BOISE — Avery McBride listens to “Don’t Stop Believin’” before every game.
Journey’s most enduring song suits the Boise Thorns U-15 girls soccer player. The forward’s firm beliefs in herself and others has given Boise a chance to make history at this week’s U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships in Overland Park, Kansas. No Idaho team, boys or girls, has ever won a U.S. Youth national title.
Boise opens up Group A play against the Philadelphia SC Coppa Swarm 04 at 6 a.m. MDT today.
“She’s absolutely one of the leaders of this team,” Boise Thorns U-15 girls coach Jason Vittrup said. “Avery is a very special player and we haven’t had too many forwards in our club like her.
“It’s not just what she does on the field with her ability to dribble in one direction before going in a complete circle and ending up on the complete opposite side of the field. But it’s that she has the right kind of attitude as well, and I think that’s arguably more important. I’ll be honest, had the rules not changed just recently, I don’t think she would still be on the market.”
McBride’s beliefs were tested three years ago. Her play had grown stagnant on the Idaho Rush, a youth soccer club team she had played for since she was 5.
“It wasn’t Idaho Rush or anything. It was me,” McBride said. “I got into a weird groove and wasn’t myself.”
So McBride turned to the person she trusted most. It’s the same person who’s the reason she started playing the game in the first place — her older sister Payton McBride.
Payton was a member of the Boise Thorns, who were FC Nova at the time. The program had turned her into a star at Borah High and a highly-sought after recruit who committed to the University of Utah in 2016. She thought it could do the same for her younger sister.
Avery McBride started alongside Payton at Borah last season as just a freshman. They helped the Lions make it to state for the second straight year and each earned All-5A Southern Idaho Conference honors. Payton was a first-team midfielder, Avery a second-team forward.
McBride, who is transfering to Mountain View High for her sophomore season, has also drawn interest from a multitude of Division I programs like Boise State, Arizona and Utah, where Payton is getting set to make her collegiate debut this fall.
“My sister is like my biggest role model,” McBride said. “She’s never really given up on me. She always supports me and always tells me that I can do it and I can achieve my goals. And I will be forever thankful for that.”
It’s resulted in one of the best seasons by an Idaho club soccer team in history as well.
The Boise Thorns U-15 girls are just the third team from Idaho to qualify for the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships. They join the 2015 U-19 Nova-National girls and the 2013 U-15 Boise Nationals girls as the only other teams.
It’s a feat not thought possible just months earlier. The Thorns were last in the Mountain Division of the Elite Clubs National League standings at 1-6.
But McBride kept them believing. During the slump, she regularly walked out in front of the entire team while it was standing on the line and delivered passionate, rousing speeches.
“We can beat any team with our efforts, our athleticism and our speed,” McBride recounted. “Whoever wants it more will be the top dog at the end and that’s us.”
She was right.
Boise advanced to the finals of the Far West Regional Championships in June. McBride, 15, scored four goals in the tournament, including one in the title game against Utah Celtics FC. She also added an assist in the championship, which the Thorns lost in penalty kicks.
“Avery is very dependable on the field,” center back,” Allyse Bergdolt said. “We can trust her to control the ball and give us opportunities in the box. She’s not afraid to use her speed and skill against opponents. When she’s playing, she never gives up, or is afraid to take risks.”
Since Utah had already qualified for nationals by winning the National League Division, the Thorns still earned the automatic spot.
They will now try and become the fourth national champion to come out of the Gem State. The FC Nova U-16 girls won the U.S. Youth Soccer Presidents National Title and the U.S. Club National Cup in 2011 before the Boise Thorns U-13 girls took home the U.S. Youth Soccer Presidents National Championship last year.
It won’t be easy. Boise’s first game is against a Philadelphia SC Coppa Swarm 04 club that features several members from the U-14 girls U.S. Youth Soccer National Championship runner-up team.
But McBride believes, as evident by the most played song on her Apple playlist.
“I definitely think we can do it. No doubt in my mind,” McBride said. “I’m really excited to put Idaho on the map once again and to raise expectations of Idaho soccer. But no matter what, it’s definitely been a journey.”