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Bruins in the Spotlight: Jessie Fleming Goes from the International Stage to the Soccer Field at UCLA

Her name is Jessie Fleming. Don’t forget it.

Joe Piechowski

Our second “Bruin in the Spotlight” is Jessie Fleming.

Remember that name because, in a few years, fans around the world will be chanting her name if they are not already. Fleming had been considered the future of Canada, and possibly the women’s game, in general, since her debut with the senior Canadian Women’s National Team. She made her debut at just 15 years and 278 days old. She is the second youngest player to debut for Canada. Since then, she has taken the soccer world by storm. Especially the college world.

Fleming committed to UCLA in 2014 and made her long awaited debut two years later on August 28, 2016. This was nine days after helping Canada win back-to-back Bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Games, a feat that has not been done before. Her debut was nothing short of amazing. Fleming scored two goals, but, for me, the biggest moment was the fancy footwork she displayed soon after being subbed in.

My initial reaction was that of the gentlemen sitting in the first row of the bleachers who witnessed first-hand the amazing footwork. They all covered their mouths and one even got out of his seat out of shock. There goes Jessie Fleming, embarrassing defenders on live television the moment she steps on the field. This was, for sure, one of my favorite moments of her in her debut season.

Before she even debuted at UCLA some criticized her for her decision to play college soccer when she obviously has the talent to play professionally. Her national team coach John Herdman even had some words to say on her decision. “I think it’s just easy for her there. I don’t think there’s really any progression at the college level. I think the college system is an easy ride for these players. I wish they were playing in more competitive environments.” They were some harsh, but honest words from Herdman.

While some will continue to criticize her decision, Fleming has genuinely enjoyed her time so far at UCLA, “I’ve liked it a lot.” Adding, “I go to school and I really like my program and some people might struggle a bit more in university or find it harder…..I still feel like I’m developing in the NCAA and hopefully improving technically and hopefully transferring into the international game.”

It doesn’t seem like Fleming has any plans to turn pro anytime soon, which is a great thing for UCLA. Last season, she was the leading scorer with 11 goals, 5 assists for a total of 27 points. These goals partly came from playing in the false nine position for most of the season. I wouldn’t be surprised if she played that same role in the upcoming 2017 season. But at the same time, I wouldn’t be surprised if she didn’t. This season, Fleming will be joined by youngster Ashley Sanchez, who plays for the youth national teams in the U.S. With Sanchez up top, maybe Fleming will see a change of position.

On top of being the soccer superstar she is, Fleming dazzles off the field. In her first year, her name appeared on the Dean’s List with a GPA of 3.5 or higher. She earned this honor while majoring in Materials Engineering. Yeah, that’s right, Jessie Fleming is majoring in engineering. Apart from nursing, engineering is one of the toughest majors. How she balances a soccer career and an engineering major, I have no clue, but, you go, Jessie!

Classes have been out now for a couple of weeks, but the 2017 season is almost here. Preseason starts soon with games in the beginning of August. While she had a great start to her college career, I can’t wait to see how her next three years will go. I’m preparing myself for some more fancy footwork she displayed in her debut. I’m looking forward to her wreaking havoc on defenses and to another great season!