Indeed, the powerful team has come a long way since its first season with head coach Mike Kelley at the U13 level. Anderson has come so far that she’s headed to Cal in the fall as one of the country’s very best young goalkeepers.
In this its final season together, the 2001 Mustang ECNL team has enjoyed a memorable run. Three years ago, the team which currently boasts an impressive 22 college-bound players advanced to the U-15 ECNL National Final Four in Maryland. At U-16 it made it to the Final Eight, and then last season it was back in the Final Four in Richmond, Va., falling only to the eventual national champion.
“It’s been a good run the last three years. We’ve gotten deep into it every time” Kelley says. “We’re hoping to do the same this year; we’ve got one last chance at it (June 25-July 1 in San Diego).”
What a glorious rise it’s been for Anderson, a U-17 national team standout who was picked to the Top XI three straight times at ECNL Nationals. A top at Carondelet High, she started out as a Mustang field player/goalkeeper and has developed into a brilliantly skilled, 6-foot-tall netminder, articulate and poised. She commands the penalty area.
“I think I’m a natural leader, too. I think that’s probably helped take me to the next level,” says Anderson of her playing style. “I’d say I’m really composed on the ball, playing with my feet especially. I think distribution out of the back is one of my strengths, which I think kind of sets me apart from other goalkeepers.”
Anderson seems to love all aspects of Mustang Soccer. She says it feels “like home” every time she walks through the complex in Danville.
“Aside from the soccer piece, Mustang has been one of the greatest experiences of my life,” Anderson says. “Being able to meet the coaches and the staff there is one thing, but they’ve also introduced me to amazing teammates and have really helped me make my best friends. I think that above all else is something that I’m forever gonna be grateful to Mustang for, just for helping me create those relationships.”
On the field it’s been extra special as well for her.
“I’ve learned tremendously as a player through being at Mustang,” she says. “Just the exposure that they give us as players, especially in trying to get recruited for colleges, has been amazing. All the showcases. All the effort they put into our individual growth and how they nurture our individual goals while still being on a team and trying to win and trying to make the program and the club successful.”
Kelley, the Mustang ECNL director, describes Anderson as “athletic, super smart and definitely one of the more coachable kids that I’ve had. You can talk to her like she’s an adult. She gets it and understands.”
Anderson’s ascension into the national program revved up after she was among some Mustang players who went to Japan a few years ago with Kelley. She helped the USA to the 2018 CONCACAF Women’s U-17 Championship, playing in four of the five matches as the USA qualified for the 2018 FIFA Women’s World Cup in November, where she was the starting keeper and team captain. The Carondelet star will probably train with the U20 squad in June.
Like so many Americans, Anderson, who cites USA legend Abby Wambach and Cristiano Ronaldo as her favorite players, will be tuned in the Women’s World Cup in France (June 7-July 7) -- a very big stage she’s not far removed from as a player. She’ll be cheering, of course, for Team USA.
“It’s always so much fun watching them, but now especially that I know more of what it’s like to actually go and compete at a World Cup, it’s gonna make it that much more special for me watching as a fan,” says Anderson. “I’m super excited. They’ll do great, I’m sure of it.”
Can she envision herself out there?
“That’s definitely the path that we’ve been set on being on the youth national team, to eventually play on the full team, and I think that could be a viable goal for me if I really, really decide that’s what I want to do,” she says. “But honestly, at this point I’m just really focusing on finishing out this club season and then getting into college and just kind of seeing where it takes me from there. I’m not thinking that far in advance.”
Clearly, Anderson can’t wait to be a Golden Bear. Kelley expects her to start right away at Cal.
“I’m excited. It can’t come soon enough,” she says. “These last months of high school seem like they’re going by very slowly, but I’m so excited to move in, get going at Cal. I’ve met a lot of girls on the team and I’ve known Coach Neil (McGuire) and the coaches for a long time now … It already feels like it’s my family already. I’m excited to start training hard with older girls and amazing coaches. I think it’s gonna be great.”
Anderson can’t give the Mustang coaching staff enough credit for where she stands today.
“Every coach I’ve had I know that they’re there for my best interests as a human being first and foremost, but as a soccer player they’re there, 100 percent every step of the way, and I’m so grateful for that,” she says.
DREAM TEAM: Kelley has seen the 2001 ECNL team come of age.
“It’s been fun for me as a coach too,” he said of the team’s evolution. “You get a team when they were like 12 years old and you go through the ups and downs with the players and with the parents. Do they trust in where you’re going and how things are moving? It’s not like we just had success in the beginning, it was definitely a process.
"We were able to find a way to make it click. Ever since then this group has been the most fun to coach, more at training than anything. They take it seriously. They like it. They’re competitive every day and it shows in their games … It’s been super fun. It’s gonna be hard to let them go. It’s definitely a special one for sure.”
OF WONDO AND SOCCER ROOTS: Kelley, in his 13th year with Mustang, grew up in the Concord/Walnut Creek area and was club teammates with Earthquakes forward and all-time leading scorer Chris Wondolowski. Kelley played college ball at Sonoma State. He and his wife just celebrated the birth of their third child, Colette.