Spirit United Soccer Club

Becky Edwards, SUSC Alumni

Becky Edwards  started playing organized soccer at age five. She played most of her youth travel soccer career with Spirit United Soccer Club and made her first EPYSA ODP team at age nine. Today, Becky is a student/athlete at Florida State University. She spent a good part of the last two years trying to secure a place on the U.S. U-20 National Team that would compete in the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Chile. Becky earned that spot and recently returned to the United States with a gold medal.

In Becky’s words, “Winning was the most amazing experience I’ve ever had. I’ve been playing soccer and working hard for that my whole life. It’s been a dream of mine, ever since I was young, to win a World Cup. So just bringing that back (the gold medal) and representing my country was awesome and an experience I’ll never forget.”


Congratulations to Becky Edwards on having her goal with the U-20 US Women’s National Team vs. Cuba on June 20th being named the third best 2008 WNT Goal by Best of U.S. Soccer

There are so many coaches who helped Becky along the way. They all know who they are and it’s our hope that they are proud to see the fruit of their labor.

I was asked to write an article about Becky and the World Cup. Instead, I’d like to share some thoughts from Tony DiCicco, U.S. U-20 National Team Coach and Jeff Pill who has been coaching for over 20 years at all levels of the game.

Tony DiCicco’s Blog: http://www.soccerpluscamps.com/soccerplusct/

Jeff Pill’s Blog: http://www.jeffpillsoccer.com

—Mary Ellen Edwards

TONY DICICCO - U20 WORLD CUP - BLOG

Tuesday 12/9/2008

Hello everyone. Well, we are still in Chile…FIFA had a bit of a problem getting a flight back to America for us. All the other teams have left and the USA players have had two days to kick back and enjoy Santiago…our accomplishment and each other.

This team won for a bunch of reasons but one key reason was how close this team became. There were 20 sisters fighting for each other and it did not matter if you played or not…you were important and supportive. The staff was also totally tied into our vision and dream. You just don’t beat the world unless you have that component!

From a technical standpoint, we won because we were the best defensive team in the tournament. We gave up 3 goals and 2 were in 1 game (0-2 lost to China). In that game, I started 6 different players because we had already qualified for the quarterfinals and unless we lost big and France won big would still win our group. By resting players who had played a lot of minutes and protecting players from getting their 2nd yellow card and having to sit a game; we shortened the tournament from 6 games to 5 games for key players and that helped in the Final.

We also won because we had two strikers that played their best soccer at the right time. Sydney Leroux and Alex Morgan scored 10 of our 12 goals and that is a very serious 1-2 punch to our opponents. In the Final vs N. Korea…they each scored and that was what we needed to defeat an excellent N. Korea team.

Our biggest shortcoming was that we were college fit but not international fit. What I mean is that in college, you can come out in the 1st half and re-enter in the 2nd half and in the 2nd half you can come out and then go back in. Many of my top U20 players played 60-70 minutes in their college games but internationally, I only have 3 substitutes and no re-entry so, at least 8 of the players have to go all 90 minutes. When you play 6 international games in 19 days…that is not easy.

So, in the Final vs N. Korea and also in the semi-final vs Germany…our players were not able to compete, late in the game, at the level they need to learn to compete at internationally.

No worries…I am incredibly proud of them and they did what most experts didn’t give us much chance to do and that was to win the GOLD. We beat every team in the final four because we beat France in group play and then Germany and N. Korea in the semi-final and Final respectively.

The N. Koreans are an interesting people. They seemed to be angry all the time and carried a big chip on their shoulder throughout the tournament. They would not shake our hands at the end of the game and never smiled. They committed 70 fouls (that were called) leading up to the final and were only fouled 40 times. To compare, the USA committed 35 fouls in 5 games leading up to the final.

After the game, I tried to shake the coaches hands but they just walked in the other direction. Clearly, they were never in the running for the FIFA Fair Play Award.

When we got back to the hotel our team met the Germans at a local club and the two teams had great fun together. The Germans were a class act even though we ended their Gold medal dream. They created a receiving line that our players passed through on the way to receive our Gold Medals…the N. Koreans took off to the side and ignored us.

