KADEISHA BUCHANAN

The “coach’s dream” leading Canada to unprecedented success 

By Amee Ruszkai

Presented by

“I think some people wondered if, as a young player, she could perform consistently at the highest level,” said then-head coach of the Canada women’s national team, John Herdman.

“She definitely showed that she could.”

It was 2015 and Herdman was talking about Kadeisha Buchanan, the 19-year-old centre-back that was not only part of his final squad for that year’s Women’s World Cup, but every single starting XI he picked at the tournament.

A couple of games in, anyone who was doubting the teenager was made to look foolish as social media erupted with the highest praise for her.

‘Kadeisha Buchanan is well on her way to becoming the best defender in the world’, wrote one user. Another predicted she would be ‘a fixture on the team for years to come’. ‘Incredible’, ‘star of the future’, ‘huge potential’, ‘already among Canada’s best’ – the hype was real, and her Women's World Cup Best Young Player award a few days after the tournament’s conclusion would only add to it.

This was a young player, still in college, having her first real experience in the limelight. How would she react? When GOAL puts that question to Nikki Izzo-Brown, her coach all the way through her time at West Virginia University, she quite simply responds: “Humble. Just humble. She's always humble and hungry.”

KADEISHA BUCHANAN

The “coach’s dream” leading Canada to unprecedented success 

By Amee Ruszkai

Presented by

“I think some people wondered if, as a young player, she could perform consistently at the highest level,” said then-head coach of the Canada women’s national team, John Herdman.

“She definitely showed that she could.”

It was 2015 and Herdman was talking about Kadeisha Buchanan, the 19-year-old centre-back that was not only part of his final squad for that year’s Women’s World Cup, but every single starting XI he picked at the tournament.

A couple of games in, anyone who was doubting the teenager was made to look foolish as social media erupted with the highest praise for her.

‘Kadeisha Buchanan is well on her way to becoming the best defender in the world’, wrote one user. Another predicted she would be ‘a fixture on the team for years to come’. ‘Incredible’, ‘star of the future’, ‘huge potential’, ‘already among Canada’s best’ – the hype was real, and her Women's World Cup Best Young Player award a few days after the tournament’s conclusion would only add to it.

This was a young player, still in college, having her first real experience in the limelight. How would she react? When GOAL puts that question to Nikki Izzo-Brown, her coach all the way through her time at West Virginia University, she quite simply responds: “Humble. Just humble. She's always humble and hungry.”

Fast forward seven years and Buchanan has certainly lived up to that hype. She's won 11 trophies in five seasons with Lyon, including four Champions League titles. She added an Olympic gold medal to that long list of accolades last summer, too.

“When we talked a lot, [it] was to make sure that she always lived up to being the best version of herself. That she kept developing. That was really important to her,” Izzo-Brown says, recalling that period just after the World Cup in 2015.

“There was this phenomenon about this kid that she wanted to live up to. I think that pressure was a privilege for her, but also something that drove her to make sure she lived up to that, I guess, label. I don't even think it was a label. It was the truth.”

It might be easy for Izzo-Brown to sound so confident about Buchanan’s ability in hindsight, but she was convinced of it from day one. She describes the Lyon star as being “very special” back when she first saw her play in a tournament with her provincial team at the age of 14 or 15, when she was still occasionally playing as a striker.

The experience she would gather in that position would help her become the elite defender she is today, a position she really mastered in college.

She was an all-American for all four years she was there. She was named Defensive Player of the Year every year in the West Virginia Mountaineers’ conference. In her senior year, she won the Hermann Trophy - awarded annually to the top men's and women's college soccer players. She was the first player from West Virginia University to win it and the first defender to do so in 13 years. Izzo-Brown believes she should’ve won it in her junior year, too.

When you reel off all those individual accolades, it’s no surprise the biggest clubs in the world circled when Buchanan’s time at college was coming to a close.

Her choice proved that she really did see pressure as a privilege.

Lyon has a legacy in women’s football that few can compare to. No team has more Champions League titles - in total, and in a row. It's a club that has set an example beyond trophies, though. Lyon has taken women's football seriously and invested massively, bringing in the best players in the world.

