Anna Smith establishes herself as standout U-14 keeper
August 27, 2013
By Neil Pierson
Most eighth-graders will settle into their routines at school in mid-September, but 13-year-old Anna Smith will be off on another soccer adventure.
Smith, an eighth-grader at Beaver Lake Middle School, is considered one of the top under-14 players in the country. She’s been invited to participate in the U.S. U-14 girls national team camp in Carson, Calif., from Sept. 14-21.
Smith, goalkeeper for the Redmond-based Crossfire Premier club, is making her name known with the nation’s top coaches. Only 36 players, including four keepers, have been invited to California next month.
“It’s an honor to be able to play for my country,” Smith said. “I’ve always wanted to get into that program, and it’s what I’ve been working hard for.”
Smith has been challenging herself for years against older athletes. Richard Reece, who coaches Smith with the Crossfire U-14 squad, noted that she’s not only competing regularly against girls a year older, but has also trained with U-16 and U-18 teams — boys and girls.
Reece, who was a professional net minder in his native England, considers Smith one of the top keepers on the West Coast. He’s worked with her for three years and has seen her blossom into a “phenomenal athlete” through her relentless work ethic.
“In the last 10 years, I’ve had 16 players make the national team, and she’s potentially the best of them all,” Reece said. “She’s young, but she could be a very special talent.”
Smith has been to several regional training camps through Washington’s Olympic Development Program, and she also boosted her visibility among national-team scouts in July at the Elite Clubs National League finals in Richmond, Va.
Crossfire Premier qualified for the event as one of the top-16 teams in the country, and went 2-2 to place sixth. They’re currently ranked ninth nationally among U-14 squads, and much of that is due to Smith’s leadership and skill.
“She covers a lot of the goal, and her hands are very good,” Reece said. “That sets her apart from most females.”
Smith believes she can improve several aspects of her game, including footwork and distributing the ball to others. She’s the Crossfire captain, a role she gladly accepts even though she’s younger than her teammates.
“In ECNL, we’re always traveling down to different places, going down to California, staying in hotels,” Smith said, “so it’s always just making sure everybody is stretching when they need to stretch and icing when they need to ice. I’m just kind of making sure everybody stays focused and gets our job done.”
Reece said she’s more into leading by example than yelling or dictating. She hasn’t wilted when the team needs her most.
“She’ll embrace the pressure of it and not let it get to her,” Reece said. “If it’s a big game, she’ll come up with a big save that’ll change the tide of the game.”
If Smith continues making hay at the national team camp, she could put herself in line for bigger things, like a spot on the U.S. U-15 squad, which competes internationally.
Smith has one year left at Beaver Lake before she’ll attend Skyline High School. She hasn’t decided whether she’ll play for the Spartans, but the demands of club soccer and elite training make it increasingly likely she won’t.
She said she has her eyes on an eventual collegiate career, and if things work out, national-team duties. She calls soccer “a full-time job,” but it’s an enjoyable task, not a chore.
“We get breaks now and then, but I love it, and it’s something I always want to do,” Smith said. “I have big dreams with it, so it’s awesome just to go out there and work hard every day.”