Jessie Fleming: The next Christine Sinclair?
16-year-old scores 1st goal for Canada's senior team
The goal was fitting.
The combination of star Christine Sinclair and rookie Jessie Fleming represented the present and future of Canadian soccer on Wednesday at the Cyprus Women's Cup in Nicosia.
In the third minute of Canada's opening match against Scotland, captain Sinclair sent a beautiful cross to the 16-year-old Fleming, who broke through the Scottish defence and buried her first-ever goal for the Canadian national senior team.
Sinclair finished off the scoring with her 152nd career international goal in the 54th minute.
Canada went on to defeat Scotland 2-0.
"Jessie put everything in to get that goal and the vision from Sinclair was phenomenal. Not many women can see that pass," said Canadian national coach John Herdman. "What a great start for that 16-year-old and we wanted that for her.
"She's been working really hard on trying to break the box for us and to get in to those goal scoring positions. So to see her sliding in with every sinew to get a toe on it was fantastic."
So who is Jessie Fleming? For starters, she just concluded her eighth match with Canada's national senior team on Wednesday.
Fleming was born in London, Ont., and is likely to take part in the upcoming 2015 women's World Cup in Canada.
Fleming turns 17 in the midst of the Cyprus Women's Cup on March 11. She was captain of Canada's team that captured a silver medal at the 2013 CONCACAF Women's Under-17 Championship.
Fleming was part of two World Cup teams — U17 and U20 — that both reached the quarter-finals in 2014.
She was also voted Canada's top female soccer player under the age of 17 in 2014 by national team coaches, along with Canadian clubs and coaches.
This past season has been a whirlwind for Fleming.
Should the teenage sensation play in the FIFA women's World Cup this summer as expected, she will have competed in three World Cups in less than 16 months, in addition to her player-of-the-year award.
There is no doubt Fleming has star potential. But is she the next Christine Sinclair, a woman who ranks third all-time in goals?
CBC Sports soccer analyst Nigel Reed stresses caution when projecting Fleming at the national level, but expects her to be a major leader of Canada's team once Sinclair decides to call it a career.
"She has very good technical skills for a player of her age," said Reed. "She has good vision and good awareness of the space and the players around her. She has an instinctive eye for goal [scoring]. She plays with a maturity beyond her years."
As for comparing Fleming to Sinclair, Reed sees the young rookie reaching world-class status, though he doesn't envision her matching the Canadian captain's legend status.
"I think she has the potential to be the player which the Canadian women's team will be built around over the next five to 10 years. She's not the same player Sinclair is. She's not going to score 150 goals for Canada in my opinion because that's not her principal role. But I do think she has the potential be the fulcrum for the team of the next generation."
Congratulations <a href="https://twitter.com/_jessiefleming">@_jessiefleming</a> for your first goal representing the <a href="https://twitter.com/CanadaSoccerEN">@CanadaSoccerEN</a> senior women's team! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LdnOnt?src=hash">#LdnOnt</a> <a href="http://t.co/faDmHyLCFp">pic.twitter.com/faDmHyLCFp</a>—@London_FA
Congrats to <a href="https://twitter.com/_jessiefleming">@_jessiefleming</a> & <a href="https://twitter.com/sincy12">@sincy12</a> on their goals vs Scotland today! Think I might be tweeting those 2 names together alot this summer!—@Kara_Lang