By Scott French
Salt Lake United knows it needs only a little offense and it's in good shape. Things are squared away nicely at the back, in greatest part because of the presence of veteran goalkeeper Becca Ritchie, who knows what it takes to win in the Women's Premier Soccer League.
The former Weber State standout already has won a WPSL trophy, backstopping Boston Aztec Breakers Reserves in their run to the title two years ago. She was pivotal for that team and might be even more important for Salt Lake.
She was spectacular as the Utahns captured the West regional title last weekend in San Diego to advance to the WPSL final four in Pensacola, Fla., where host Gulf Coast Texans await in Saturday evening's semifinals. A victory there, and Salt Lake United would play for the national title on Sunday afternoon.
That revives memories of the summer of 2010, when Ritchie trekked to Boston to try out with the Breakers, then a second-year Women's Professional Soccer side. She made the reserve team and had the time of her life.
“It was wonderful,” said Ritchie, who is from Hilton, N.Y., northwest of Rochester. “I went there and didn't know anyone. There were a few players from the Boston area, a player from Japan, a player from England, a player from Australia and from all over the U.S. Just to meet those people and work with them was great. We practiced with the Breakers once a week, and we all knew it was a possibility we could end up with the Breakers.”
She was the all-tournament goalkeeper after the triumph, then returned to Utah, where she was coaching and is preparing for her exam to become a certified public accountant. The business world has taken time away from soccer, but it hasn't dulled her sharpness, although she's not so sure about that.
“I'm definitely a better goalkeeper mentally [as I get older], but not physically,” said Ritchie, whose posted 21 shutouts with 29 victories from 2006 through 2009 at Weber State. “In college you practice every single day. With working and my CPA program, I practice once a week, so definitely not physically.”
Burrows doesn't buy it. The veteran coach says she's the best goalkeeper he's ever worked with, man or woman.
“She brings in every game,” he said. “She can get to balls you have no idea how she got there. And what blows me away is 99 percent of the time, she'll stick it and hold the ball. Balls that normal keepers are palming out, she's catching.”
A lot of that is about maturity, Ritchie says.
“I feel the biggest thing is knowing where to direct your team,” she said. “If I can put them in the right place, direct them, I don't have to do anything.”
And when she does, as she did in San Diego last weekend, no problem. Now she looks to do it again.
“We weren't expected to do well [in the West regional],” Ritchie said. “We're a team that kind of like started from nothing, and there's so much heart, and we play for each other. ... We have to believe in ourselves, that there's nothing that's going to stop up aside from ourselves. Just go in there with confidence and do it.”