By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press -
For Jordyn Huitema, it was 41 unforgettable minutes. For Canadian soccer, it could be the beginning of something special.
The 15-year-old forward from Chilliwack, B.C., made her senior debut Wednesday in Canada's 1-0 Algarve Cup final loss to Spain in Sao Joao da Venda, Portugal.
Huitema becomes the third-youngest woman to play for Canada behind only record-holder Kara Lang and Jessie Fleming, who were also 15.
It is distinguished company. Christine Sinclair, the face of Canadian soccer, didn't make her senior debut until 16. At five foot 10.
Huitema has size and is one of the fastest players in Canada coach John Herdman's talent pool. She also has a knack for goal, as shown Wednesday.
"Jordyn nearly scored on her first touch," said Herdman. "Starting in the Algarve Cup final. It was a big moment for her."
"It was amazing. The best moment in my life probably so far," Huitema said. Huitema started the game, giving way as planned late in the first half after the Spanish strategy of pressing the Canadians began to fade.
"At first it was very nerve-wracking. But it was such an honour to step on the field with the women that when I was younger I looked up to. And being surrounded by such amazing people, it was just an honour to represent my country," Huitema said.
Her scoring chance came on a cross from the right side. "I couldn't quite get in front of the defender for it. It was very close," she said.
When Huitema left the field, she was replaced by her idol, Sinclair.
"It was very amazing," said Huitema.
The teenager, who managed to squeeze in international football during spring break. returns to Grade 10.
"Keep striving to improve in soccer and hopefully come back into this environment."
Huitema, one of seven teens on Herdman's Algarve Cup roster, was just 13 when she attended an under-15 talent identification camp. Since then she has taken part in a dozen or so national youth team camps or international tournaments, including the U-17 World Cup.
"She's one of the closest things I've seen to Sinclair — so no pressure on the kid," Herdman said dryly. "As a youngster, I've seen those qualities of Sinclair — the touch, the movement — in people like Janine Beckie. But from what I've seen of Jordyn, she's got the goal-scoring ability and the sort of height and size and presence that you associate with Christine on the field."
Herdman brought her briefly into a camp prior to the Olympics, saying "she knocked it out of the park.''
Huitema has been developing with the Vancouver Whitecaps elite girls program for two years.
The teen is cool under pressure. In 2014, the then-13-year-old Surrey United striker scored the deciding penalty kick in the shootout that earned Canada the CONCACAF U-15 championship over Haiti.
"She's just a great kid,'' said Sinclair. "She just wants to learn, just soaking everything in. Physically she's a beast and I mean that in the best possible way. She's like six feet tall and probably the fastest player on our team.
"She's one of those that you just know when she gets her chance, she's going to run with it. She's got a knack for goal. And especially with a coach like John, you know he's going to take care of her and develop her at the right stage. But she's one for the future for sure."
The future may have just started.
The story above was published by Canadian Press on March 9, 2017
To learn more about what Jordyn Huitema has done with Chilliwack FC click here.