Grosso’s stock on the rise amid whirlwind year

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In recent months, Canadian midfielder Julia Grosso has laced her shoes in Canada, Mexico, Italy and most recently in Australia for a week.

While she feels blessed to be in her position to travel for the sport she loves, the jet lag is undeniable.

“Here in Italy I will wake up around four in the morning. I feel like I’m in a new place about every week,” she said.

Grosso is back in Italy for her second season at Juventus. She joined the club mid-last season after retiring from college at the University of Texas and helped her new team to three trophies including the Serie A title.

She signed an extension with Juventus last May to keep them at the club until the end of 2024.

The Vancouver native, who recently turned 22nd birthday, feels like she’s gained a lot of confidence since making her pro debut in January.

“Obviously when I first came in I was a lot more nervous,” she told TSN. “I’m fresh out of college, so it’s definitely a different environment… I feel a lot more connected to the team. I got very close to some people.”

Grosso will be on the road (or in the air) again this week when Juventus travel to Denmark to face HB Køge, the reigning Danish champions, in the UEFA Women’s Champions League.

The teams meet for the first leg of the second round of qualifying on Tuesday, with the second leg being hosted by Juventus on 28 September. The winner of the tie advances to the group stage.

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Grosso got her first taste of Champions League action in March when Juventus faced Olympique Lyonnais in the quarter-finals of last year’s competition. Grosso started the first leg with 66 minutes but was not used in the second leg. Lyon would win 4-3 on aggregate en route to the Champions League title, their sixth in the past seven seasons.

Despite the disappointing result, Grosso sees it as a positive experience.

“I think playing against a team like that can only really help you progress,” she said. “Playing a strong team like Lyon really helps to know what we need to do better defensively and attackingly, the areas where we need to improve, the areas we know we’ve done well , and continue to build on that.”

Grosso also played two Champions League games at Juventus last month. She played the full 90 minutes in her side’s 4-0 win against Luxembourg club Racing-Union and came off the bench in a 3-1 win over Israel’s FC Kiryat Gat.

Grosso grew up watching the men’s Champions League, specifically watching matches played by their favorite player, Cristiano Ronaldo.

“The fact that we’re a part of that now, I know how big the business is,” she said. “The Champions League is something like the greatest thing in football. So it’s really exciting to be a part of that.”

As she looks forward to the upcoming season, Grosso also reflects on the outstanding summer she had with the Canada women’s team.

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She helped the Canadians to a second-place finish at the CONCACAF W Championship in Mexico. She scored three goals in her first two games, including the only goal in the 1-0 win over Panama that earned Canada a place at next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup.

She took home the Golden Boot as the tournament’s top scorer with three goals in four games, which was also the first three goals of her international career.

While Grosso said the award meant a lot, especially as a midfielder, it also brings the focus back to the team.

“I think it’s really nice to see because I know this tournament, a lot of midfielders from our national team have scored goals. And it’s exciting to know that now other positions are stepping up and scoring goals because of course it’s usually the front line,” she said.

Last summer, Grosso scored the crucial penalty to secure Canada a gold medal at the Tokyo Games and her national team streak has steadily increased since then.

“Foresighted, creative player who can score goals,” head coach Bev Priestman said of Grosso during the CONCACAF W Championship. “Julia is a fantastic player. She’ll have to know for herself at some point. But she has a great future.”

Grosso has seen a steady increase in minutes under Priestman. While still working to establish herself as a regular (15 of her 43 appearances with the national team have been starts), she has played in all but one of Canada’s 13 games this year.

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In Canada’s last games, two friendlies against Australia (along with New Zealand, one of the hosts of next year’s World Cup), Grosso played a slightly different role.

With Priestman struggling with an undermanned squad due to injuries and other limitations, Grosso played alongside Jessie Fleming as a double pivot, with the two serving as midfielders. Christine Sinclair moved back into role #10, Fleming’s usual spot.

Grosso said that while it was a different experience for her, she enjoyed working closely with Fleming.

“I think we really know how each other plays,” she said. “I know where she wants the ball. She knows where I want it. I feel like we don’t need to tell each other what to do. We just flow well.”

Grosso’s adaptability in midfield is just one of the reasons she’s a safe bet in next year’s World Cup squad. As an 18-year-old, she was part of the team that lost in the round of 16 at the 2019 World Cup, but she never played a minute under then head coach Kenneth Heiner-Møller.

“Going to a World Cup is literally every girl’s dream, I think. So, it’s really cool that I could be a part of that,” she said.

As for the upcoming Men’s World Cup, Grosso’s loyalties may be divided. She’s half-Portuguese and a die-hard Ronaldo fan.

“I cheer for Canada all the time. But I also cheer for Portugal. We’ll see who wins,” she smiled.

What if the two countries met in the knockout stages?

“I would cheer for Canada.”

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