National team striker will play for Richmond Club Ireland United in Saturday's provincial championship game
Jodi-Ann Robinson has been catching up on and off the soccer pitch in her hometown.
Since being identified as one of the country's most dynamic young players, it's been quite the juggling act over the last several years for the fleet-footed striker. When Robinson was just 14, she helped Canada win the U19 CONCACAF Tournament and, two years, later was in national team colours at the World Under 20 Championships in Russia.
A year after being named Canadian Youth Player of the Year, Robinson played for the senior national team at the 2007 FIFA World Cup in China. Her schedule would only intensify in 2008 as she was a key member of the Canadian team that captured the CONCACAF U20 Championships in Mexico and also earned spot on the Olympic team.
She returned home from Beijing and put a temporary halt to her national team commitments.
Robinson told Canadian Soccer officials she would not be going to the U20 World Championships in Chile and also took a pass on playing overseas for the senior team at the Cyprus Cup, held in March.
School work had become her main focus with the award being a scholarship to UCLA and potentially playing along side Canadian teammate Kara Lang.
"I just needed to take a break because it had been nothing but soccer for a long time," explained Robinson. "Education is everything, especially if you get injured and you need to fall back on something.
"I just needed to finish up my schooling as part of the admission process (for UCLA). I also have some national team (summer camps) coming up so the timing was right."
Robinson's national team hiatus is about to come to an end.
She will leave for Toronto later this month to be reunited with her teammates for a friendly against Japan on May 25 at BMO Field. Also on the upcoming schedule is a pair of games against the United States in July as Canada works its way towards qualifying for the 2011 FIFA World Cup in Japan.
During her time at home, Robinson trained with Richmond's U18 Metro boys team. It was during a session when Richmond Club Ireland United head coach Stephen Burns stumbled upon her and asked if she would like to play for the senior women's soccer team.
Robinson accepted the invitation and, combined with a number of other key signings, has made RCIU a provincial cup contender. She netted a hat trick and set-up two others in a 7-1 semi-final victory over Victoria's Gorge FC on April 26 and leads her team into the cup final on Saturday when Richmond faces five-time defending champion Surrey United in Coquitlam.
"I can't even remember the last time I played (for a Richmond team), probably five or six years ago," laughed Robinson. "It's nice to play so close to home."
Stephen Burns was obviously elated to land a homegrown star for the cup run but also fortunate how the schedule has unfolded. Robinson will not only be heading back to the national team, but soon suiting up with the Vancouver Whitecaps for the fifth consecutive year. The Whitecaps open their W-League schedule on May 16.
"She just has all the physical tools that makes her such a great player," said Burns. "It not only gives us another big weapon but it also opens things up for other players and they have been taking advantage of that."
Robinson quickly bonded with her teammates and is looking to doing her part in helping RCIU win it all in its first season at the premier level.
"We really wanted to get to the finals so we are very pumped," she said. "Doing it as a first year team would only make it that much sweeter."
The cup final gets underway at 1:15 p.m. at Percy Perry Stadium.
© Richmond News 2009