring on big stages.
On opening day of the 2011 World Cup, she stunned a crowd of 73,680 when she bent a free kick over a wall and past the goalkeeper in a 2-1 loss to host Germany.
Unforgettable performance in 2012
Perhaps Sinclair's most famous performance was a never-say-die hat trick against the U.S. in the 2012 Olympic semifinal, which ended in a controversial 4-3 American win after extra time.
"I felt so blessed to be on her team and to watch just extraordinary happen in one of the greatest stadiums of all time, in the stadium where every single girl who played in that game grew up watching on TV hoping to one day probably go and watch a game in the stands," said LeBlanc.
While Sinclair is a scoring machine, Canada coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller sees so much more.
"Every time I get a question about Christine, it's about her goals but she's so much more than that," he said before the decisive round-of-16 match against Sweden that proved to be Canada's last at the World Cup last summer in France.
"The goals are an important thing in this game, an important thing for us and every time she scores, it's pretty crucial. But as a captain, a leader of this team, the way she just carries herself is leadership in itself ... She is a very very great ambassador of Canada on the pitch and of the pitch."
Sinclair scored goal No. 182 in a 2-1 loss to the Netherlands in the final group game at the World Cup. No 183 came in Canada's last outing, a 3-0 win over New Zealand at a tournament in China in November. It was Sinclair's record 289th appearance for Canada.
Coincidentally Sinclair and Wambach were both on goal No. 99 when their teams faced off in a friendly in July 2009.
The two sat together for a U.S. Soccer video in advance of the match in Rochester, N.Y., with Sinclair calling Wambach "one of the most dominating players in the women's game, if not the most dominating player in the women's game."
Wambach said Sinclair will be a legend before her career is over.
Wambach, now 39, retired in October 2015 with 184 goals in 255 games. Sinclair is still going strong.