Becky Edwards does not turn 26 until next month but already has a résumé deep enough to make her one of the Houston Dash's natural leaders and among the most experienced players.
The midfielder joined the Dash from Portland Thorns FC, who are Saturday's opponents at BBVA Compass Stadium in the franchise's inaugural NWSL match (7 p.m. CT, TICKETS).
Before signing with Portland, Edwards won the WPS championship in 2010 with FC Gold Pride, then joined Western New York Flash and took the title again the following year. She has also played in Sweden, captained the U.S. Under-20 team to victory in the 2008 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Chile and represented the Under-23 side.
"She's been around the block, she's played internationally, she's played here in the States, won championships and a lot of people don't realize that she won a World Cup with the U-20s and was captain. So she's got a wealth of experience to bring to the team," said Dash head coach Randy Waldrum.
"I try to make the others feel comfortable," Edwards told HoustonDashSoccer.com on Tuesday during the Season Kickoff Luncheon event at BBVA Compass Stadium. "My role is to give players that confidence and to lead by example … It's also about looking after your teammates and making sure they're excited as well and not nervous, especially with a young team."
Some nerves would be understandable—and probably inevitable—ahead of the Dash's first-ever competitive match, which happens to be against last year's NWSL champions. Edwards unluckily missed the majority of Portland's run to the title after she suffered a knee injury in training last June and underwent surgery. Until then she had played every minute of the first ten games of the season.
"I've played two 90-minute matches so far this preseason and I'm feeling good. I came in fit and I feel strong and ready to go," she said. The former Florida State University standout kept busy despite her injury and was named the Thorns' 2013 community player of the year.
Like the other Dash players, Edwards has embraced the opportunity to get involved with the community and grow a fanbase for the brand-new franchise since she arrived in Houston via the expansion draft. "We're working hard to build relationships in the community," she said.
"So far the fans have been very welcoming. We're almost at a sell-out [on Saturday], I hope we'll get a sell-out and I hope we can continue to carry that on. We'll provide a product on the field and I hope that fans see that and come out to these games."
Starting from scratch at short notice, Waldrum has only had a month's worth of training sessions to prepare the team for Saturday. As he attempts gradually to mold the Dash into serious contenders, he has in Edwards a player who knows exactly the kind of qualities a title-winning team needs.
"The most important ingredients are team chemistry, hard work, organization. I think those are three of the main aspects to what we need. I think we have the character, we have the willingness to work hard here in this team and Randy's done a great job of being a leader and putting it together. I think we have the personnel to make it work and to work hard for each other so I like what I see so far," she said.
A big crowd and a sense of occasion should help inspire the Dash on Saturday but Edwards is under no illusions about the scale of the task as she prepares to face her former club.
"We've had some great preseason matches against good college teams … the Thorns are going to be better than the college teams we've played against and we know that but we'll be prepared for it," she said.
"There've been a lot of changes to the team, lots of new players and the coach. They're a talented, talented team. They're going to be organized. I think we're going to have to have our 'A' game and I really believe that we will have that and I'm excited. It's going to be a great challenge."