The Players: Candace Chapman

Cool, calm, collected: Candace Chapman stands at the centre of the Canadian backline, carefully watching the play unfold. She may not be the loudest player on the field, but when she speaks her teammates are quick to listen.

Cool, calm, collected: Candace Chapman stands at the centre of the Canadian backline, carefully watching the play unfold. She may not be the loudest player on the field, but when she speaks her teammates are quick to listen.

Now in her 10th season with the national team, Chapman is a true professional when it comes to the game and her position. A midfielder and outside fullback as a younger player, she is now “miles ahead” at the centre back position in the prime of her career.

“Understanding the game better, it really helps me be where I am supposed to be at the right time,” said Chapman. “I really like playing centre back (as) you are able to see the whole field and watch the game develop.”

Chapman made the position switch after the last FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2007, taking over one of the two centre back positions on the road to the Beijing Olympics. After a “rookie” campaign in 2008, she began a more thorough transformation under newly-hired coach Carolina Morace in 2009.

“I feel more soccer educated (today) than I did before,” said Chapman. “Carolina has brought to us a lot of education: what to expect, how to be a team, (tactically) how to be organized on the field, and physically what it really takes to get your body to the level it needs to be.”

Also in 2009, Chapman began a career in newly-formed Women’s Professional Soccer. She spent her first season with the Boston Breakers, then joined FC Gold Pride and won a league championship in 2010. FC Gold Pride folded in the off-season, but Chapman and a few of her teammates joined expansion Western New York Flash for the 2011 campaign.

“It is great being able to play against some of the best players in the world every week,” said Chapman.

Of course, two of the toughest forwards she ever has to face sit across from her in her own locker room. Strikers Christine Sinclair and Marta both followed Chapman from FC Gold Pride to the Western New York Flash.

“My practices are sometimes harder than my games,” admitted Chapman. “If I am ready for them in practice, then I know I am good for the game.”

All that experience has made Chapman an all-star player, one of the best in the women’s football. She will be relied upon heavily during the summer in Canada’s run at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011.

“After being here (at big tournaments) and playing professional soccer, I feel a bit more calm then when I was stepping in before,” said Chapman. “Still, I am sure the first match in front of 70,000 people, there will be some nerves playing the number one team in Germany.”

For now, Chapman and her teammates aren’t thinking too far beyond the opening match against the host and two-time defending champion. As far as Canada has advanced these past few years, Germany will undoubtedly provide the toughest challenge to date.

“We have everything we need to do really well (in Germany),” said Chapman. “I think it feels different (this time in) that all of us have expectations of ourselves.”

Expectations, that is, to show their country that Canada truly is one of the best football nations in the world. The players know that they are part of a special group, one that with the right bounces could win a medal or even a trophy by competition’s end.

No matter how Canada’s story unfolds, Chapman is sure to be at the centre of its success.

The College Route

Candace Chapman played her college career at the University of Notre Dame. At the time, she was one of the early recruits from Canada invited to play in the United States.

“When I was being recruited for college, it was the starting point when coaches were looking north for players,” said Chapman. “Now it is just part of what they do.”

Chapman played for the Fighting Irish from 2001 to 2005, only missing the 2003 season because of an injury. She served as her team’s co-captain in her final year.

Chapman’s entry to the American college system coincided with the addition of an women’s youth category on the international scene. The inaugural FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup (then a U-19 competition) was born in 2002.

Chapman was one of several Canadian recruits that was playing international youth matches in 2001 and 2002. Some players that followed her footsteps include Carmelina Moscato (Penn State), Robyn Gayle (University of North Carolina), Kara Lang (UCLA), and Christine Sinclair (University of Portland). Also at the University of Notre Dame, one of Chapman’s teammates was Canadian Melissa Tancredi.

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