One of the common traits of the Canadian Women’s National Team during the past few years is its willingness to give young players a shot.
From Jessie Fleming, Kadeisha Buchanan, Deanne Rose, Ashley Lawrence, dating all the way back to Christine Sinclair, there is a lengthy tradition of promising teenagers earning full team debuts north of the border.
Earlier in 2017, another name was added to the list, one of the youngest entrants yet. Vancouver Whitecaps forward Jordyn Huitema debuted for Canada at the Algarve Cup against Spain, becoming the third youngest player ever to appear for the full team.
Starting against Spain in the Algarve Cup final on March 8, Huitema felt the magnitude of the occasion.
“Of course there were nerves, it was the biggest moment of my soccer career to this day,” she told TopDrawerSoccer.com via email. “The biggest thing was when I stepped onto that field I had to turn the nerves into drive.”
Just 15 years old on her debut, Huitema’s involvement in the Canadian youth national team setup dates back to August 2014, when she earned a call-up to an Under-15 identification camp.
Since then, the tall, speedy striker (Huitema is listed at 175 centimeters, approximately 5-foot-10) has played at the U15 CONCACAF Championship, the U17 CONCACAF Championship and last year’s U17 World Cup in Jordan. She’s scored 11 goals in a total of 21 appearances in official competitions, offering pace and power up front. Her success on the youth teams eventually led to a call-up to an identification camp with the full team this past January. After impressing there, she made her full debut at the Algarve just over a month later. Huitema returned to the national team fold in April, also making a substitute appearance in a 1-0 friendly win against Sweden.
The experiences with the full team have simply been the next step in what has become an accelerated development curve. Along with that, the opportunities were a chance to test herself against the best players Canada has to offer, and to see how things operate at the highest level.
“It was a honour to have the opportunity to surround myself by the best players in the country,” Huitema said. “It was amazing to see how authentic their personalities were, especially off the field. Just all around great people and soccer players.”
Whether making an appearance for the full team or a youth side, Huitema said it was “indescribable” to wear the badge of her home country. It’s also pushed her on and off the field.
“My experiences with the national team haven’t just shaped me as a soccer player but as a person,” she said. “I am so thankful for all the work [head coach] John [Herdman] and the staff have put into me as a player and what all the women have shared to develop me on and off the field.”
By bringing in younger players to the full team – during last week’s trip to Europe for friendlies against Germany and Sweden, six teenagers earned a call-up – it exposes young players to the demands of a higher level, and shows them what it takes to make it.
Back in Vancouver for the time being, Huitema is working on improving with the Vancouver Elite Girls program, recently starring over the weekend at the Whitecaps Showcase for the U18 side. Like other top players at her club, she’s in the middle of the college recruiting process, aiming to catch the attention of major DI programs around the United States. Planning on doing some visits later this summer and perhaps in the fall, Huitema’s experience at the full national team level is certain to catch the attention of a top program and impact the class of 2019.
The striker hopes to return to the full national team fold for upcoming friendlies in Winnipeg and Toronto, and she’ll be eligible for the 2018 U17 and U20 World Cup qualifying process.
Whatever the future holds for the British Columbia native, there is an impressive track record at both the college and international level for rising Canadian stars. It’s a path that Huitema could easily follow in the not-too-distant future.