Kadeisha Buchanan steps into soccer stardom
20-year-old defender already recognized as among world's best
She's already one of the best defenders in all of women's soccer, and Kadeisha Buchanan's career is still just getting started.
She only turned 20 in November, but Buchanan stepped into the limelight this past summer as one of the standout performers when Canada hosted the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup. A hard-tackling central defender, Buchanan won the Young Player Award as the best performer in the tournament under 20.
"It's been pretty amazing, just the recognition I've been getting after the World Cup from people supporting me. The year's still not done but I've been getting a lot of messages saying how proud they are of me," Buchanan said from Natal, Brazil, where she's with the Canadian squad taking part in a four-team international tournament.
"It was definitely a lot of soccer but I definitely love doing what I do."
While still in high school, Buchanan made her debut for Canada in 2013 and has already amassed 41 appearances at the senior level.
In her junior year at West Virginia University, Buchanan is a finalist for the Hermann Trophy as the top female player in college soccer in the United States. She was also the only defender on the 10-player shortlist for FIFA's World Player of the Year award and, closer to home, could very well become the first player in 12 years not named Christine Sinclair to be named the Canadian women's soccer player of the year.
"It's crazy and has all happened so fast," Buchanan said. "It's cool to see what I have and there's so much more I can give."
Buchanan is leading the youth movement on the Canadian team, which finds itself in transition as several players from the bronze medal-winning squad at the 2012 London Olympics approach the end of their careers. Karina LeBlanc, Candace Chapman and Kelly Parker are some of the names that have already moved on.
Of the 21 players on the current squad in Brazil, six are teenagers. Having become accustomed to being the baby in camp, Buchanan now finds herself taking on a leadership mantle.
Canada beat Mexico 3-0 on Thursday to open the tournament and Buchanan was partnered in the centre of defence with 19-year-old Kennedy Faulknor, who was making her senior debut.
"I'm definitely happy. There's no more 'teenage star' stuff so I'm not a teenager anymore," Buchanan laughed. "It's cool to see people three or four years younger than me and I have a chance to build my leadership role on a team and to be vocal on the pitch."
With a year still remaining at West Virginia, Buchanan still doesn't have to quite think about her move to the professional ranks just yet. There's still the small matter of a 2016 that has an Olympic qualifying tournament in February in Texas and the Olympics themselves in August.
But when she graduates from university, she'll certainly be sought after by clubs in the NWSL in the U.S. as well as the bigger clubs in Europe.
"I haven't given it too much thought yet. The time will come for that and right now I still have a year. Being pro is a little bit extra stress so I'm not worried about it," said Buchanan. "I definitely set the bar high in 2015 so it's finding the little details that will change my game. So I'll try to work towards that."