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BRIAN WHITEHEAD, STAFF
El Modena High junior Sydney Carr is one of Orange County's leading goal scorers. She recently committed to play college soccer at UC Irvine. "She's our leader from the front," Vanguards coach Doug Franco said. "The kind of girl who will pull the rest of our players up with her."

El Modena's Carr emerges as a force on soccer field

STAFF WRITER

Don’t let the charm and easy smile fool you, Sydney Carr is your worst nightmare.

With feet so skillful and situational aggression matched by few of her contemporaries, it’s no wonder El Modena's rising junior is one of Orange County’s leading goal scorers.

Three years a letter winner with another season to cultivate her craft, Carr’s dynamite on the soccer field, a fleet-footed forward never more than two steps and one swift boot away from detonating.

But she wasn’t always a dream wrecker.

“It’s a funny story,” Carr begins. “The first time I went to soccer practice, you know how shin guards go on first, then your sock? Well, I put my sock on first and my shin guard on the outside. All the girls laughed. That was a rough day.”

Sister to three book-smart brothers, Carr is her family’s outlier.

She danced through childhood, with gymnastics her competitive hobby. The daughter of a family friend once asked her if she had any interest in playing soccer. She didn’t. But her father convinced her to try.

Coordinated as Carr was, her apprenticeship ended early. She found her niche at forward.

“After a while,” she said, “it became natural.”

From recreational leagues to signature and club teams, Carr ascended the ranks, her motor and soccer savvy what coaches look for in up-and-comers.

But as many teams as she joined over the years, she played for her share of lemons.

It was on those teams, however, that Carr said she experimented with her game. One coach started her at center back, so an opportunity arose to practice her ball handling. Carr remembers dribbling around enemy midfielders and defensemen that game, beating the goalie on her only shot.

Great forwards have attitude, she said. Personality.

“You can’t be a quiet leader.”

***

Carr started her freshman year at El Modena, and recently admitted to being somewhat of a ball hog.

“I thought I was the only one who could do something,” she said. “I didn’t have any faith in my teammates.”

El Modena under former coach Josh Brooks finished near the bottom of the Century League in 2014, but Carr said letter winners Spencer Whitcher and Cambria Smith taught her how valuable trust between teammates can be on the pitch.

Last year’s Vanguards won more games than their predecessor, but again missed the playoffs. Carr led the team in scoring and rarely left the field as Brooks’ anchor in the attacking third.

In July, as a member of the Strikers FC Elite Clubs National League Girls Under-17 team, she helped capture the Gold Division championship at the Soccerloco San Diego Surf Cup.

“Sydney’s one of those special players that makes a difference in so many ways,” said Doug Franco, now El Modena's coach. “She competes. She plays with passion. And as great as she is in games, she’s even better in practice. She doesn’t just go through the motions. You don’t see that too often with great players.

“But Sydney wants to do everything she possibly can to get better.”

Formerly the boys soccer coach at El Toro, Franco commends Carr’s attention to detail.

His assistant coaches played soccer in college, and say there’s always something Carr could do better. She knows this, too, but truth is, as good as she already is, getting even the slightest bit better can feel like a chore at times.

But Carr has plenty left to learn.

In addition to playing for Strikers, Carr is a member of the Olympic Development Program, a youth pipeline for U.S. national teams. After recently touring UC Irvine, she committed to play for longtime Anteaters coach Scott Juniper.

“She just doesn’t stop playing,” Franco said.

Carr needn’t watch the ball rip the back of the net to know she’s scored.

Most of her goals occur once she’s weaved through an enemy defensive line. Crafty as she is with the ball at the feet, opposing goalies have little hope of stopping her in one-on-one showdowns.

Carr said she can get too fancy dribbling in the penalty box, but for the most part “I let the ball do its work,” she said.

El Modena under Franco already is approaching last season’s totals for wins and goals scored.

Carr is but one of 11, of course, and her position requires the work of others. No matter how badly she wants to, Carr can’t do it all.

Won’t stop her from trying, though.

“She always wants to win,” Franco said. “It’s not just about playing, but being successful, being her best.”

Contact the writer: 714-704-3790 or bwhitehead@ocregister.com


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