Canniff works her way back
California resident returns for U-17 FIFA Women’s World Cup after ACL injury
MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay — It’s every soccer player’s biggest fear: Planting wrong, hearing a “pop” and the agonizing pain that follows.
Jordan Canniff, a California, Md., resident, knew as soon as she took that step, that she would likely not be joining her team in the Japan Series or anytime soon after.
A torn anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus, the MRI confirmed.
While some take pity on themselves, Canniff reacted in an entirely different way.
She had one goal in mind, to make it back for the U-17 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Uruguay. A normal ACL recovery for young women is an average 6 to 12 months recovery time, so Canniff felt confident that she could make it back in time, but she wanted to be ready to compete. A goal was set, and the 17-year-old went to work.
“Just knowing that I could come back for [the World Cup] and knowing I could come back for my teammates,” Canniff said. “These are my best friends and just knowing that I can play with them again is what I needed.”
Canniff was not the first of ACL injuries for the United States’ U-17 team. Midfielder Ainsley Ahmadian and for- ward Lia Godfrey also suffered the same injury before Canniff.
She also was not the last. Following Canniff’s injury, three more players were succumbed to ACL tears.
Midfielder Croixe Bethune was the first to go down in the semifinal match against Haiti in the Concacaf Women’s U-17 Championship. After that, key defenders and the most experienced U-17 players, Kate Wiesner and Kennedy Wesley both tore their ACL’s within two weeks of each other.
“I really felt bad for them because I knew exactly what they had to go through and exactly how it felt,” said Canniff, a Great Mills High School student who recently committed
to Penn State and was named to the United Soccer Coaches Youth Girls All-East Region and All-America teams. “Especially those three players were big players for our team, so it’s a big impact and just knowing that they didn’t have the chance to come back for the World Cup.”
With three players down, Canniff’s original goal of making it back for the World Cup became much more significant. If she were to make it back to the World Cup, she would be the only U-17 World Cup veteran from the last U-17 World Cup two years ago in Jordan. Not only did she want to make it back for her team-
mates, now she felt the need.
“I thought it was important,” Canniff said. “Obviously I wanted to come, but I was talking to the coaches and trying to see where I was at and I kind of felt like it was important because I knew that I wanted to come back and give my experience to the team because I felt like that was vital for them as well.”
Three new players from the 16s were brought up to training camp in July and have been at every U-17 event since. Trinity Byars, 15, and Samar Guidry and Trinity Rodman, both 16, were three of the youngest players on the USA U-17 Women’s World Cup roster. With the help of a veteran like Canniff and other welcoming leaders on the team, the three newcomers have exceeded expectations at the U-17 level.
Canniff believes in these young players and knows that without the help of her fellow veteran players, these three will be key to filling the void.
“I know how it feels to be the youngest on the team and to come into a new team and I think they’ve made an impact,” Canniff said. “I think they’re really going to be important for this tournament.
Six months post-ACL surgery, Canniff was cleared for full contact. It has now been eight months and though she is still doing rehab, the U-17 veteran achieved her goal of making it back for the U-17 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Uruguay and she has certainly set a motivating tone for others around her.
The U.S. U-17 Women’s National Team was knocked out of the tournament in group
play on Nov. 21 following its 4-0 loss to Germany, despite putting on their best performance of the three games in Group C.
Canniff put on an exceptional performance in the match against Germany, putting up two shots within 10 minutes of each other in the first half. One hit off the left post and the other was saved by Germany goalkeeper Wiebke Willebrant, who was later named Player of the Match.
The team opened group play with a 3-0 win over a scrappy Cameroon team and took a dip in the second game, suffering a 3-0 loss to North Korea. Canniff started and played a majority of the first match against Cameroon but came off the bench as a sparkplug in the second half of the North Korea game.
“That girl is incredible.
They’re all incredible, but her… Her resilience, her work ethic, her mentality, her drive, her focus,” U.S. U-17 Women’s National Team head coach Mark Carr said of Canniff. “Under [eight] months ago, she tore her ACL and I didn’t believe that she would be at this point and that kid will do everything and I think today you saw.
“I can’t even believe that she’s here and she’s performing the way she did and all the credit goes to her for that. So great performance from her and I’m just really proud of her.”
California, Md. resident Jordan Canniff worked her way back from an ACL injury to play the United States U-17 Women’s National Team in the U-17 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Uruguay.