Christine Sinclair

Neymar
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Burning question: Best player you’ve ever seen live

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We’ve all had the chance to have Lionel Messi, Mohamed Salah, and others blow our minds on television screens, but there’s something special about seeing the magic in living color.

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So we’re wondering: Who’s the best player you’ve ever seen live? Hit up the comments section with your takes, and allow me to walk you through mine.

International: It’s August 10, 2010 at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, and your United States men’s national team is taking the field for the first time since Ghana ended the World Cup dreams of Bob Bradley’s boys with a 2-1 defeat in Rustenberg.

The vibe at the AO tailgate is lively, friends from all over the country gathered in the Garden State to see the hosts welcome a Brazil side that blew a halftime lead against the Netherlands to bow out in the World Cup quarterfinals.

It’s fortunate that the AO seats that wound up in my hands were a few rows behind Tim Howard, because that was the end to see most of the first half.

Brazil left Kaka and Luis Fabiano at home, which begged what they might’ve done with those two pulling the strings. It’s not worth too much debate, because Mano Menezes’ Starting XI included Robinho, Ramires, David Luiz, Thiago Silva, Dani Alves, and Alexandre Pato and a kid making his international debut.

His name was Neymar, and any hopes of the youngster being humbled by the big crowd and his first cap were dashed immediately. While it wasn’t the virtuoso show we’d see so many times in Barcelona, PSG, and Brazil shirts moving forward, it was clear this kid had it.

The thumping header at the back post meant it took less than a half-hour for Neymar Jr. to show us his first of 61 senior goals and counting for Brazil. He was young, naive, unrefined… and electric.

Club: This one’s more difficult, if only because the majority of the senior action I’ve seen in person has been in Major League Soccer, with a few jaunts overseas. There’s always a ‘guy’ who stands out, though, per game, whether a young and gigantic Andy Carroll for Newcastle at Stoke in 2009, Niklas Dorsch running the midfield for Heidenheim in relegating Duisburg from the Bundesliga last Spring, or Frank Lampard and Kaka dueling in Orlando a few years earlier.

But the most dominant forces I’ve seen on a consistent basis have both had ties to Canada. On the MLS side, any chance to see Sebastian Giovinco for Toronto FC at BMO Field was a chance to catch a firefly, but in terms of sheer dominance I’m looking to the ladies.

Christine Sinclair was the best player on a loaded Western New York Flash roster when I was their play-by-play man during the 2011 WPS season. Now the all-time leading scorer amongst women, Sinclair punished teams that season and stood out despite a roster that included Marta, Alex Morgan, Caroline Seger, Ashlyn Harris, and McCall Zerboni amongst others.

Sinclair scored in regulation of a final against Philadelphia that went to penalty kicks, and converted her spot kick, too. If Zlatan is a lion, she’s part of the same pride. A force.

(Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)

College/Amateur: Before my alma mater unceremoniously cut men’s soccer, the University at Buffalo played in the Mid American Conference and delivered all sorts of high drama. The highlight was usually the visit of Akron, a national champion who had been neck-and-neck with the Buffalo Bulls in the 2000s before putting a stranglehold on the rivalry. UB was the runner-up to Akron in 2015 and 2016 behind a brilliant team featuring now-USL player Russell Cicerone and a future New Zealand club captain in Fox Slotemaker. The 2016 season gives us our story.

The Zips had a freshman on the right side who was almost always in the right place, with mind-bending pace to help with the times he was caught astray. Jonathan Lewis had spent a season abroad with Bradford City before opting for school, and he was a one-and-done in Ohio after recording 12 assists, one in that game. I’ve seen some incredible college talents, but Lewis was the best by a good margin. He’s now earned six USMNT caps and 48 MLS appearances between NYCFC and Colorado at the age of 22.

Mexico falls to Canada, will meet USWNT for Olympic berth

Canada women
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Mexico is the final obstacle between the USWNT and another trip to the Olympics.

Canada defeated Mexico 2-0 on Tuesday to win CONCACAF Olympic qualifying Group B and earn a semifinal scrap with Costa Rica.

The Yanks will meet Mexico at 10 p.m. ET Friday in the semifinal stage after cruising through Group A.

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New international goals record holder Christine Sinclair scored to stretch the standard to 186, while defender Shelina Zadorsky scored her second.

Mexico’s improved a great deal in recent seasons, but lost to the USMNT 3-0 on May 26, 2019.

The semifinal winners meet Sunday in the final, both having clinched places in Tokyo.

Sinclair broke Abby Wambach’s record on Jan. 29.

Sinclair’s all-time goals record a unique moment for the game

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Soccer has a new all-time leading international scorer, and it’s difficult to imagine a better vintage flag bearer for the sport than Christine Sinclair.

The 36-year-old scored her 185th goal for Canada on Thursday, passing USWNT legend Abby Wambach.

Where Sinclair’s on-field game shows the same fire and drive as the woman who’s record she broke, she carries herself in a way alien to Wambach.

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And it’s alien to the brash manner that’s earned the USWNT its admirers and detractors over the year. It’s difficult to remember a time when Sinclair gave herself the stage, or commanded the spotlight.

That’s not a shot at the U.S., of course, but it’s pretty incredible that the No. 1 scorer and striker in the women’s game, a position which has collected the wildest and most attention-craving personalities on earth.

A story, some of which you know.

In 2011, Sinclair was drafted by the Western New York Flash as part of one of the most insane collections of talent imaginable. The Canadian striker was joined in attack by Marta, rookie Alex Morgan, and English international Gemma Davidson.

