BY MARC WEBER
Jodi-Ann Robinson said she didn’t know Canada’s national team coach, Carolina Morace, was in the crowd Wednesday.
Her play suggested otherwise, which will make Morace happy.
At the last national team camp, Morace challenged the Vancouver Whitecaps forward to improve her work rate, to push herself regardless of the stage.
Robinson scored the winner and the insurance goal as the Whitecaps kept their slim W-League playoff hopes alive with a 3-1 win over Ventura County Fusion in front of 2,148 fans at Swangard Stadium
“Today, best player on the park,” said Canada assistant coach and former Whitecap Andrea Neil. Morace, an Italian, likes to leave the English interviews to Neil.
“Ever since she’s been called up, you see the layers she’s added to her game. She’s taking more responsibility in both defence and attack with the energy and intensity that she brings. And that willingness to take players on, to hold up balls, those are the qualities you need from a striker. And, of course, finishing.”
The finishes were impressive Wednesday. Calm and confident. What also stood out was how powerful Robinson is on the ball when she's determined.
On her first-half winner, she resembled a runaway train. She barreled through one defender, then steamed past another. Kay Hawke didn’t stand much of a chance in the Venture County net.
Ditto for Robinson’s second of the game in the 72nd minute, her sixth goal in nine games this season.
“She was fantastic today and she’s getting better and better,” said Whitecaps head coach Alan Koch, whose 2-2-5 squad is trying to catch Seattle (3-0-5) for the Western Conference’s second playoff spot.
The Whitecaps have three games remaining, including Sunday against Real Colorado at Coquitlam's Percy Perry Stadium.
Robinson, a Jamaican-born Richmond resident, said she didn’t start the game well. That her initial reaction was to be self critical of such a performance is another sign that Morace’s mantra is seeping in.
“Next time maybe I should ask if she’s here,” Robinson said with a laugh. “Hopefully I didn’t play that bad. Hopefully I’ll get selected to the next camp.”
The national side will group in New York for three days before playing the U.S. on July 19 in Rochester. Another friendly follows July 22 in Charleston, S.C., and Robinson — a former Canadian youth player of the year who competed at the 2007 World Cup and '08 Olympics — will be a key cog.
There’s college on the horizon, too. Robinson, 20, took time off soccer after Beijing to get her academics back on track — she’s been home schooled since Grade 10 — and she’s hoping to be a UCLA Bruin this fall.
UCLA approached her in Grade 10 and Robinson committed about a year ago. Canadian international and former Whitecap Kara Lang also plays there.
It looks like the Bruins can expect a freshman who’ll approach every training session and game like an international competition, and you couldn’t say that a year ago.
“For Carolina, Jodi has been a project and she’s put a big challenge on her to step up and take more responsibility,” said Neil.
“And Carolina wants more.”
Watching Robinson try to deliver more is a treat.