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Rising star Jayde Riviere looks forward to 2nd Women's Wold Cup

By Neil Davidson - The Canadian Press, 07/13/23, 4:30PM EDT


'She's incredible,' says Canada captain Christine Sinclair

Just 22, Jayde Riviere already has a glittering soccer resume. And she is expected to add to that reputation at the Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

The fullback from Markham, Ont., who plays her club football for Manchester United, has already won Olympic gold, featured at the 2019 World Cup in France and won 37 caps for Canada. Not to mention earn an endorsement deal with Under Armour.

Riviere is poised beyond her years, on and off the field.

"She's incredible. The way she has come in and just owned the fullback position," said Canada captain Christine Sinclair. "Nothing seems to faze her. It doesn't matter if she's playing an Olympic gold-medal game, training or playing against a Marta [of Brazil] or playing against the U.S."

"She just has this confidence about her that she's going to own whoever she plays against," Sinclair added. "She just plays so fearless, which is obviously an invaluable trait to have."

Seventh-ranked Canada opens Group B play July 20 against No. 40 Nigeria in Melbourne before taking on No. 22 Ireland on July 26 in Perth and No. 10 Australia on Aug. 31 back in Melbourne.

Riviere was 18, with just senior five caps to her name, when she started against New Zealand in the 2019 tournament. She then saw action off the bench against the Netherlands and Sweden, which eliminated Canada with a 1-0 win in the round of 16.

At 20, she played four games at the Tokyo Olympics, and came off the bench in the final against Sweden. Markham marked the gold-medal performance by declaring it Jayde Riviere Day.

But due to injury she has played just once for Canada — a 2-1 loss in a March friendly against France — since the CONCACAF W Championship in July 2022 in Mexico, where she appeared in all five games.

The young defender announced via social media in September that she had played her last game at the University of Michigan. She elected to have hip surgery then in order to be ready for the World Cup.

"You saw the work that she's put in. She's ready to go," Sinclair said of Riviere's return to health.

"Rehab was horrible, to say the least," said Riviere. "It was a lot of fitness. It was a lot of honestly just going back to fundamentals, which was I'd say the hardest part. Just kind of going back to like 'How do I take a good touch? How do I set myself up to shoot properly? How do I shoot again?' Doing things that you never even thought [before] of doing in an actual game."

"And then on top of that how to do it at a high-end professional level where I could be of use to [Manchester] United," she added.

The injury was essentially due to overuse, with the hip eventually forcing her out of the CONCACAF W final against the U.S. after 61 minutes

"I went to chase a ball and it kind of just gave out," she said.

The surgery cost her her senior year at Michigan, where she played 47 career games. But she says the rehab helped build resilience.

Worth the wait

Riviere, who was 16 when she made her senior debut for Canada in November 2017, joined Manchester United — her "dream club" — in late January. But because of the injury, she did not make her debut until May 7 when she came off the bench in a 3-0 win over Tottenham.

Riviere says United gave her the time to recover and "adapt and grow into the environment."

"I really just wanted to get accustomed to what it is like to live in a different country, to be around girls who I don't know, that are older and get kind of accustomed to what it's like to be a professional."

It was worth the wait for United manager Marc Skinner.

"She is a dangerous player to play against. We have a world-class player there," Skinner said after Riviere's debut.

Riviere calls her United debut "one of the most never-wracking moments" she's ever had.

"And typically I'm pretty good when it comes to calming my nerves and coming into a match. But I think a lot of things were hitting me at once. I was on the bench, Coach Marc called my name and I didn't even hear it at first. All my teammates around me were telling me to go warm up.

"So I went and warmed up, came back to the bench. I was ready to go on the field and I didn't even notice I didn't have my jersey on, I didn't have my shin pads on. I was not equipped to jump in at all."

Once she put on the proper gear, the instructions were simple.

"The only thing that they told me was to just enjoy it."

'I picked that life'

Riviere says it proved to be a memorable albeit slightly bittersweet moment, given Canadian teammate Shelina Zadorsky was wearing Tottenham colours.

Riviere did not see action in the 1-0 FA Cup final loss to Chelsea the next week but was on the bench, looking up at the Wembley crowd of 77,390 — a world record for a women's domestic club match.

"Definitely breathtaking, to be honest," said Riviere.

Riviere was 14 when she made her debut in the Canadian youth program in 2015 with coach Bev Priestman. She went on to play in two FIFA U-17 World Cups.

She started as an attacking midfielder but was converted to winger by Priestman in the Canadian under-15 ranks. It was only in 2017 that she started training as a fullback under then-coach John Herdman.

Riviere played in Pickering and Markham, Ont., before moving to Vancouver to join the Whitecaps FC Girls Elite Super REX program in August 2017. She spent a year on the West Coast before returning home to finish high school.

After receiving full scholarship offers from 28 schools, Riviere narrowed her choice to Michigan and West Virginia, where Buchanan and Lawrence attended, before becoming a Wolverine.

She scored her first international goal for Canada at the senior level in January 2020 in an 11-0 win over St. Kitts and Nevis at the CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying Championship in Edinburg, Texas, the same match in which Sinclair broke the world's all-time international goal-scoring record.

Riviere was eight or nine when her dad, a former soccer player himself, told her she could have a normal life or accept "an athletic challenge."

"I picked that life. When you're young, you want to have parties, go to sleepovers. I didn't do any of that stuff. It was always every day I was out at the local field near my house, and I was just with my dad and we were doing shooting drills repetitively. We were just grinding out every day."

Riviere was playing with the Pickering Soccer Club at the time. But the training didn't end there.

"It ended when my dad said it ended."

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