European pro career awaits Whitby soccer star

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Published June 9, 2023 at 11:28 am

Photo Canada Soccer

Whitby soccer sensation Olivia Smith is saying goodbye to college and hello to pro soccer in Europe, though what team has not yet been revealed.

Smith, who scored four goals for Canada in the recent CONCACAF U20 Championships – including the crucial tying goal in Canada’s come from behind 5-3 extra time win over Costa Rica to send the red and white to next year’s U20 World Cup – made the decision this week to forgo the rest of her NCAA scholarship at Penn State and turn pro.

“The time is now,” Smith told Canpl.ca contributor Benedict Rhodes in an interview posted on Twitter, adding that she was initially hesitant about making the move. “Do I want to stay one more year in college? Am I ready for the pro experience?”

Smith said she was thankful for her time at university, saying she learned how to live on her own and “navigate things by myself,” but ultimately decided to take the next step.

“Soccer-wise, I’m ready,” she said in the interview. “It’s been a dream of mine to play pro overseas and I think the time is right now.”

Smith has signed with an agent and though she hasn’t said which team she is negotiating with her bio at Canada Soccer lists Barcelona in Spain as her favourite European club.

She would be joining a lengthy list of Canadian women playing in Europe’s top leagues, including Adriana Leon and Jayde Riviere for Manchester United; Kadeisha Buchanan and Jessie Fleming for Chelsea; and Ashley Lawrence for Paris St. Germain, though it has been reported that Lawrence may be joining Buchanan and Fleming at Chelsea.

There are also two other national team members playing in England, two in Sweden, two in Portugal and Vanessa Giles, one of Canada’s Olympic heroes from Tokyo, in France for Olympique Lyonnais.

Olivia Smith

Smith has been one of Canada’s top prospects for several years and became the youngest player ever capped for Canada when she suited up for two games as a 15 year-old in a tournament in China in November 2019.

Smith’s first game for the senior national team was against Brazil and her idol Marta, who she had met as an 11 year-old in Montreal at the 2015 World Cup.

She was named Canada’s top youth international that year and as a Canada youth player Smith is in rarified air. Her goal against Costa Rica last Sunday gave her 24 for her young career (20 at the U20 level, in just 18 games), second only to the legendary Christine Sinclair’s 27. With Smith not on the senior team roster for this summer’s World Cup it is unknown if she fits in senior national coach Bev Priestman’s plans for next year’s Olympic tournament, so she may have the chance to break Sinclair’s youth international record yet.

Smith, who made 16 appearances at Penn State last season, is primarily a midfielder, though she can play as a striker or on the wing. She first played house league with Whitby Soccer, before playing at the competitive level with Oshawa Kicks, Ajax, Markham FC and North Toronto.

 

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