Canadian Jessie Fleming’s ‘hunger and desire’ launches her into football stardom

After winning her second league championship with Chelsea, Jessie Fleming is on a roll at the moment, but things could be looking up for the Canadian midfielder.

Fleming came off the bench in the second half last weekend to help Chelsea to a 4-2 win over Manchester United. The win saw the Blues move just one point ahead of Arsenal in the final FA Women’s Super League of England standings and claim a third successive league title on the final day of the 2021-22 season.

Fleming isn’t quite done, however. Sunday’s FA Cup final at 9.30am ET against Manchester City at London’s famous Wembley Stadium gives Chelsea a chance to claim ‘the double’ and repeat as winners of England’s top domestic cup competition .

For Fleming, a 24-year-old from London, Ont., adding a second FA Cup crown to her list of notable achievements would be the icing on the cake in what has been a standout season for the Olympic champion.

After playing four seasons of NCAA football at UCLA, Fleming made her professional debut with Chelsea in the summer of 2020. At one of the top clubs in women’s football, Fleming struggled to earn playing time and opportunities in his rookie season, logging just 433 minutes. more than 14 league matches (three as a starter) in 2020-21.

completely different story

This season has been a completely different story for the Canadiens. Fleming appeared in 21 of Chelsea’s 22 FA WSL games, starting 11, while scoring six goals and registering four assists. She was also named the league’s Player of the Month for November and scored her first UEFA Champions League goal, firmly establishing herself as a key starter for the Blues in her second campaign at the club.

WATCH | Fleming scores in Chelsea’s Women’s Champions League:

Canada’s Jessie Fleming scores in Chelsea’s Women’s Champions League

Jessie Fleming of London, Ont., scored the sixth goal in Chelsea’s 7-0 win over Servette in the UEFA Women’s Champions League group stage match.

Chelsea manager Emma Hayes has shown much more confidence in Fleming this season, giving him plenty of chances to prove himself at a club that boasts the best international stars from around the world. More often than not, Fleming has repaid that faith with his balanced performances in the heart of Chelsea’s midfield engine room.

“You just look at the team [Hayes] created at Chelsea. I’m surrounded by very, very good players every day in training, and in my development that has pushed me in terms of what level I want to be at, [which] this is where someone like [Danish forward] Pernille Harder or [South Korean midfielder] Ji So-yun is,” Fleming explained.

It took Fleming a while to get to this point in his career. Much has been expected of the petite midfielder since she made her national team debut at the end of 2013 at the age of 15. From the start, her talent was evident and she continued to progress as she racked up more caps for Canada. over the years. But as she continued to attend UCLA at the college level, questions lingered about whether she could take the next step and had more to give.

After a difficult start at Chelsea, she became an elite midfielder. His game has matured. While Fleming was once a player who complemented others, she has now become an important midfield orchestrator for club and country.

WATCH | The Canadian women’s soccer team claim victory in the Celebration Tour against Nigeria:

Canadian women’s soccer team claim Celebration Tour win over Nigeria

Jessie Fleming opens the scoring in the 51st minute as Canada beat Nigeria 2-0 in the first match of the West Coast series of the Women’s National Team Celebration Tour.

Fleming plays alongside big stars

Fleming has clearly benefited from playing alongside top internationals at Chelsea. This required her to push herself harder to reach the same levels as her teammates in a team that strives for excellence. Chelsea have become the dominant force in the English game over the past three years under Hayes, who was named FIFA Women’s Coach of the Year for 2021, and Fleming has benefited from her tutelage.

“[Hayes is] an extremely competitive person who always demands a lot from her players, so she only challenged me in terms of personal standards and what she expects of me on the pitch, both in attack and in defence.” explained Fleming.

She later added: “It definitely took me a bit of time to adapt. Getting used to the English league, his physicality and his speed, that was a big part. [of it]; Maybe I need to take fewer touches on the ball at times and make decisions a bit quicker in attack, being more decisive. With a year of training in that environment and a few games under my belt, I was able to adapt to it better and have more impact on the pitch more consistently.”

Fleming (17) has been a key player in Canada’s bid for Olympic gold at the 2021 Tokyo Games. (Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

Outstanding form

Fleming’s exceptional form at club level was not lost on Canadian team coach Bev Priestman earlier this year. When Christine Sinclair was unavailable for the Alan Clark Cup in February, a four-nation tournament in England, Priestman turned to Fleming to serve as Canada’s captain in their opening match against the host nation. It was her first time coaching Canada’s senior team.

It says a lot about how Priestman thought of Fleming that she gave the Chelsea midfielder the captain’s armband, even though there are several older and more experienced players in the Canadian squad.

“I saw the hunger and the desire, and it showed up last year,” Priestman said.

It’s that same hunger and desire that Fleming has shown all season that Chelsea will rely on in Sunday’s FA Cup final.