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Huitema primed to turn potential into production in second World Cup

Jordyn Huitema Jordyn Huitema - The Canadian Press

Just 22 years old, Jordyn Huitema already has a lot of experience under her belt in only her fifth professional season. She has an Olympic gold medal and a second World Cup appearance is on the horizon.

At the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France, Huitema was an 18-year-old getting her feet wet at the highest level the game has to offer. She appeared in one game during the tournament, earning the start in a 2-1 loss to the Netherlands, playing the full 90 minutes.

One year later, the Chilliwack, B.C., product starred at the 2020 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic qualifying championship, leading the tournament in scoring with seven goals, including five in the group stage game against Jamaica and had the lone goal in Canada’s 1-0 semifinal win over Costa Rica that clinched their spot in the Olympics.

In Tokyo, she came off the bench in Canada’s last four games, including in the gold-medal game against Sweden, substituting for Christine Sinclair in the 86th minute.

In May 2019, Huitema decided to forego playing in the NCAA and turned pro, signing a four-year contract with Paris Saint-Germain.

With PSG, she broke out in her second season in 2020-21, recording three goals and two assists in 16 games as she helped the team win the league cup for the first time in club history alongside Canadian teammate Ashley Lawrence.

She would return to North America in June 2022, transferring to OL Reign in the NWSL and signing a two-year deal. In her first season, she scored twice with two assists in 10 games as the Reign won the NWSL Shield.

This season, she has started 11 of 13 games for OL Reign, scoring four goals.

"I have to applaud her for going abroad at a young age for limited minutes," Priestman said of Huitema in a June interview with CBC. "She can run and press all day. She's scoring goals, which is what we ask of her. Off the pitch, Jordyn brings a lightness to the team. She and [Sinclair] are close friends and have a partnership. She brings a skill set that not many have."

The Tokyo Olympics showed a passing of the torch to the new generation of Canadian players as Jessie Fleming, Quinn and Vanessa Gilles were among the ones to step up and play critical roles in Canada winning gold.

ContentId(1.1975387): 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup: Is Huitema ready to step out of Sinclair's shadow?

As the team heads to Australia and New Zealand armed with the knowledge that this is Sinclair’s last chance at adding a World Cup to her impressive career resume, there is a lot of pressure on Huitema to take the next step forward.

When it comes to developing players at the senior national team level, Canada has been able to seamlessly integrate up-and-coming players at the goalkeeper, defence and midfield positions. However, finding that elite striker other than Sinclair has eluded them.

Since she was a teen, Huitema has been pigeonholed as Sinclair’s successor. Replacing a legend is a tall order, let alone one who holds the record for the most international goals all-time. However, Huitema is no ordinary player and has grown leaps and bounds since her World Cup debut four years ago. 

Canada struggles to finish their chances offensively. At the Olympics, they scored just six goals, two of them being penalty kicks converted by Fleming. At the last World Cup, they scored four goals in four games.

With Janine Beckie (knee) out of the tournament and Deanne Rose and Nichelle Prince both just returning to full health after recovering from serious injuries for most of the year, it opens the door for Huitema to take on a larger role and get more playing time.

Unlike at the Olympics, Canada has been unable to figure out how to be their best selves on the World Cup stage. However, a big performance from Huitema would greatly contribute in helping Canada go from being an underdog to a serious contender, clearly showing exactly why they are the reigning gold medalists.

Watch and stream Nigeria vs. Canada LIVE across the TSN Network, CTV, and the TSN App beginning July 20 at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.