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Longtime area coach tabbed to lead U.S. U20 women | Community sports news

Michelle French becomes the new head coach of the U.S. Women
Michelle French becomes the new head coach of the U.S. Women's U-20 team.
— image credit: Courtesy photo, Eastside FC

For the past eight years, Michelle French has split duty between the United States Soccer youth national teams and local select club Eastside FC, which features many of the area's top players.

Beginning on Friday her mission will become singular: take the United States Women's U20 team to the World Cup in Canada.

French was named the head coach of the U.S. Women's U20 side last week after spending nearly a decade working with the program as a youth coaching assistant and will travel with her squad to Spain on Friday. Her task is to build an experienced staff, identify the nation's best under-20 players and turn them into a cohesive unit capable of taking on the world's best.

"It's an honor and a responsibility," French said. "You never know when you're going to have that opportunity so when you get it, you have to grab hold of it."

While the upcoming opportunity is certainly a prestigious one, French said leaving an Eastside FC program that helped build her coaching philosophy will be difficult. Unlike the squads she coached at the club level, her U20 squad will feature collegiate-aged women with much more experience on and off the field than the teenagers she worked with perviously.

"The best part of coaching club soccer was the friendships and relationships with the parents and families," she said. "Winning a game or a tournament is great, but I will always remember and cherish the relationships."

French takes the reins of a U-20 team that won the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in 2012 over Germany and will look to defend its title in Canada in August of 2014.

The national pride that comes with putting on the country's colors will be nothing new to French, who spent 10 years in the national program and is one of the most decorated players in the game. But the chance to do so as a head coach is sure to carry a different level of emotion as the leader of the country and game's next generation.

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