Canada's Jessie Fleming growing in influence for club, country during 1st pro campaign

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Canadian midfielder Jessie Fleming, seen above playing for Chelsea Women during the FA Women's Super League final on Sunday, is growing in influence for her national side after a successful first year with the England-based club. (Alex Livesey-Danehouse/Getty Images - image credit)
Canadian midfielder Jessie Fleming, seen above playing for Chelsea Women during the FA Women's Super League final on Sunday, is growing in influence for her national side after a successful first year with the England-based club. (Alex Livesey-Danehouse/Getty Images - image credit)

If all goes well this weekend, Canada's Jessie Fleming will pick up a second championship winner's medal in eight days with Chelsea FC Women.

Last Sunday, the midfielder was on the pitch when the final whistle blew in Chelsea's final match of the 2020-21 FA Women's Super League season, as the London-based club repeated as champions of England and clinched its third crown in four years with a convincing 5-0 win over Reading F.C. Women.

This Sunday in Gothenburg, Sweden, Chelsea will look to go one step farther and establish itself as the best team in Europe when it faces FC Barcelona Femení in the UEFA Women's Champions League final.

If Chelsea ends up beating the Spanish outfit, it'll become only the second English side to win the Champions League since the launch of the tournament in 2001, and Fleming will have capped off her rookie campaign as a professional with the Blues in remarkable fashion.

If Fleming does collect a Champions League medal on Sunday, it'll put her in very elite company: Alphonso Davies (with Bayern Munich in 2020) and Kadeisha Buchanan (with Olympique Lyon from 2017 to 2020) are the only other Canadians to have won the most prestigious club tournament in world soccer.

Winning the Champions League would be an amazing achievement for Fleming, a 23-year-old native of London, Ont., who has been turning heads ever since she debuted for the Canadian women's team as a 15-year-old in 2013.

Since then, she's been a key starter for Canada as its chief midfield creator and playmaker, having played in two World Cups, and helped the team win bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Along the way she has scored 11 times in 81 appearances for her country, and when Canadian coach Bev Priestman draws up her 18-player roster for this summer's Tokyo Olympics, Fleming's name will be among the first on the list.

That Fleming has managed to become such an influential and important member of the Canadian program before even turning pro makes her story all the more amazing.

A four-year star with the UCLA Bruins and a two-time finalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy (which goes to the top college player in the U.S.), Fleming wasn't short of suitors during her NCAA playing days, as a number of pro clubs tried to convince her to leave school early and turn pro.

But she shunned the offers, and was determined to finish her schooling — she majored in Materials Engineering and minored in Environmental Science at UCLA — before signing with Chelsea last summer.

Life in England as a young professional has agreed with Fleming thus far, as it's taught her the valuable lesson of patience.

WATCH | Fleming scores highlight-reel goal against Wales:

While a regular starter for Canada, Fleming is a depth player at Chelsea, and has been limited to 14 appearances (three starts) in the Super League, while the team's more experienced midfielders ahead of her in the depth chart gobble up the majority of the playing time.

Still, the Canadian has given a glimpse of what she can do when given the chance, including sporting an impressive 84 percent passing rate in the Super League.

Opportunities in the Champions League have been few and far between, but Fleming did make a pair of appearances in the competition against Benfica.

She earned her first start for Chelsea against the Portuguese side in January, helping the Blues earn an important 3-0 home win. In addition, she started and played the full 90 minutes as Chelsea won the FA Women's League Cup Final against Bristol City WFC.

The rigours and physicality of the FA Women's Super League has also forced the Canadian to add a much-need tenacious edge to her game — Fleming stands just five-foot-three and weighs a slight 120 pounds — and to become a more well-rounded box-to-box midfielder.

Playing in England has helped Fleming further develop her skills and boost her confidence, as evidenced by her highlight-reel goal in a 3-0 win over Wales in an international friendly last month.

Fleming bent a terrific shot from the edge of the 18-yard box into the top corner while being hounded by a pair of Welsh defenders in a display of skill and bravado that only came about after adding some polish to her game at Chelsea.

Already a champion in England, Fleming hopes to add the title of European champion to her burgeoning resume ahead of the Tokyo Olympics where she'll be looked upon by coach Priestman to orchestrate play in the heart of Canada's midfield.

No matter what happens on Sunday, it's safe to say that Fleming is in a much better position to rise to that challenge and assume that hefty responsibility after completing her first season as a pro with Chelsea.