With the NWSL and Sweden’s Damallsvenskan all wrapped up, the focus has turned to the UEFA Women’s Champions League as group stage action kicked off with plenty of drama from the get-go, and of course, Canadians were involved all across the board.
However, even in league action on the weekend, highlight reel moments happened, with a bit of mysterious news announced from Diana Matheson’s Canadian women’s professional league Project 8.
Goal of the Week: Julia Grosso’s out-the-box strike
This time last year, Juventus had just concluded a UWCL game and were getting ready for another. This season, defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt in the qualifying rounds last month meant we will not see the Italian giants in UWCL action this season. Instead, Juventus delivered a goal-fest in league play on the weekend.
The Bianconere hosted Inter Milan in the D’Italia derby on Matchday 8 of the Serie A season. Canadian Julia Grosso, for the seventh time in this campaign, played on the right side of the midfield, her preferred area of the pitch right now.
Juventus opened the scoring inside two minutes, with Arianna Caruso adding to her goal tally, only for Grosso to double the lead in superb fashion a minute later.
The strike was so good, it’s worthy of a goal of the season nominee, which is on brand for the reigning Serie A midfielder of the year.
Grosso was dominant on Sunday, threading key balls over and over again. Her flawless movement to find space and hold the midfield is truly one of a kind.
The 5-0 win means Juventus is undefeated against Inter Milan across all competitions, a stat telling of their real dominance in Italy.
Moments of the Week: Adriana Leon’s debut goal for Aston Villa
Club football was not been smooth for dynamic forward Adriana Leon after signing for Manchester United in the summer of last year. An uneventful loan spell at the Portland Thorns prior to the Women’s World Cup saw her sent back, desperate for a summer move. It came, and as things have settled for Leon, she’s looked better and the result of consistent minutes under a clear manager has brought assists, and now, a crucial goal.
Leon lined up in Aston Villa’s starting XI away against her former club, West Ham United. Neither team has had a good start to this season with losses and hopeless draws, so this was set to be a scrappy game for points. And it was.
A five-goal thriller after the visitors were put on the back foot ended with a 90th-minute winner and also had plenty of dramatic moments in between.
In one of those moments, Leon was in the perfect spot at the perfect time after a set-piece wasn’t cleared well. Her clinical instincts kicked in and she found the back of the net.
The goal was the first time Villa led in the game, and the celebrations said it all.
It was clear the goal meant the world to Leon, with her teammate Maz Pacheco saying “Dri is like me on Christmas morning.”
It is great to finally see Leon getting starts, consistent minutes, and trust from head coach Carla Ward. Previously, a disconnect between the forward and her coaching staff was clear and kept her out of the squad for too many games. It’s fair to say that Leon is on a revenge arc.
Assist of the Week: Ashley Lawrence vs. Real Madrid
Ashley Lawrence has played many games in the UWCL, but for the past six years, it has only been with Paris Saint-Germain. On Wednesday, she was back in European football action, this time as a Blue. The shirt may have changed, but her impact on the big stage was evidently clear.
Chelsea had no easy task opening their group stages campaign with a trip to Real Madrid, to face a team they handled very well last season in the group stages.
Lawrence and fellow Canadian Jessie Fleming started the game, both coming off recent league goals. The visitors went down after a deflected shot, but Lawrence’s magic was there to rescue the Blues.
The chop, the vision, the cross, and the execution were perfect. Sloppy officiating saw both teams leave with a point each, but despite the disappointment, the Canadians had a very good game.
Lawrence enjoyed overlapping on the wing and drifting in the midfield on occasion, making it no easy task for Madrid to mark her movement. As for Fleming, her nonstop work rate showed up in Spain as well. A soft out-of-the-box challenge from Fleming was horrendously given as a penalty for the home side, who of course converted from the spot.
The Blues take on Paris FC on Thursday. The French side lost their opening game to Clarissa Larisey’s BK Häcken. Larisey was not involved in the fixture as a precautionary measure for her foot injury. Paris FC ended Cloé Lacasse‘s hopes of Champions League football by topping Arsenal in the playoff round.
Mystery of the Week: Project 8 teaser pic
It has been relatively quiet on the Project 8 front lately. But Diana Matheson’s CSA-sanctioned professional women’s league is set to launch in Canada in 2025. Three founding clubs have already committed; the Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Calgary Foothills, and AFC Toronto City. There are also four major sponsors, including CIBC and Canadian Tire.
But time is ticking, and five more club spots need to be filled very soon, along with various other important priorities, like infrastructure, broadcast deals, salary negotiations, and everything in between.
On Saturday, Project 8 tweeted a picture of co-founder and CanWNT legend Matheson with a smile and a caption that simply read “11.20.23”, with a video camera and soccer ball emoji.
No information has been released, keeping Canadians on their toes guessing what this might be.
Given a league name was promised to emerge by the of the year, it could certainly be just that. Or, given the video camera emoji, perhaps Matheson and her partners have sorted a crucial broadcast deal?
We will have to patiently wait for Monday to blow our minds away and get us excited about women’s soccer in Canada.