TORONTO — Jordyn Huitema is taking a path never travelled for a Canadian teenage female soccer player, signing to play professionally for French club Paris Saint-Germain straight out of high school.The Canadian women’s national team striker, and heir apparent to Christine Sinclair, signed a four-year deal with PSG, announced Friday.Huitema, 18, and Canada play host to Mexico on Saturday at BMO Field in a sendoff match prior to the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.“I’m very, very excited,” Huitema said following a training session on Friday. “I’ve been waiting a little bit of time to really get going with this. Turning 18 a few days ago (May 8) we were officially able to announce it. The whole thing that drew me to it was just the atmosphere of the club, the players, France, Paris just in itself, is just such a soccer-driven country and I’m just super excited to get there and play with these girls.”A product of Chilliwack, B.C., Huitema has represented Canada on 19 occasions, scoring six goals. She made her Canadian debut as a 15-year-old, and will be playing in her first Women’s World Cup this June.“This is a great thing for Jordyn,” said Canadian head coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller. “She’s good enough and she can definitely improve even more. She’s been very good at going from one environment to another. I think this will help her take steps even more quickly than she has been with us the last couple of years.”Huitema made her way up through the Vancouver Whitecaps Regional EXCEL Centre (REX) and to the national team program. She will be joining Canadian teammate Ashley Lawrence at PSG. By turning professional, Huitema forgoes any U.S. college opportunities.“It was really hard, I really love school it has always been a big passion of mine,” she said. “So to go off that path and kind of create my own and go pro and be the first Canadian female to do that out of high school, I was super nervous to do that and super excited.”Projected to be Canada’s next top striker, following in the footsteps of Sinclair, the two have developed a strong bond on the national team. Sinclair is five international goals away from setting the all-time record currently held by American striker Abby Wambach.
Christine Sinclair (right) and Jordyn Huitema of the Canadian women’s soccer team relax prior to a workout at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg on Tues., June 6, 2017. Kevin King / Postmedia
“I’ve definitely tried to take her under my wing, obviously, playing the exact same position, and both of us being from B.C.,” Sinclair said. “I’m just spending as much time with her as possible. What impresses me the most about her is actually how much she’s actually improved over the last two years.“When she first came in with the team, she just seemed so awkward, even striking a ball, she hadn’t fully grown into her six-foot frame yet. And for me, just seeing her progression camp to camp, you just see a different soccer player, a more well-rounded soccer player, not just an athlete. She’s going to be a good one.”VETERANS WILL BE MISSEDThe news veteran midfielder Diana Matheson and goalkeeper Erin McLeod will not be available to Canada for the World Cup was tough to take for some members of the current squad.Matheson, 35, and McLeod, 36, have played in every World Cup for Canada dating back to 2003. The two had been battling multiple injuries the past few years and were ruled out Thursday.“It’s a setback for sure,” Heiner-Moller said. “I think everyone with the team and also those outside of the team, knows the impact of those two individuals. So it’s much more than individuals we’re losing, it’s personality and character with more than 300 caps (international appearances). It’s definitely a blow, but like I’ve said before, if one of the big trees in the forest falls, then the sun shines on the little ones and they have to grow and they all have that capability in this group.”
Canada goalkeeper Erin McLeod, back, jokes with Diana Matheson during a FIFA Women’s World Cup soccer practice session in Vancouver, B.C., on June 24, 2015. The two veterans have been ruled out of the 2019 FIFA World Cup due to injury. Darryl Dyck / CP
Matheson and McLeod were both instrumental in Canada’s bronze-medal victory against France at the 2012 Olympics in London. McLeod made a number of outstanding saves in the contest, while Matheson scored the late game-winning goal.“It’s gutting, I think mostly from a personal perspective,” said Canadian midfielder Sophie Schmidt. “They’ve worked so hard to come back and just for them to miss it is tough. As a team we’re going to miss them. Diana is a leader on the field through and through, she brings that orchestration and that calmness out on the pitch. Erin is just all passion, so we’re going to need other people to step up and fill the little gaps that they leave. They’re going to be missed for sure, but we’re going to do everything to do our best for them.”Email: firstname.lastname@example.orgOn Twitter: @DerekVanDiest