|espnW.com: News & Opinion|
ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Despite having a stellar season, Christine Sinclair has been overshadowed a lot this year. She lost out to Philadelphia's Veronica Boquete for the Michelle Akers Player of the Year trophy. Her assist on Marta's 10th goal in the final regular-season game cost Sinclair the scoring title. But on Saturday in Rochester, she was named MVP of the final as her Western New York Flash won the Women's Professional Soccer championship. Then, none of those other snubs seemed to matter.
"I can't praise Christine Sinclair enough. She's a phenomenal person. A quiet girl. Humble. And a fantastic footballer," Flash coach Aaran Lines said. "She's just a world class soccer player. What she has given us this year -- she's given us everything."
Sinclair's goal in the 64th minute gave the Flash a 1-0 lead over the Philadelphia Independence, and when the game was forced to penalty kicks, Sinclair stepped up and made the second one as the Flash players converted all five of their attempts.
When the championship trophy was presented, Sinclair was hidden in the back. She had to make her way through a number of Flash players to receive her MVP trophy. Fitting, perhaps, for a player who downplayed even winning the honor.
"It doesn't matter," she said with a smile.
But there was no downplaying Sinclair's season from any of her teammates.
"She's a class act. On the field. Off the field," Flash goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris said. "She's so professional. She carried this team this year."
It hasn't been an easy season for Sinclair. Her Canadian national team crashed out of the World Cup quickly, eliminated after just two games. Sinclair, the captain and Canada's all-time leading scorer, broke her nose in the first match and suffered a cut above her eye after taking a ball to her face in the second. After the World Cup, Canadian national team coach Carolina Morace abruptly resigned, leaving the program in a bit of uncertainty.
Saturday's win ends Sinclair's summer on a more positive note.
"It's perfect," Sinclair said of ending her soccer year with her second consecutive WPS title. "The World Cup didn't go as I had hoped for Canada, and it was important for me to come back and play some more soccer."
Her time with the Flash was always solid. She played in 15 games and tallied 10 goals and eight assists, the last of which gave her strike partner, Marta, the PUMA Golden Boot for the league's top scorer. The Brazilian also scored 10 goals in the regular season, but in only 14 games. Not that any of it mattered to Sinclair, whose focus has always been on her team.
This summer, the Flash gave players five days off after their last World Cup game to return to the team, instead of the two days that FIFA requires. Sinclair returned to the United States immediately -- and scored as a second-half substitute just four days after Canada's final World Cup match.
"That just shows Christine Sinclair's character and how committed she was to the cause for us this year," Lines said.
Flash defender Candace Chapman, also Sinclair's Canadian national team teammate, assisted on Sinclair's goal that briefly gave the Flash the lead in Saturday's match. The two have played together for 10 years, Chapman said, and both won a title with FC Gold Pride last season.
"She's such an amazing player. If you really watch her -- the touches that she has on the ball, the runs that she has. Just the soccer smarts. She's amazing," Chapman said.
A number of Flash players had taken to Twitter to voice their disappointment after Sinclair wasn't named player of the year this season. But winning a title, with Sinclair being named MVP, made up for that.
"She is the MVP of the league. I am convinced. If you didn't think it before, you should think it after tonight," Flash defender Ali Riley said.