PREVIEW: Meet the 9 CanWNT players competing in the WSL this season
It’s a big weekend for CanWNT players in England, as their top-flight league, the WSL, kicks off their 2023-2024 campaign on Saturday.
There, a whole host of Canadians will see the field, as nine Canadians, all of whom are CanWNT regulars, will see the field for six different clubs.
Led by Chelsea and their three Canadians, and complemented by Arsenal (2), Manchester United, Tottenham, Aston Villa and Leicester City (all 1), it’s an impressive cohort, given that those six teams represent half of the 12-team league.
Just a reminder that the WSL is back this weekend with some exquisite matches.— wsoccer.ca 💜 (@WsoccerCa) September 28, 2023
Manu vs Villa could be Dri’s personal revenge match. Chelsea take on Spurs.
9 Canadians play in the top flight, 5 in the Championship, and 1 in the National League. https://t.co/poq8i7ZIgi
Safe to say, it’ll be an important league to keep an eye on from a Canadian perspective this year, as there is a strong chance that those CanWNT players won’t just play a key role in helping their teams succeed, but could be key stars in the league, too.
We’ve seen that over the last few years, from the performances of Jessie Fleming, Shelina Zadorsky, Deanne Rose, Kadeisha Buchanan and more, and that should continue this season, especially with some of the transfers that have occurred.
Therefore, don’t be surprised to see some Canadians lift some silverware by the end of the year, too, as has been the case over the last few years, as more and more CanWNT players filter into what has quickly become one of the top women’s leagues in the world over the past half-decade.
With that in mind, however, here’s a closer look at the nine Canadians who will be competing in the league this season, and what to keep an eye out for from them going forward.
Jessie Fleming (Chelsea):
To begin, it only makes sense to start with Fleming, who is heading into her fourth season with Chelsea.
There, she’s looking to add to a full trophy cabinet, as she’s already won the WSL three times, to go along with three FA Cups, one League Cup and a Community Shield.
Jessie Fleming opens her 22/23 account 🎯— Alexandre Gangué-Ruzic (@AlexGangueRuzic) December 3, 2022
Fleming is on the board for Chelsea this season, as she's poked home a goal against Leicester today in FAWSL action. Nice late run and calm finish
Hopefully this gets her rolling this season#CanWNT/#CanXNTpic.twitter.com/mkiikg9lb0
To be fair, Chelsea’s main goal this season might just be the UEFA Champions League, the lone big trophy that has eluded them as a club, but they’ll want to keep up their dominance domestically, as they chase a fifth straight league title.
If they’re to do that, Fleming should be central to those efforts in midfield. Given that she played a career-high 35 games across all competitions last year, including 20 out of a possible 22 games (1207 minutes) in the league (in which Chelsea won an impressive 18 games when she played), expect her to feature heavily in the WSL.
In particular, look for her to be more involved offensively, as she only had three goals and one assist in all competitions last year after scoring eight and nabbing seven assists the season prior, especially given that she underperformed her xG+xA/90 minutes of 0.26 in 2022-2023, finishing with 0.19 goals+assists/90, indicating she could be due for an offensive resurgence of sorts.
Kadeisha Buchanan (Chelsea):
Continuing with the Chelsea players, Buchanan will also be looking to take a step forward this season, after a solid debut season in London, in which she completed a WSL and FA Cup double.
Coming to the club with high expectations after winning five Champions League titles with Lyon, Buchanan did well to quickly integrate herself into her new team, featuring in 28 games despite battling injury, including 16 games in league play.
Given that Chelsea had the second-best defensive record in the division, conceding just 15 goals in 22 games, Buchanan’s play was a big reason for that, and she’ll look to keep that up this season. From there, she’ll look to play an especially big role in the Champions League, where Chelsea will bank on her UCL-winning pedigree in that competition.
Otherwise, look for Buchanan to be more involved offensively this season, especially on set-pieces. After scoring three goals and generating 0.09 xG/90 minutes in her last season with Lyon (all competitions), she scored zero goals and generated just 0.01 xG/90 in her first season with Chelsea, something she’ll want to change.
Ashley Lawrence (Chelsea):
One of two CanWNT players who will be making their debut in the WSL this season, Lawrence’s signing was a huge coup for the defending champions, who did well to secure the services of one of the best full backs in the world.
And look for Lawrence to come hungry to win, as despite her position as one of the top players on a top club for PSG, trophies were hard to come given Lyon’s dominance of France. As a result, Lawrence claimed just one league and two Coupe de France titles across her six years in France, something she’ll look to change in England.
Plus, given her ability to control games on both sides of the ball, she can certainly play a big role in this Chelsea team. One of the best 1v1 defenders in the world (she won 74% of her defensive duels last year), she can also contribute going forward, sitting with 16 assists across her last three seasons.
