After winning her second league title with Chelsea, Jesse Fleming is running high at the moment, but things could improve a lot for the Canadian midfielder.
Fleming came off the bench in the second half last weekend to help Chelsea win 4-2 over Manchester United. The victory allowed the Blues to finish the season one point ahead of Arsenal in the final standings of the FA Women’s Premier League and win their third consecutive league title on the final day of the 2021-22 season.
But Fleming is not quite finished. Sunday’s FA Cup Final at 9:30am ET against Manchester City at London’s famous Wembley gives Chelsea a chance to win the “double” and repeat as winners of England’s biggest domestic cup competition.
For Fleming, the 24-year-old from London, Ont., adding a second FA Cup crown to her storied resume would be the culmination of what was a break season for the Olympic champion.
Having played four seasons of NCAA soccer at UCLA, Fleming made her Chelsea debut in the summer of 2020. At one of the top clubs in the women’s game, Fleming has struggled to play time and chances in her rookie season, accumulating just 433 minutes over 14 league games. (Three base matches) in the 2020-2021 season.
A completely different story
This season has been an entirely different story for Canadians. Fleming appeared in 21 of Chelsea’s 22 matches in the Women’s Football Association, starting at 11, while scoring six goals and scoring four assists. She was also named the League’s Player of the Month for November and scored her first goal in the UEFA Champions League, firmly establishing herself as a key starter for the Blues in their second campaign at the club.
Watch | Fleming’s record in the Chelsea Women’s Champions League:
Chelsea manager Emma Hayes has shown even more confidence in Fleming this season, giving her plenty of opportunities to prove herself at a club that includes top international stars from around the world. Often times, Fleming has paid back that belief with her balanced performances in the heart of Chelsea’s midfield engine room.
“You’re just looking at the team [Hayes] Created in Chelsea. I am surrounded by very good players every day in training, and during my development it has pushed me in terms of the level I want to be at, [which] It is where someone likes [Danish forward] Pernille Harder or [South Korean midfielder] Fleming explains that Ji So Yeon.
It took a while for Fleming to reach this point in her career. Much has been expected of the young midfielder since she made her debut for her national team in late 2013 at the age of 15. over the years. But as she continued to attend UCLA at the university level, questions remained about whether she could take the next step and have more to offer.
After a difficult start at Chelsea, she blossomed into an elite midfielder. Her game has matured. While Fleming was once a complementary player to others, she is now an important midfield coordinator for her club and country.
Watch | Canadian women’s soccer team claims Celebration Tour win over Nigeria:
Fleming plays alongside top stars
Fleming has clearly benefited from playing alongside Chelsea’s top internationals. It has forced her to push herself even harder to reach the same levels as her teammates in the pursuit of 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] She is a very competitive individual and always demands a lot from her players, so she just challenged me in terms of my personal standards and what you expect of me on the field in terms of attack and defence,” offered Fleming.
She later added, “It definitely took me a while to acclimatise. Getting used to the Premier League, the fitness and its pace, that was a big part. [of it]; Maybe I need to do fewer touches on the ball sometimes, make decisions a little faster in attack, and be more decisive. With a year of training in that environment and having a few matches under my belt, I’ve been able to adapt to it better, and make a bigger impact on the pitch more consistently.”
Fleming’s club-level excellence was not lost on Canadian coach Bev Priestman earlier this year. When Kristen Sinclair was unavailable in February for the Alan Clark Cup, a four-nation tournament held in England, Priestman turned to Fleming to captain Canada in its opening match against the host nation. It was the first time she had led for Canada’s first team.
Much has been said about how much Priestman thought Fleming had given the Chelsea midfielder the captain’s armband despite there being several older and more experienced players in the Canadian squad.
“I’ve seen hunger and desire, and it’s earned their spot in the last year,” Priestman said.
It’s the same hunger and desire that Fleming has shown throughout the season that Chelsea will rely on in Sunday’s FA Cup Final.