During the tourney, in a last minute turn of events, 18-year-old Laval native Amelia (Amy) Pietrangelo was flown over to Mexico and asked to lace up her cleats to replace an injured player. She immediately made an impact, scoring her first international goal and attracting instant attention from the country’s soccer elite.
Scoring my first goal at the Pan Am games was definitely the best moment of my career so far. I got called up as a last minute replacement, but I never thought I would play because there was a game the next day and I had arrived at the hotel at 1 am and had to wake up at 7 to suit up, I was in shock. She put me on with 25 minutes left in the game, and I scored my first international goal.”
Indeed the call-up would prove to be a turning point in young Amy’s soccer life. This past January, she received prestigious recognition for her outstanding achievements: Canada’s women’s U-20 player of the year. “I was honoured when I got the award; really happy to know that people like the men’s national team coach (Stephen Hart) played a role in selecting me, and I was also two years younger than the other nominees, which helped.”
Amy started playing soccer at the age of 4, after her mom attempted to get her into figure skating and ballet. She’d begin playing competitively by age 8 – with 9 yearolds – for Laval’s Monteuil club and progress to AAA as soon as she was of age. At 14, she’d receive her first call-up to Quebec’s provincial team to play at the Canadian Championships and that’s where the Canadian national team first scouted her. Her parents Filomena Di Lillo and Antonio Pietrangelo were there for her every step of the way. “My dad built me a soccer net in our backyard so I could practice shooting and not break the fence or disturb the neighbours. They saw how much I loved the game and wanted to help in any way they could.”
Amy now alternates between the senior national team (she has six appearances so far), the U-20 national side and the Rutgers University Scarlet Knights women’s team during the school year. She began her studies in Exercise Science at the New Jersey institution last September on a full scholarship – but her soccer career remains a priority: “I wake up early every day, spend an hour and a half at the gym weight lifting with a trainer, then I grab a snack and go practice with the team. After that, I stay and do some extra shooting, running, and then head to class. On off-days, I’ll try to get a friend to come practice with me. People try to get me to take one day off a week, but even at that, I have real trouble with not doing anything.” That’s what it takes to stay at the top.
Since the end of the semester in May, Amy’s been preparing for the U-20 Women’s World Cup in Japan, which kicks off in mid-August, just a month after her 19th birthday. Team Canada will be fighting for the Cup against 13 other nations, and Coach Andrew Olivieri’s side is in it to win it.
When contemplating her future, there’s little doubt about where she’d like to evolve: “I spent two months in Italy last summer with (now former) Coach Morace and the Canadian national team, and she really encouraged me to go play for a club in Italy. When I finish school, I’ll definitely look into going to play for a professional Italian side.” The move back to Italy for Amy would signify a full-circle return to her roots; her grandparents hail from Vinchiaturo and Gildone, Campobasso in the Molise region.
Before she makes the leap into the pros however, she’ll have to complete her three remaining years of University, the end of which pleasantly coincides with the beginning of the 2015 Women’s World Cup hosted by Canada – the largest woman’s sporting event on Earth. If there’s one thing you can be sure of, it’s that Amy Pietrangelo will be an integral part of the Canadian national team vying to lift the cup, cheered on by millions of Canucks – and we can hardly wait.