Determination and tough love nets her berth on World Cup team
Julie Armstrong's career chronology has been anything but logical.
The 18-year-old from Ladner was one of 21 players named Wednesday to the Canadian side set to compete in the under-20 women's World Cup in Chile this month.
Head coach Ian Bridge made the announcement before a training session in Richmond, and the team leaves Monday to prepare for their Nov. 20 opener against Japan.
Armstrong already has six senior caps, trailing only Olympian Jonelle Filigno on this squad, but that statistic belies her involvement with the national program. Suiting up with the senior team at the Four Nations Tournament in China in January was Armstrong's first appearance for Canada at any level. She didn't even play provincial team soccer before U-16 and was never a part of the National Training Centre program.
"Sometimes there are players who come up at certain times [and] quickly progress," said Bridge, who took over the U-20 reins from Bob Birarda after the CSA and Vancouver Whitecaps announced a mutual parting with Birarda in early October.
"These players get thrown into a high level and they thrive. Put them in an even higher level and they thrive again. Julie's that kind of player."
Armstrong said it wasn't a case of being passed over before this year. Her story is not about selection politics or bias. She simply had to make a decision to commit to the sport, and that mental shift, combined with tough love from Birarda, led to her rapid rise.
"My mindset changed last September," said Armstrong, a strong, target-type forward who can hold the ball up. "It was just a matter of determination. I was like, 'I want this really bad.'
"I went into [Whitecaps] residency last year and we trained four times a week. [Birarda] just pushed me. When I practiced and it wasn't a good practice, he pulled me aside and said 'That's not good enough, you need to step it up.'
"When I get a challenge, I want to overcome it. Not just easily, but put my stamp on things."
Armstrong, originally from Dundee, Scotland, is one of five B.C. players on the team, joining Paige Adams of Port Coquitlam, Stephanie Panozzo of Maple Ridge, Shannon Woeller of Vancouver and 17-year-old Monica Lam-Feist of Surrey.
Fifteen players are holdovers from the side that won the CONCACAF under-20 title in Mexico in June, beating the U.S. in the final.
That experience, coupled with a September trip to Chile that should help with acclimation, have the group ready to challenge for a medal.
Canada won silver as a host in 2002 but have since placed fifth and ninth.
"We set a goal of playing for a medal," said Bridge. "A high goal for sure, but this team has had some exciting results this year."
After facing Japan, Canada's other Group C matches are against DR Congo on Nov. 23 and Germany on Nov. 27. The top two teams in the group advance with the tournament wrapping up on Dec. 7.
© The Vancouver Province 2008