It’s just February and Lindsay Agnew is already having a very good year.
Taken by the Washington Spirit in the January NWSL draft, the former Ohio State forward then made the most of her first camp with the senior Canadian national team.
“I was impressed,” said coach John Herdman.
Agnew, 21, didn’t figure in Canada’s 3-2 win over Mexico on Feb. 4, a match billed as a celebration of the Olympic bronze medal team. But Herdman said she was a “strong candidate” to play in the rematch, a closed-door session that was eventually cancelled due to poor weather in Vancouver.
“What she’s showing is she’s bringing that Canadian steel,” Herdman said. “She’s got that natural grit that you see from the Tancredis and the Wilkinsons. But what we’ve been really impressed with in the intrasquads (was) she scored a lovely goal. And she’s got a real attacking mindset.”
Forward Melissa Tancredi and fullback Rhian Wilkinson, who have 306 caps between them, played their final game for Canada against Mexico.
An athletic five foot nine, Agnew is hard to knock off the ball and able to run at and beat defenders. And with 19 assists, fourth in Ohio State history, she can play provider as well. More than a few Buckeye goals started with Agnew winning the ball in her own half.
Selected 19th overall, Agnew was the first Canadian taken in the 2017 NWSL draft. Teammate Nichelle Prince of Ajax., Ont., went 28th overall to the Houston Dash.
Agnew led the Buckeyes with 10 goals and eight assists in 21 games last season. Prince had five goals and five assists in 19 games. They were the first Ohio State players ever drafted in the NWSL.
Because of school commitments, Agnew did not attend the draft in Los Angeles. She watched it unfold online with Prince and her other roommates.
“I just heard when my name was called … It was definitely a moment,” she said. “I was sitting there, I wasn’t expecting it. And then they said Lindsay and I still didn’t know if it was going to me. And they said Agnew and we all freaked out and starting screaming. It was pretty indescribable, a pretty surreal moment for me.”
Prince went soon after.
“That was awesome,” said Agnew. “We’ve kind of been going through this process together. We were roommates in the dorm freshman year and always had dreams of playing professional.”
There was more good news when Herdman invited her to his first post-Olympic camp.
“It’s been a good 2017 so far,” Agnew said happily.
Agnew and Prince were teammates at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Azerbaijan in 2012 and the U-20 World Cup in Canada in 2014, along with Kadeisha Buchanan, Ashley Lawrence, Rebecca Quinn and Kailen Sheridan (taken 23rd in the draft by New Jersey-based Sky Blue FC).
Herdman first took note of Agnew at an under-17 camp.
“At the time she stood out as much as Buchanan and Lawrence. She had a very impressive camp.”
But Herdman said there were challenges off the field at the under-20 level, including the death of a close friend. “We never really saw the best of Lindsay through that period,” Herdman said.
But he kept watching and says she is back to her best. “I’ll be looking at her to start filling some of the gaps left by the likes of Rhian Wilkinson as we move forward.”
Agnew was born in Kingston, Ont., where father Gary coached the OHL Frontenacs.
A former University of New Brunswick and AHL player, Gary Agnew also coached Oshawa and London in the OHL and won coach of the year honours in 1992-93 and â€™97-98 with the Knights. He went on to coach Syracuse in the AHL and was an assistant coach in the NHL with Columbus, St. Louis and most recently Pittsburgh.
The Penguins fired head coach Mike Johnston and Agnew in December 2015. Her parents currently live in Florida where Gary, still under contract to Pittsburgh, awaits his new hockey adventure.
Lindsay’s older brother Brett played hockey at Ohio University and for the Junior A Kingston Voyageurs, Brockville Braves and Surrey Eagles.
Lindsay Agnew, who has joint Canadian-U.S. citizenship, grew up playing forward and played up front with Prince as a junior and senior after spending time as a sophomore at fullback due to injuries in the Ohio State backline. She has also played fullback with Canadian under-17 and -20 teams.
Herdman believes Agnew has real potential as an attacking fullback or wide forward. She’s willing to do whatever it takes to catch on.
At Washington, Agnew will be playing alongside Canadians Stephanie Labbe and Shelina Zadorsky.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press