How Sydney Leroux’s children willed her return

Credit: Cris Esqueda
Cassius and Roux were everything for Sydney Leroux in making her comeback.

LOS ANGELES — When forward Sydney Leroux suffered an ankle injury last season, she played through the pain. But after appearing in three games for Angel City, doctors explained to her that the injury could be career-ending if she continued playing.

Leroux had a micro-fracture in her talus, a bone in the ankle, and chose to have surgery. But after surgery, the recovery path was not easy. She had numerous days where she could not walk and was in a boot for over four months.

The recovery affected Leroux’s mental health.  

“I didn’t really know about the severity of my injury, so when I found out it’s a possibility for me to learn how to walk, never mind play soccer again, I was scared,” Leroux said. “I feel like I have been scared for a long time. Coming back from an injury, no one really talks about the mental part and the mental toll that it takes,” Leroux said. “There were some really hard times, and I didn’t know if I could do this again.”

In addition to the challenges of recovery, Leroux felt like she let down Angel City’s fans. When Angel City traded for her from the Orlando Pride midseason, she was expected to fill forward Christen Press’ role, who was out for the year because of a knee injury. But like Press, an injury sidelined Leroux. 

“I came here last year, and I was supposed to make a difference, and I could only play like a game and a half, said Leroux on the Paramount+ broadcast after Angel City played the Chicago Red Stars. 

Leroux was unsure if she could return to professional soccer as she went through rehabilitation. But she found the motivation to battle through her children, Cassius and Roux. She gave birth to both while playing professional soccer and returned to play, so she knew she could overcome this injury.  

“I was like, ‘well, I had these two [kids]’ and I came back, and so if I could back from them, I could come back from anything,’ and that was true. I thank them for showing me I could come back for a third time,” Leroux. 

Cassius and Roux also encouraged Leroux during the low points of her recovery. They uplifted her through small actions; they put band-aids on her casts, rode around the house on her scooter, and gave her endless affection. 

“[My kids] were such a huge part of my journey coming back. We spent a lot of days when they were really helpful,” Leroux said.

And when Leroux returned to the field for the first time in 311 days, Cassius and Roux were in attendance at BMO Stadium.

Then, 88 minutes into the game, Leroux received a cross from forward Alyssa Thompson and scored as she fell to the ground, sending Cassius into tears of joy. A magical moment.

But the goal represented more for Leroux. She proved to herself she was still capable of performing at one of the highest levels of women’s soccer.

“I feel like that’s the one thing I didn’t know. Can I be Sydney? And can I cause havoc, be disruptive? And I could, and I did,” Leroux said.

Moving forward, Leroux could help Angel City in the way she was expected to last year. They are currently No. 11 in the NWSL with just nine points and have only won one of their last 11 games (in all competitions). 

Leroux can help Angel City get on track through her offensive production. She regularly does everything she can to put the ball in the net and she adds passion to the team. 

“It’s been a tough year for us, but we can show that we can get results, we can fight, we can have grit, we can have heart, and that’s the most important thing, to go out there and fight. We need to do more of that, and we know we need to do more of that,” Leroux said. “So, hopefully, I can help out with that. It takes each and every one of us to fight. I’m excited to move forward and move past this game and look to the future because we know what we need to do.”

However, Leroux could take multiple games to return to complete form. Head coach Freya Coombe said Leroux will be integrated on a minutes limitation while seeing how her body reacts to ensure she returns safely. Still, Leroux will look to make her mark in any minutes she receives. 

Next, Angel City plays the Washington Spirit on Saturday with a chance to get back on track while possibly seeing Leroux’s second appearance this season.