Soccer

Canadian soccer stars Buchanan, Lawrence ponder futures

The club future of two of Canada's finest women's soccer players will be decided in the coming days. And Kadeisha Buchanan and Ashley Lawrence have lucrative options.

Offers from Europe, NWSL draft remain top options

Ashley Lawrence, left, and Kadeisha Buchanan are two of Canada's rising stars. (The Associated Press/The Canadian Press)

The club future of two of Canada's finest women's soccer players will be decided in the coming days. And Kadeisha Buchanan and Ashley Lawrence have lucrative options.

The two West Virginia University stars have offers from Europe, while keeping a door open to North America via the Jan. 12 NWSL draft.

The two 21-year-olds have played together since they were nine years old in Brampton, Ont. They could be headed to the same team, although getting to stay together will be more complicated in the pro world.

Accolades keep piling up

Buchanan, an athletic, physical centre back, has 63 caps for Canada already. And her list of accolades has grown since 2015 when she was named best young player at the World Cup, was one of 10 finalists for FIFA Women's World Player of the Year and named to the FIFPro Women's World XI Team as well as Canadian Player of the Year.

An Olympic bronze medal, complete with wins over France and Germany, and slew of collegiate honours followed this year.

"Those things don't go without recognition and notice," said Canadian national team coach John Herdman. "Because of that, the football world is really open to Kadeisha at this point. I think a player like that is attracting the attention of THE best clubs, THE biggest clubs in the world."

"Every team really wants her. It will be interesting with her check list which one gets her," said West Virginia coach Nikki Izzo-Brown. "Obviously her and Ashley are very very desired."

Wherever they end up, Buchanan and Lawrence will be standard-bearers for a Canadian team on the rise.

Lawrence, a midfielder who played most recently at fullback for Canada, has 46 caps for her country. She has pace and can take on defenders.

A decision on their club future will likely have to come soon. Buchanan is keeping her cards close to her chest.

"There's a lot of opportunities in Europe and the NWSL," she said.

"It's exciting ... There's a lot of things to think about," she added.

Europe has lots to offer

Europe may win the day, especially so soon after the Olympics. Herdman will likely want his stars closer to home as the 2020 Games approach.

With the Games four years away, the lure of top-flight soccer in Europe and the UEFA Women's Champions League is strong. A marquee European team will also likely pay more.

Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod (FC Rosengard, Sweden) and attacking midfielder Sophie Schmidt (FFC Frankfurt, Germany) currently play at the highest level in Europe. McLeod is back in training after knee surgery.

'Both are worth No.1 picks'

Should Buchanan and Lawrence choose North America, they will go very quickly in the NWSL draft.

"Both are worth No. 1 picks," said Izzo-Brown. "And I've been blessed to have both of them. So I think it's a matter of what coaches need, but there'd be no question if I had the No. 1 draft pick that I would pick either one of them."

The Boston Breakers have the first and third pick in the NWSL draft, with the Western New York Flash picking second.

Buchanan and Lawrence were co-captains at West Virginia.

Buchanan is a finalist for the Missouri Athletic Club (MAC) Hermann Trophy, U.S. college soccer's version of the Heisman Trophy, for the second straight season.

A four-time NSCAA (National Soccer Coaches Association of America) all-American and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Buchanan anchored a Mountaineer defence that recorded an NCAA-best 18 shutouts this season en route to the final of the College Cup where she was named NCAA Tournament Defensive MVP.

Buchanan was also named player of the year by espnW and TopDrawerSoccer.com, and was the Honda Sport Award winner for soccer.

Herdman was quick to recognize Buchanan's talents.

"She's the [Christine] Sinclair of defenders, she's that good," he said famously after a May 2014 friendly with the U.S. in Winnipeg.

Then 18, Buchanan had already won 21 caps for Herdman.

Lawrence was also a first team NSCAA all-American and a semifinalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy this season. She finished her collegiate career with 17 goals and 29 assists in 91 games.

Izzo-Brown believes while Lawrence can succeed either at both fullback and midfielder, her future lies in the midfield.

"[Lionel] Messi could be anywhere on the field also but you put him where his passion is and I think [for] Ashley the middle of the park is her best position."

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