The Canadian national team will play its opening match of the FIFA Women’s World Cup on June 6, but Diana Matheson ’08 will watch from the sidelines. The veteran midfielder, fully recovered from a serious left-knee injury suffered in October, had a setback in March when she fractured her right foot.
“This was definitely a tough blow,” she said of her most recent injury. “The ACL [anterior cruciate ligament] seemed like it was enough of a hurdle. I didn’t need another hurdle to jump over.”
Matheson injured her knee in an exhibition match against defending World Cup champion Japan. She worked hard throughout the winter, but she broke the fifth metatarsal in her foot while training and underwent surgery to have a screw inserted. Although she continues to live with the Canadian team at its training camp in Vancouver, riding an exercise bicycle and running on an underwater treadmill, she acknowledges that recovery from this injury could take at least 10 weeks, which would jeopardize her chances of playing in the tournament.
Matheson remains single-minded about competing in her fourth World Cup, this one in her native country. “Currently I have zero hobbies,” she told the women’s soccer website The Equalizer in April. “Mostly rehab and then maybe some Netflix while I’m icing.”
The World Cup could provide a fitting coda to one of the most illustrious athletic careers in Princeton history. Matheson deferred her admission in 2003 to play in her first World Cup at age 19. A four-time All-Ivy selection, 2007 Ivy League Player of the Year, and 2008 Von Kienbusch Award winner, she helped Canada win a gold medal at the 2011 Pan American Games and scored the only goal in Canada’s bronze medal-clinching victory at the 2012 Olympics. Matheson also has been a standout for the Washington Spirit, a pro team in the National Women’s Soccer League.
But injuries have been catching up — she suffered a stress fracture in her left foot in 2010 and tore her right knee the following year — and Matheson, now 31, recognizes that her time on the pitch may be running out. Canadian coach John Herdman is keeping her on the 23-player active roster for now. The team hopes she will return before the tournament final, which will be played July 5 at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver.
Matheson is optimistic about her team’s chances, with or without her. “Canada is going there to win,” she said with determination. “It’s our World Cup, and we want to put on a performance that will inspire the next generation of players.”
UPDATE: A June 3 Toronto Star story reported that while Matheson is unlikely to play in the group stage, she is on track to return if Canada is able to advance. “There’s still some healing to do,” she told the Star. “There’s still some more training to do. The plan is that I’ll show up sometime before the finals.”