The Players: Chelsea Stewart

Chelsea Stewart was just a tad bit nervous before her first start with the national team. It was a good thing that teammate Karina LeBlanc was there to reassure her.

Chelsea Stewart was just a tad bit nervous before her first start with the national team. It was a good thing that teammate Karina LeBlanc was there to reassure her.



“Relax, it is just another soccer game,” said LeBlanc. “Just go out there are play your game.”



Stewart was fine, making her debut at age 18 in a 1:1 draw with New Zealand at the 2009 Cyprus Women’s Cup. She has made 20 more appearances for Canada, all in the lead up to the FIFA Women’s World Cup this summer in Germany. She is now 21 years old and ready to take on anything and anyone on the biggest football stage in the world.



So will the opening game of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011 be “just another game?”



“No, I don’t think so,” said Stewart. “It will be the biggest game of my career.”



More than 70,000 fans are expected to attending the opening match at the Olympiastadion Berlin on 26 June. It will be Canada’s first of three group matches, with later dates against France on 30 June (in Bochum) and Nigeria on 5 July (in Dresden).



The biggest crowd before which Stewart has played to date is 23,000 fans at the Olympic Sports Center in Yongchuan, China last year.



Stewart is one of the young talented players making her way into the Canadian lineup. While goalkeeper LeBlanc is working towards her fourth FIFA Women’s World Cup, Stewart is preparing for her first.



“They (the veterans) always have little tidbits here and there,” said Stewart. “They will pull you aside and maybe say, ‘hey, be ready for this.’”



Stewart grew up playing soccer and hockey, with soccer ultimately winning her heart when a choice had to be made between the two. Her older sister Emily also chose soccer, while their younger brother Trevor has followed their father’s footsteps into ice hockey. Their father Bill was a Minnesota North Stars draft pick who had a brief call up with the Canadian national team.



Born in Denver, Colorado, but always as much Canadian as she was American, Chelsea played briefly in the United States system before getting the call from Canada in 2008. She helped Canada win the CONCACAF Women’s Under-20 Championship in 2008 and then served as team captain in 2010. She won Canadian U-20 Player of the Year honours in 2009 and finished as runner-up in 2010.



“I love the competition in our sport,” said Stewart. “There is so much passion out there. You always want to go out there for the win.”



Stewart is well regarded by head coach Carolina Morace and her staff, who took over the Canadian reigns in 2009. Stewart is a smart player who can play almost any position on the pitch. In the fall of 2010, she helped Canada win the 2010 CONCACAF Women’s World Cup Qualifier. It marked Canada’s second CONCACAF championship at the national “A” level.



Hopefully, there will be many more in Stewart’s future.



For now, Stewart’s focus remains solely on the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011. Her father has told her to enjoy but a minute, then to focus on playing as hard and as well as she can.



“Soccer if life in Germany, so it will be that much more intense,” said Stewart. “(We) are going to have to focus on the game that much more. I was told from my dad to enjoy the moment for a second, but then it has to be ‘game on’ from there.”



Those words are spoken like a true professional. Just go out and play your game.



The road to Germany 2011



Chelsea Stewart remembers watching the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1999. She was also lucky enough to watch a live match four years later in the lead up to USA 2003.



One of Stewart’s football idols Julie Foudy played in four FIFA Women’s World Cups from 1991 to 2003. She won gold in 1991 and 1999 and bronze in 1995 and 2003.



As a youngster, Stewart attended the Julie Foudy Soccer Camp in Colorado. She even had the chance to meet Foudy outside the camp setting, running into her at the hotel before a USA-Brazil match in 2003.



At the FIFA Women’s World Cup USA 2003, USA defeated Canada 3:1 in the Match for Third Place. It was Canada’s best finish ever, although the team has improved by leaps and bounds in the eight years that have followed.



USA remains Canada’s toughest opponent, not surprising considering USA was ranked first on the most recent FIFA/Coca-Cola Women’s World Ranking. Canada was ranked sixth, which was its highest rank to date.



While the two sides did not get to meet in last year’s CONCACAF Women’s World Cup Qualifier, Canada did finish first while USA finished third. Canada earned a direct berth into Germany 2011 while USA had to play an extra playoff series to knock off Italy (fifth place from Europe) and advance to Germany 2011.



This year’s tournament will mark just the second time that three teams from CONCACAF will compete in the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Along with Canada and USA, Mexico qualified as the second-best team from the region.

Guidelines for the Return to Soccer

Canada Soccer outlines return to soccer guidelines. The return to soccer guidelines provide member organizations with a five-step process, including a checklist of weighted questions known as the Return to Soccer Assessment Tool.