From the World Cup to the 40 Acres, Grosso is breaking out in front of Longhorn nation

Aneesh Namburi

Off the field, Julia Grosso is about as carefree as one can be. She’s often laughing, joking or dancing with her teammates as the life of the party, as 19-year-olds are inclined to be.

“Super funny. She’s great to be around. There’s so much energy with her,” said sophomore defender Emma Regan. Together, they navigated through the Canadian youth soccer scene before joining up in Austin as college teammates. “She’s been a great teammate but an even better friend through the years.”

However, the side of Grosso most commonly associated with the sophomore midfielder is the one barreling down the field with an uncanny balance of power and grace. This ferocity was key in landing her a role with Canada’s 2019 FIFA World Cup roster, an exceptional accomplishment for someone who still cannot even legally drink in the United States.

“She’s a competitor. She battles. You definitely know that as a coach when you put her out there. She’s a little bit like a quarterback,” said Texas head coach Angela Kelly. “She has great vision, and she just understands the game.”

As her father, Carlos, explained with a hearty chuckle, these qualities didn’t come automatically. Rather, they blossomed in the countless hours competing with her older sister Carli, a senior defender at Simon Fraser University.

“She always wanted to be better than her older sister, and it drove her crazy,” said Carlos. “That’s what I think drove Julia.”

Grosso’s drive pushed her to dominate the Canadian youth pipeline. She found herself a key member of Canadian youth national teams, as well as Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite, a premier youth program nationally and regionally. In 2017, Grosso was recognized as the British Columbia Player of the Year.

“With the Whitecaps, that’s where I started getting the notice of the youth national team,” said Grosso. “We would pretty much only play older girls or boys, so I think it was there where I realized I might have a future in soccer.”

This success led Grosso to Austin, a place that couldn’t be more different from her home in Canada. Grosso’s first two years at UT have been a whirlwind. Not only has she made an immediate impact on the field for the Longhorns as she was named to the All-Big 12 Conference Second Team as only a freshman, but Grosso has maintained this elite level of play while often balancing senior national team duties. Last year, she missed six games at Texas while at the CONCACAF Women’s Championships. And just a few weeks ago, the 19-year-old was in Japan for two international friendlies.

Grosso’s inclusion to Canada’s 2019 FIFA World Cup roster was a career-changing moment. Being a part of arguably the biggest event in soccer is a dream unfulfilled by some very high quality players.

“I got to bond with a great group of girls over in France,” said Grosso. “Watching the older players and how they react to certain situations and how they get ready, I was able to learn a lot from them.”

Grosso didn’t play a single minute for Canada during the World Cup. Her role was reduced to the bench, which allowed her to dissect the game from the sidelines.

“That role of a reserve isn’t easy,” said Kelly. “But when she’s 28 or so, she’s going to look back on her World Cup experience and understand that she learned a lot of lessons this summer in France, helping her become a tremendous teammate.”

Regardless of the amount of playing time she received, the kid in her was especially ecstatic. Growing up, Grosso watched the likes of Christine Sinclair and Sophie Schmidt, and now she had the unforgettable opportunity to play with her idols.

“It was really exciting. Just being around my role models was really cool,” Grosso said. “Christine Sinclair was one of my biggest idols growing up, and I still have autograph from her when I was 8 years old, and being around her was great.”

For Grosso, more international opportunities are next on the horizon, including the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, which has been a dream of hers according to Kelly. Regardless of what is in store for Grosso, she will continue to balance that elite competitiveness on the field and the childlike joy off the field that has carried her to this point.