Fresh off a CanWNT camp where she also had two assists in two games, that just further shows her ability to make things happen in the final third, without sacrificing defensive responsibility to do so.
Cloé Lacasse (Arsenal):
At this point, Cloé Lacasse’s stats at Benfica speak for itself. 102 goals and 42 assists across 131 games in all competitions, including 35 goals and 18 assists last year, in which she was named the Portuguese league MVP and finished second in the UEFA Champions League Golden Boot race.
Along with an impressive eight trophies, it was felt that Lacasse was more than ready to make the jump up to another level, and she’s gotten that with this move to Arsenal.
Because of that, look for her to play a big role on this team, one that has big goals after finishing third in the WSL last season, while also making a run to the semi-finals of the Champions League.
Given that they were fourth in the league in goals, they’ll want Lacasse to come in and help with that, which she can certainly help do.
She might not match the eye-watering 0.89 goals/90 minutes she put up last year in Portugal, but she can certainly provide some offence.
Having started to contribute more offensively for the CanWNT, she’s no stranger to this sort of challenge, which should help her find her feet quickly as she adjusts to a new league.
Sabrina D’Angelo (Arsenal):
Despite only joining Arsenal halfway through last season, Sabrina D’Angelo had a pretty good start to life with her new club, playing six games in all competitions, and helping them claim the League Cup.
She did well in those cameos too, conceding just four goals in four league games, and none in two League Cup appearances, showing that she can be a more than capable option for her team.
Minutes might be tough, as Manuela Zinsberger is the preferred option for Arsenal, but she can definitely push her and will be more than ready to take over if needed. Seeing that she conceded three goals below expected despite her limited appearances, that much is for sure.
Shelina Zadorksy (Tottenham):
A big season awaits Tottenham, who are looking to recover from a frustrating campaign, one where they finished ninth out of 12 teams, claiming just 18 points from 22 games.
One of the big reasons for those struggles, however? The prolonged absence of Zadorsky, who only played in 13 of 22 games as she battled injuries, as well as the mental health strain that brought, for most of the second half of the season.
The club’s captain, her return to health will be a big boost, especially given that she looks happy and ready to return.
No doubt, however, Zadorsky and the rest of her defence will have their work cut out for them, as they went from conceding 23 goals in 22 games the season prior to 47 last year, which was a big reason why they slipped to ninth place from fifth.
They’re not a team that scores much, so defence will be key, and Zadorksy’s presence in the heart of their backline will be much needed.
Jayde Riviere (Manchester United):
After joining United halfway through last season, Riviere will look to hit the ground running, especially as she spent most of last year recovering from a hip injury.
Having only made one appearance for United last year, she’ll want to change that, helping United build on a campaign where they finish second in the league, just two points off first.
Yet to win a trophy as a club, they feel that this is the season that they can change that, and Riviere can certainly help do that at full back.
Always dangerous going forward, she’s improved her defending a lot over the last few years, helping her stake out a regular spot on the CanWNT, and she’ll now look to do the same on this United team.
Adriana Leon (Aston Villa):
After a turbulent 2022-2023 season, one that saw Leon fall out of favour at Manchester United following a summer move, even leading to a short-term loan to the NWSL’s Portland Thorns just to get minutes before the World Cup, Leon has hit the reset button with a move to Aston Villa.
There, she’ll look to prove why she was once so coveted by United, who had seen her score 10 goals across 57 games for West Ham before her move to Manchester.
When given minutes Leon typically scores - she still had three goals for United despite her limited minutes, and has scored 15 goals in 38 appearances for the CanWNT since the start of 2020, and Villa will be banking on that this season.
Following an impressive 2022-2023 campaign, where they finished fifth in the table thanks to their 47 goals (they finished ninth the year prior, scoring just 13 goals), they’ll bank on Leon helping them maintain those sorts of figures this season.
Deanne Rose (Leicester City):
It was a trying 2022-2023 for Rose, who featured just three times for Reading after injuring her Achilles in the opening game of the campaign. Reading sorely missed her, too - they’d end up relegated, after finishing in eighth the season prior.
Because of that, it was not surprising to see another WSL side scoop her up after her contract expired, as Leicester is banking on Rose to help a team that stayed up despite scoring a league-low 15 goals last season.
Given that Rose scored an impressive five goals and four assists in 26 games (all competitions) for Reading the year prior, in just her first full season as a professional, she can definitely be a key asset for this Leicester offence when fully firing.
So although they’ll be a bit worried that she recently missed out on the CanWNT’s camp with an injury, it sounds like it wasn’t anything serious, and she’ll be able to see the field very soon for Leicester.
Because of that, keep an eye on her, as she looks to build off the 0.35 G+A/90 she had in the WSL in her last full campaign.