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 team.
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 team on Wednesday.
Fleming was born in London, Ont., and is expected 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 U-17 team that captured a silver medal at the 2013 CONCACAF Women's U-17 Championship.
There is no doubt Fleming has star potential. But is she the next Christine Sinclair, a woman who ranks third all-time with 151 international 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 as 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."