Sydney Leroux, the lone Canadian-born female athlete in ESPN’s Body Issue, plays for the U.S.

ESPN The Magazine's annual Body Issue always makes headlines for its nude portraits of professional athletes, and this year's edition is no different, featuring such notables as Toronto Maple Leafs' winger Joffrey Lupul and golf legend Gary Player. However, there's a significant lack of hoserism in this edition, as it only features one Canadian-born athlete besides Alberta native Lupul, and the other athlete they chose is guaranteed to annoy many Canadians. That other athlete would be soccer star Sydney Leroux, who was born in Surrey, B.C. and grew up in Canada, but has chosen to play for the U.S. national team. Leroux's heard "Judas" taunts, irked Canadian fans with celebrations and complained of racist chants on her returns to Canada, plus she's regularly blasted on Twitter, so given the nature of the Internet, it wouldn't be surprising to see her take some vitriol over these photos too. As she told ESPN's Morty Ain, though, she elected to pose nude for the magazine because she's reached a point where she's confident in her body:

I think a lot of females struggle with the way they look, and I wanted to show that everyone's body is different. I think it's a big deal to be an athlete and feel confident in your body and show it off. I'm not going to say I've never struggled with how I look, but I've reached a point in my life where I'm happy with who I am. ...

I like that I have scars. I have scars all over my legs. I don't ever try to hide them; they remind me of how hard I play. I like that I look tough. It's something to celebrate, and it's my job.

Leroux, who stars with the NWSL's Boston Breakers as well as the American national team, told Ain she used to struggle with her appearance, but now embraces how she looks:

Maybe a couple of years ago I would have changed something, but now I'm happy -- though I might change my hair because when it rains it turns into an Afro. I struggled in college with how my body looked. I would say my legs looked too big. I wasn't confident. High school, too -- even more than college, actually. I was at a school where there were no people of my ethnicity. Everyone was blonde and skinny, and I was different. It made me want to be something I wasn't. When I got to college, that changed because UCLA was pretty diverse. Now I like what I have, but I think if you talk to any girl, in high school she wanted to be like everyone else.

That confidence in herself also shows up in Leroux's play. At just 23, she's become a dominant force in the NWSL, claiming her second player of the week award Tuesday after scoring three goals in her last two games, and leading the league (which features tons of more experienced stars like Canada's Christine Sinclair and Diana Matheson and Leroux's American teammates Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan) with 10 goals in 11 games. She's mostly served as a substitute for the American national team so far, but has been a dominant player when she gets on the field, memorably scoring five goals in a single game against Guatemala during Olympic qualifying in 2012. Leroux's an up-and-coming star in the soccer world, so it makes sense for ESPN to feature her here. It's just likely a choice that won't go over all that well with many Canadians.

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