The caps fit Kara

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 2:30 PM ET

Kara Lang is about to be capped for the 50th time. She's 18.

"That's mind-boggling,'' said coach Even Pellerud, who was unaware of the fact when he arrived here with the Canadian team to set up for tomorrow afternoon's game against World Cup champion Germany.

When Lang steps on the field where she first became a household name in Canada at the wildly successful FIFA U-19 World Women's Championship three years ago, she'll be half way to 100.

It you think it's mind-boggling for the coach who put Canadian women's soccer on the map that he has an 18-year-old player he's capping for the 50th time, trying being Charmaine Hooper and Andrea Neil, the veterans who blazed the trail.

Thursday in Vancouver, at the first game of the two-game visit by the top women's soccer side in the world, Neil was honoured at a special half-time ceremony for having played her 100th game.

"It's remarkable,'' said Neil of the teenager who just graduated from high school and is beginning a new phase in her life as a full-scholarship college player at UCLA.

"For the older generation, for Charmaine and myself, it was a huge accomplishment to get to 100. The new benchmark is going to be 150, maybe 200 for somebody like Kara,'' added the 33-year-old.

Hooper, who is 37, played her first game for Canada in 1986 and will be capped for the 124th time tomorrow, more than any other Canadian player ever - male or female.

BEST YEARS BY FAR

"I think it's great that Kara and the young players on this team are having this opportunity. When I started out there were years we played no games.''

Proud to have perhaps played a part paving the path? "Definitely.''

Neil says Pellerud and his program have made it possible. "The last five years with Even at the helm have been the best years by far.''

Pellerud said he wasn't keeping track. "It's what it's all about. But are you sure it's her 50th?''

Yup. And they don't include the 33 she's played with the U-19 team.

"Is this you're 50th?'' Pellerud asked Lang as she checked in behind him. "I have no idea,'' said Canada's goal scorer in a 3-1 loss Thursday in Vancouver. "I haven't been counting.''

Lang, who turns 19 on Oct. 22, played her first game in March against Scotland and scored her first two goals two days later against Wales.

I showed Lang the evidence. "I guess I'm a great example of how far women's soccer has come in Canada. There are a lot more opportunities. Take this year alone. This will be our fourth game against World Cup champion Germany, two of them over there. Overseas we've also played Sweden, Holland, France, Denmark and Norway. That's a lot more opportunities to get international experience. It's the only way to get better.''

Well, there's also the UCLA way.

"Right now for where I am as a player and the age I'm at, this is the most ideal situation possible for my development. For atmosphere, training and development every day, playing on a team with a lot of the U.S. national team players and a real focus on technique and repetition, it's perfect. The team trains every day and plays two games every weekend.''

While Pellerud has spent the last year developing her as a defender, she's back being a a striker with UCLA - and Canada.

"Even wants me to be a forward again,'' she said of the coach deciding to put her back in her old position, despite Canada being talent-heavy at the position.

BATTLING FOR A POSITION

"There are so many good forwards and more coming up,'' says Lang. "I never took it for granted I'd be playing in any specific position or that I'll be on the team. You are always battling for a position and a place on the team.''

Named top international U.S. college recruit by Soccer Buzz magazine, Lang's goal in Vancouver moved her past Neil and into fourth place on Canada's all-time scoring charts with 23.

She's already off to a big start with UCLA.

"I've played two games already. I scored three goals against San Diego State.''

A hat-trick. Tomorrow will be her cap-trick.


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