By Bruce Constantineau
VANCOUVER — Kara Lang has earned 88 international caps for Canada, scored 33 goals for her country and been a fixture on the national women’s soccer scene for eight years.
She’s still only 23 years old but will play a major leadership role when she rejoins the Vancouver Whitecaps women’s team that begins W-League play on May 30. The team announced Monday Lang has agreed to a one-year contract that will mark a return to the club she last played for in 2006. The Canadian international midfielder/striker — who underwent anterior cruciate ligament knee surgery five months ago — played with the Los Angeles-based Pali Blues of the W-League last season and has been a member of the UCLA Bruins for the past five seasons.
She’s looking forward to her Vancouver return and ready to play wherever new Whitecaps women’s coach Hubert Busby Jr. sees fit.
“I played centre midfield this past season at UCLA, which was completely new for me, but I felt really comfortable there,” Lang said in an interview. “I’ve always been comfortable anywhere on the field so I’m happy to play wherever Hubey decides is best.”
Busby said Lang’s versatility and experience will be huge assets as the team looks to bounce back from a disappointing 2009 season that saw it miss the playoffs for only the second time in its nine-year history. The team won league titles in 2004 and 2006.
“She’s very, very mature and a humble individual and as we try to improve and build upon this program, those are the types of people we want,” he said. “Her experience will help a lot of our younger players. It’s amazing she has 88 caps and is still so young.”
Lang, who graduates from UCLA with a history degree this spring, said she is recuperating well from her second major knee injury in three years. She scored four goals in three games for the Whitecaps in 2006 before suffering a season-ending injury to her right knee and reinjured the same knee last fall while playing for UCLA.
“Right now I’m rehabbing and training as much as I can — getting comfortable with the ball again, working on my touch and strength and keeping my knee strong,” Lang said.
The five-foot-10 playmaker won’t be cleared for physical contact for the next few weeks but expects to be fully fit and available for selection when the W-League season begins in two and a half months.
Lang said she would definitely be interested in joining stars like Christine Sinclair and Marta in the top-flight Women’s Professional Soccer league in the U.S. but circumstances worked against her this year.
“It’s a difficult situation because of the foreign content restrictions (in WPS),” she said. “Having been injured recently, it would be a risk for a team to sign me when they’re limited to the number of foreign players they can have to begin with.”
Whitecaps officials have expressed an interest in possibly joining WPS in the future so Lang could one day realize that dream in Vancouver.
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