By the way, the USA team collected the Gold Medal; the FIFA Fair Play Award; the Best Goalkeeper Award; the top and 2nd best player award, called the Golden and Silver Ball and the top scorer and 3rd scorer award called the Golden Boot and Bronze Boot awards. Pretty impressive.

Tonight, we will fly on a red-eye; land in LA and everyone will rush to their gates. I have done this before and all of a sudden it hits you that, as a team, we will NEVER be together again. It will be emotional…but I will remind them that we are linked FOREVER and have changed each other’s lives for the best.

We should all be proud of this team…because they represent what makes America special. In their own way (through soccer) they showed the world that Americans are good people; respective; polite; hard working; creative and not to be easily dismissed or defeated. I love America and I love this team…

The 2008 FIFA U20 World Champions.

Tony


U20’s Win World Cup!

Jeff Pill's Blog
12/11/2008—In case you haven’t been watching, our U20 National Team won the Youth World Cup. What an accomplishment for head coach Tony DiCicco and his staff. Tony may be the only person who has won both a senior and youth World Cup as a coach. He won this one without having a few players that would have been selected as they chose to play in their college season instead. In my opinion, they were able to accomplish this by being very well organized in defense, and being able to make the most of their finishing opportunities. They played some very difficult opponents, and were able to keep them not only from scoring, but from creating quality finishing opportunities as well.

Two of the key players towards that end were central midfielder Becky Edwards, and goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher. These two players were even more rewarding to watch as I had the privilege of working with them back when they were U14’s and working to get invited to the U14 National Camp. Both players set themselves apart, even at that early age. But, it may be surprising to know that it was not for the “normal” reasons. At that early age, oftentimes a player’s effectiveness is determined by their size and/or speed and power. If you watch a typical U14 game, players are often solving the problems that the game presents with their athleticism. They don’t try to “figure out a solution”, they just work harder and “bull their way through”, using their superior size and strength as a weapon. In this case, I was always impressed with Becky’s ability to think on the field. She always responded to the problems presented in training, and figured out ways to compete and win.

I remember a conversation that I had with one of the selecting coaches about Becky. He was trying to make the point that he did not think that she was going to be able to compete at the regional level because she lacked size and speed. I would point to the fact that her “soccer brain” more than compensated for these areas of weakness. Plus, and perhaps more importantly, her whole approach to the process, her attitude and determination, willed her to succeed! She believed in herself and the process towards excellence that she was willing to engage in. She always seemed to believe that she could get better, despite the fact that she did not ALWAYS make the various teams that she was trying out for. I think that she always BELIEVED that she would make it!

Alyssa too showed amazing abilities early on. However, one memory that I have of her seemed to represent her special qualities as a player. At first, she was a bit “raw” with her technique. True, she was wearing her special goalkeeper gear, but she did not “dive” like a goalkeeper, or really “catch” like a goalkeeper. All she did well was keep the ball out of the goal (not a bad ability to have as a keeper by the way!) We were playing a small sided game during training, just playing hard and seeing how we could challenge each other. For a short time, Alyssa was the only keeper that we had, so I quickly jumped in the other goal. The first time I made a save, I quickly looked up and saw that she was off of her line, so I quickly put the ball down and took a shot, trying to “chip her”. Flopping back, she not only made the save, but sort of parried the ball up in the air, and caught it on her way back down to earth. Standing she yells out, “You can do that?” After I asked, “Why not!?” she then proceeded to invent another little “side competition”, where added to the real game that we were playing, was this one-on-one dual going on between us. She was improvising, inventing ways that she could try to beat me. In fact, her creativity started to come out… in startling ways. In short, we saw this amazing ability to do whatever she could to win. She claimed total ownership in the process. She was willing to try new things. Her SPIRIT was unflappable!

Two lessons, from two different players. Both taking what they brought to the game, and perfecting it. Both working hard to correct their weaknesses (just watch them play and you can see why they are World Champions). Both finding a way to meet the demands of the game. They stand as shining examples for all of us! I hope they wear their gold medals to take their final exams back at college!


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