The team included Swedish hero Caroline Seger, USWNT players-in-waiting McCall Zerboni, Ashlyn Harris, and Whitney Engen, and New Zealand rocket Ali Riley.

It was stacked. She never quite got the headlines of Marta or Morgan, but her 10 goals and eight assists led the team to a WPS title.

I was the play-by-play voice of the team in WNY, and the player who controlled the flow of the game was Sinclair. Let me clear: The team was a solid collection of personalities, and honestly there were very few moments anyone seemed to be bigger than the rest.

But Sinclair carried herself like the everywoman of the crew. It was never about her, but the person next to her. She wasn’t league MVP, though she was unanimous Best XI, but she was an absolute force.

And in an era dominated by loud, electrifying U.S. women’s national teams, the top scorer is a Canadian who rather quietly ascended the throne in front of a sea of seats.

Especially considering the growth of the women’s game, there’s a very good chance none of us will live to see anyone touch her record.

There’s something pretty great about that.

Watch our transfer deadline day show from 6-8 p.m. ET on Jan. 31, live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com.

Sinclair passes Wambach as all-time international leading goalscorer

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Canada hammered St. Kitts & Nevis 11-0 in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying, but the lopsided scoreline was not the highlight of the match.

Canadian striker Christine Sinclair scored a pair in the contest, equalling and then passing Abby Wambach’s all-time goal record with 185 career international goals. With more goals than anyone else in the history of international soccer, Sinclair achieved the feat in 290 caps for Canada in a career spanning 20 seasons.

Sinclair’s debut came as a 16-year-old at the Algarve Cup and her first goal came at the age of 17 in March of 2000. Now at 36 years old, she has secured one of the most coveted international milestones.

American forward Abby Wambach, the old record holder after bagging her 184th goal in 2015, tweeted her congratulations to Sinclair for the achievement.

Sinclair won the MAC Hermann Trophy twice as a student at the University of Portland, winning NCAA titles in 2002 and 2005 and setting the NCAA Division 1 record for goals in a season with 39. She has been a member of the Portland Thorns since 2013 where she has scored 52 goals in 137 appearances.

Best USMNT and USWNT moments of the 2010s

Top USMNT USWNT moments of decade
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The United States men’s national team had some dynamite moments in a dreary decade.

The USWNT had just a few dreary ones in a dynamite one.

But what were the best moments of the 2010s for the top teams of U.S. Soccer? And what’s a bigger challenge: deciding what moment is No. 3 or choosing between Nos. 1 an 2.

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Isn’t it wonderful that the USWNT  makes it so we have to choose which World Cup title is most delightful and impactful?

5. USWNT, Canada in seven-goal Olympic festival of soccer and officiating ridiculousness

Maybe it’s myopic and biased to call this the peak of the USWNT-Canada rivalry, but holy cow was this one a beauty. A guaranteed medal and a spot in the 2012 Olympic final was on the line when the U.S. fell behind not once, not twice, but three times at Old Trafford.

Christine Sinclair, arguably the greatest scorer in women’s history, had a giant-killing, nation-lifting day in attack, scoring in the 22nd, 67th, and 73rd minutes. The Yanks only equalized the third time because of a controversial handball penalty which was given after an indirect free kick was awarded for time-wasting.

An indirect free kick awarded for time-wasting. Abby Wambach was possibly given a second gold medal for intimidating the referee.

4. “And Donovan has scored. Oh can you believe this? Go, go, USA!”

The 1990s and 2000s each had their gateway moment for new fans of the U.S. men’s national team, the 90s being a whole tournament in the United States. Eight years later, it was beating rivals Mexico in the group stage.

The 2010s? Look no further than the current manager of San Diego Loyal FC.

3. Tim Howard goes Spiderman in memorable loss to Belgium

The Yanks have a decent history of putting up fine shows in World Cup knockout round exits, Ghana excluded. There was 1-0 to Brazil on home soil. Then, the 1-0 handball-aided loss to Germany in Korea.

But this was something else. The American goalkeeping position had always been a strength, but Tim Howard took it to the next level with a performance which inspired comparisons to Marvel Superheroes and Neo from the Matrix.

The U.S. lineup was good, but Belgium’s XI went like this: Courtois, Kompany, Van Buyten, Vertonghen, Alderweireld, Witsel, Fellaini, De Bruyne, Hazard, Mertens, and Origi. The guys who came into the game? Lukaku, Mirallas, Chadli. Mousa Dembele couldn’t get on the pitch.

It was a performance big enough to earn this from Kompany after the game:

And Howard followed it up with an incredibly emotional post-match press conference. A U.S. Soccer icon.


[ MORE: USMNT Best XI of the 2010s ]


2. Megan Rapinoe caps World Cup title defense in iconic fashion

Megan Rapinoe was everywhere as the USWNT allowed just three goals in seven matches, ruffling plenty of feathers by scoring a ton of goals and celebrating them with vigor.

No recency bias here: A World Cup crown is a World Cup crown, but you’re nuts if you think this finale was as fun as our No. 1. The parade, however, looked on the level.

1. Carli Lloyd goes off in 2015 World Cup Final

Believe it or not, there was a three-tournament run where the Yanks missed two World Cup finals and lost a third.

So the relief of watching Jill Ellis lead the Yanks to a 5-2 rout against Japan was delicious

Carli Lloyd cashed in a midfield goal to cap a hat trick in the 16th minute, and… well… yeah. She had a rarefied day and year.