Veteran goalkeeper Erin McLeod, who survived a string of injuries to win 119 caps for Canada during a senior career spanning more than two decades, has announced her retirement from international football.
McLeod, who turns 40 on February 26, plans to continue playing club football for at least one season. Orlando Pride announced Tuesday that McLeod and his new wife, midfielder Gunny Jonsdottir, had left the NWSL club for Iceland native Jonsdottir where the two will play.
While still enjoying football, McLeod says he has found a new passion. Native of St. Albert, Alta., is transitioning into creating an equity program for a grassroots football program in Halifax where his older sister lives.
McLeod has long served as a spokesperson for LGBTQ. In 2014, he joined fellow Olympian Adam van Koeverden, now parliamentary secretary to the health minister and sports minister, in a successful campaign to add sexual orientation to the Olympic Charter.
“I think from then on I felt really proud to wear the (Canada) jersey and understood there was a bigger purpose out there, to make sure that I kept fighting for more people to play the game, more people to have access,” said McLeod. to The Canadian Press. “Less discrimination and more inclusivity and more diversity.
“I think these things are really becoming more and more of what I think is important and what I want to do for the rest of my life.”
He said playing in Iceland would demand less of his time, allowing him to “make a difference at the grassroots level.”
“I have a lot ahead of me that I’m really excited about,” he said.
McLeod also wanted to help former Canadian teammate Diana Matheson in her quest to establish a domestic women’s pro league.
As she leaves international play, McLeod is proud of the Canadian women’s team on and off the field, citing its welcoming and inclusive culture.
“When I watch the team do unbelievable things on the pitch, the culture is there — this team is incredible. They stand up for not just themselves, but all Canadians. I’ve been very lucky throughout my career. I know I’ve had many ups and downs but just being surrounded by so many people, I’m grateful to have worked with them for my country so many times.”
Canada’s goalkeeper Erin McLeod reaches for the ball during the first half of the CONCACAF Olympic tournament qualifying soccer game against Trinidad & Tobago Sunday, February 14, 2016, in Houston. Canada won 6-0. (AP photo/David J. Phillip)
He also credits his family for their support.
“My family has always been there and my No. 1 supporter..”
McLeod last played for Canada on 26 October 2021 in a 1-0 friendly win over New Zealand in Montreal — his 47th clean sheet.
She was in goal for the Canadian women’s bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics and started throughout the 2015 World Cup on home soil. She was a replacement for the team that won gold at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 but was dressed for the game against Chile when Kailen Sheridan replaced the injured Stephanie Labbe.
Labbe, who replaced McLeod as Canada’s No. 1, hung up his gloves in April. Labbe is now general manager of women’s football for the Vancouver Whitecaps.
McLeod was 19 years old when he made his senior Canada debut in a 4-0 win over Wales in March 2002 in the Algarve Cup. 18-year-old Christine Sinclair scored twice that day, her 22nd and 23rd career goals, the only active player left off the game list.
“I don’t remember much about the game. I just remember being really nervous — like shaking,” McLeod said.
“It feels like a million years ago,” he added. “I can’t even believe it.”
John Herdman, a Canadian men’s trainer and former women’s coach, called it an “absolute privilege” to work with McLeod.
“A true leader and pioneer in the women’s game,” she said. “She was one of the consistent threads running through an unprecedented period of time in the women’s game… She helped lead change to the women’s game off the court – from NWSL contracts to better conditions to finally helping young players advance and meet their potential through their leadership abilities.
“Simply an extraordinary human being… A very special person.”
McLeod started his career with the Vancouver Whitecaps in the USL W-League in 2004. He then played for Washington Freedom (2009), Dalsjofors GoIF Sweden (2011-12), Chicago Red Stars (2013), Houston Dash (2014). -15) and Sweden FC Rosengard (2016-17) and Vaxjo DFF (2018-19) before joining Pride.
At the collegiate level, he played two years at Southern Methodist University and two years at Penn State. As a senior, he led the Nittany Lions to an undefeated regular season in 2005 when he was a semifinalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
McLeod signed with Orlando in February 2020 but was loaned out to Iceland’s Ungmennafelag Stjarnan during the pandemic.
He signed a new contract with the Pride in May 2022, starting every game last season except for a brief concussion-related absence. McLeod also underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his right knee in April.
McLeod was front and center in Canada’s memorable loss to the US in the London Olympics semifinals. With Canada leading 3-2 in the 76th minute, Norwegian referee Christina Pedersen controversially ruled that McLeod had violated the rarely enforced six second tackle rule.
Megan Rapinoe’s shot, after Tobin Heath had found the ball from another indirect free kick in the Canadian box, earned a penalty after the ball hit defender Marie-Eve Nault’s arm. The USA tied the game from the penalty spot and went on to win 4-3 after extra time.
McLeod was in goal as Canada beat France 1-0 in the bronze medal game.
He missed the 2016 Rio Olympics after undergoing his third anterior cruciate ligament surgery. Just then, a doctor told him it was time to stop playing.
McLeod, who also had right knee surgery in 2008 and 2010 as well as shoulder surgery, thinks differently.
He underwent surgery which saw a piece of his kneecap inserted into the hole in his tibia from a previous surgery and a small piece of his quadriceps used as his new anterior cruciate ligament. Extra ligaments, from cadavers, were also included.
Painful foot problems kept him out of the 2019 World Cup in France. Although it was initially thought to be plantar fasciitis, a specialist eventually diagnosed tarsal tunnel syndrome in both feet — a condition in which swelling in the foot puts pressure on nerves.
In early 2019, McLeod announced he was joining international football stars such as Juan Mata, Giorgio Chiellini and Alex Morgan to join Common Goal, pledging one per cent of their salaries to a central fund which is distributed to football-based charities around the world. .
The organization said McLeod was the first Canadian to join.
That same year, he launched the Mindful Project, which he co-developed with Bethel University professor Rachel Lindvall. The goal is to help focus more on positive thoughts while bypassing negative ones.
Apart from football, McLeod is also an artist, musician and entrepreneur. In September, he designed a clothing line called “The Futures Collection” in partnership with Orlando Pride.
A portion of the proceeds goes to the Zebra Coalition, an Orlando-based nonprofit that helps LGBTQ youth deal with homelessness, bullying, and other challenges.
“Coffee enthusiast. Hipster-friendly social media fanatic. Certified zombie expert. Problem solver.”