In January 2017, fresh out of college, Buchanan was identified as a top talent that would bolster their star-studded squad. Within five months, she was starting a Champions League final. She kept a clean sheet and, after a tense penalty shootout, had her hands on the biggest prize in Europe. Lyon had already won the French league title and domestic cup before that.

“Everything has been going so well since my arrival,” Buchanan said after the game. “I came here to write history and I am proud to have achieved the treble.”

That start set the tone for her time in France. She has continued to write history – and now she’s doing it for her country, too.

In the summer, Canada beat the U.S. women’s national team for the first time in 20 years, in an Olympic semi-final. A few days later, the team won its first ever gold medal. It was a triumph built on an incredible defence, with Buchanan at the heart of it.

When she got back home, the dust had barely settled on an unforgettable summer but the centre-back was already looking beyond that success.

“The World Cup is next on the bucket list,” she said. This comment, five days after the penalty shootout win over Sweden in the gold medal match, epitomised the ambition and leadership that makes Buchanan as valuable a presence in any team as her talent does.

“She's one of the biggest competitors you'll ever meet,” Izzo-Brown explains. “I remember when we didn't win the College Cup, she was so disappointed because she always felt like she hadn't won the big one yet. Even though we'd won the conference championships. She was such a competitor and it really mattered that she won.

“I think from a leadership perspective, people could really understand her passion and her competitiveness.

“But - I've always said this about Keisha, too - she can fit so many different faces and relate to so many different people and I think that that also made her a great leader. She wasn't one prototype. She could relate to a whole spectrum and that made her a great leader.

“She's a coach's dream. She'll do anything to win and better the culture of the team, let alone set the example and set the standard.

“She was a joy and a great human being. She is so high on life and just a really good person. She'll always be a part of my life just because of who she is as a human.

“I am so happy for her and so proud for her because no one deserves it more than Keisha.”

Canada did incredible things in 2021. They emerged from the shadows of their North American neighbours and truly announced themselves as a force to be reckoned with, after years of being seen as a team with the potential to challenge for titles, but not ready to do so yet.

Looking forward, winning the World Cup was not the only thing Buchanan noted as being in the sights of her and her team.

“I think we are the best defensive team in the world,” she said. “Our next test is to be the best all-around team.”

February’s Arnold Clark Cup will be a great opportunity for Bev Priestman’s team to re-emphasise its place among the elite. Hosts England have reached three successive major tournament semi-finals and have Sarina Wiegman in charge now, who won the Euros with the Netherlands in 2017 and only just fell short to the U.S. in the 2019 World Cup final.

Also travelling for the tournament is Germany, European champion a record eight times, and Spain, a team littered with many of the world’s best players – including Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas.

The Concacaf Women’s Championship then comes in the summer for Canada, a tournament in which further triumph over the U.S. is likely to secure the team another title and automatic qualification for the 2024 Olympics, to defend its gold medal.

If things go well in 2022, it will stand Canada in great stead for that World Cup next summer, which Buchanan’s competitive drive has already switched her focus to, from a national team perspective.

“I think the belief is there, I think we’re good enough to play against any team in the world,” she said.

A special talent, an excellent leader and a wonderful person to have in a team environment, Canada will always be able to dream big with Buchanan around.

Tickets to watch England, Germany, Spain and Canada play in the Arnold Clark Cup are available now.

Matches are being broadcast live in the UK on ITV.

Fast forward seven years and Buchanan has certainly lived up to that hype. She's won 11 trophies in five seasons with Lyon, including four Champions League titles. She added an Olympic gold medal to that long list of accolades last summer, too.

“When we talked a lot, [it] was to make sure that she always lived up to being the best version of herself. That she kept developing. That was really important to her,” Izzo-Brown says, recalling that period just after the World Cup in 2015.

“There was this phenomenon about this kid that she wanted to live up to. I think that pressure was a privilege for her, but also something that drove her to make sure she lived up to that, I guess, label. I don't even think it was a label. It was the truth.”

It might be easy for Izzo-Brown to sound so confident about Buchanan’s ability in hindsight, but she was convinced of it from day one. She describes the Lyon star as being “very special” back when she first saw her play in a tournament with her provincial team at the age of 14 or 15, when she was still occasionally playing as a striker.

The experience she would gather in that position would help her become the elite defender she is today, a position she really mastered in college.

She was an all-American for all four years she was there. She was named Defensive Player of the Year every year in the West Virginia Mountaineers’ conference. In her senior year, she won the Hermann Trophy - awarded annually to the top men's and women's college soccer players. She was the first player from West Virginia University to win it and the first defender to do so in 13 years. Izzo-Brown believes she should’ve won it in her junior year, too.

When you reel off all those individual accolades, it’s no surprise the biggest clubs in the world circled when Buchanan’s time at college was coming to a close.

Her choice proved that she really did see pressure as a privilege.

Lyon has a legacy in women’s football that few can compare to. No team has more Champions League titles - in total, and in a row. It's a club that has set an example beyond trophies, though. Lyon has taken women's football seriously and invested massively, bringing in the best players in the world.

In January 2017, fresh out of college, Buchanan was identified as a top talent that would bolster their star-studded squad. Within five months, she was starting a Champions League final. She kept a clean sheet and, after a tense penalty shootout, had her hands on the biggest prize in Europe. Lyon had already won the French league title and domestic cup before that.

“Everything has been going so well since my arrival,” Buchanan said after the game. “I came here to write history and I am proud to have achieved the treble.”

That start set the tone for her time in France. She has continued to write history – and now she’s doing it for her country, too.

In the summer, Canada beat the U.S. women’s national team for the first time in 20 years, in an Olympic semi-final. A few days later, the team won its first ever gold medal. It was a triumph built on an incredible defence, with Buchanan at the heart of it.

When she got back home, the dust had barely settled on an unforgettable summer but the centre-back was already looking beyond that success.

“The World Cup is next on the bucket list,” she said. This comment, five days after the penalty shootout win over Sweden in the gold medal match, epitomised the ambition and leadership that makes Buchanan as valuable a presence in any team as her talent does.

“She's one of the biggest competitors you'll ever meet,” Izzo-Brown explains. “I remember when we didn't win the College Cup, she was so disappointed because she always felt like she hadn't won the big one yet. Even though we'd won the conference championships. She was such a competitor and it really mattered that she won.

“I think from a leadership perspective, people could really understand her passion and her competitiveness.

“But - I've always said this about Keisha, too - she can fit so many different faces and relate to so many different people and I think that that also made her a great leader. She wasn't one prototype. She could relate to a whole spectrum and that made her a great leader.

“She's a coach's dream. She'll do anything to win and better the culture of the team, let alone set the example and set the standard.

“She was a joy and a great human being. She is so high on life and just a really good person. She'll always be a part of my life just because of who she is as a human.

“I am so happy for her and so proud for her because no one deserves it more than Keisha.”

Canada did incredible things in 2021. They emerged from the shadows of their North American neighbours and truly announced themselves as a force to be reckoned with, after years of being seen as a team with the potential to challenge for titles, but not ready to do so yet.

Looking forward, winning the World Cup was not the only thing Buchanan noted as being in the sights of her and her team.

“I think we are the best defensive team in the world,” she said. “Our next test is to be the best all-around team.”

February’s Arnold Clark Cup will be a great opportunity for Bev Priestman’s team to re-emphasise its place among the elite. Hosts England have reached three successive major tournament semi-finals and have Sarina Wiegman in charge now, who won the Euros with the Netherlands in 2017 and only just fell short to the U.S. in the 2019 World Cup final.

Also travelling for the tournament is Germany, European champion a record eight times, and Spain, a team littered with many of the world’s best players – including Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas.

The Concacaf Women’s Championship then comes in the summer for Canada, a tournament in which further triumph over the U.S. is likely to secure the team another title and automatic qualification for the 2024 Olympics, to defend its gold medal.

If things go well in 2022, it will stand Canada in great stead for that World Cup next summer, which Buchanan’s competitive drive has already switched her focus to, from a national team perspective.

“I think the belief is there, I think we’re good enough to play against any team in the world,” she said.

A special talent, an excellent leader and a wonderful person to have in a team environment, Canada will always be able to dream big with Buchanan around.

Tickets to watch England, Germany, Spain and Canada play in the Arnold Clark Cup are available now.

Matches are being broadcast live in the UK on ITV.