Michigan Tigers FC 2007 Boys Gold (MI) currently sits in third place in the US Youth Soccer Great Lakes Conference 14U Boys Premier I Division. The Tigers are undefeated with four wins and two ties, including a recent exciting draw against division leader Hoosier FC 2007 Elite Wolves (IN).
The Michigan side is likely to finish in the Top 2 of the Premier I Division. They are well-balanced and receiving contributions from all of their players, including 13-year-old Chloe Ricketts — a female player holding her own in the league. We spoke to Chloe, head coach Andy Pritchard and teammate Benny Rolla-Mullis about their team and Ricketts’ impact on the club.
Note: These interviews have been edited and arranged for clarity.
Andy Pritchard, Head Coach, Michigan Tigers 07 Boys
We have a phenomenal team. Most of the kids we have — about 95% — are all from the Ann Arbor area. We’ve got so many talented, creative players on the team, and this year we’ve got Chloe within the group. She is now able to play in the National League and is killing it against some of the best boys players in the nation. She is a unique talent. She can run with the boys and, athletically, she hangs easily in the top percentage of it. She is very, very creative and can beat players one v. one, scores goals and is just an aggressive player.
Chloe Ricketts, Player, Michigan Tigers 07 Boys
The competition is great. There are a lot of great players, and the teams are really good. The speed of play is really fast. So far, I really like it. I think the boys play faster than the girls and play shorter passes, but I don’t think they’re as aggressive as the girls.
Benny Rolla-Mullis, Player, Michigan Tigers 07 Boys
It’s very fun because it’s good competition. I get to travel with our team, and I think our team is very close. We go out to team dinners and stuff. As far as the competition, there are some very good players and very good teams. It helps us to improve and as we can keep on moving forward, it will just keep making us better.
Traveling with the team is really fun because the competition is really good. We get to play a lot of games and lots of tournaments. I think we have really good team chemistry and work well together, and play well on the field together.
I’ve actually known most of the players since I was 7. So, it has been easy jumping in with them, and it’s really fun to play with them.
Chloe played with Michigan Tigers when she was younger, then she went away to find a place where she could play at the highest level. Just this past year, her dad reached out saying she was looking for a team. She ended up playing with a couple of the boys in some pickup games. She did some social distance training with us, which she kills because she’s very technical. As soon as we were able to go full contact, she just killed it. She has integrated with the team really nicely and is growing every game.
This is the first year she’s played with us, but some of us knew her earlier. She’s a great part of our team. Since she has known us from playing at the club when she was younger, she fits right in with the chemistry. When she started, she told us she wanted to be treated the same as all of our other teammates, so she just started blending in with us.
Some opponents have for sure been surprised by her. In a couple of our games, she would just do a move on somebody and they’d look at each other like, “Wow, that was a really good move.” They underestimate her, but she’s super physical. She works very hard, so she adds intensity to our team. If the other team has the ball in our end, she’ll work really hard to get it back for us.
I think some of my strengths would be that I have a good work ethic and good on-the-ball skills. I look up to Allan Saint-Maximin. I think he plays a lot like me, and he has lots of skills. He plays for Newcastle United right now. I have been watching professional soccer basically since I started playing. I enjoy watching because it helps my soccer IQ and helps me to have better movement when I’m on the field.
The player she reminds me of, I would probably say Neymar. Her footwork is very good. She’s very skillful and can read the field very well.
I haven’t seen another female play at the level we’re playing at in Michigan. In some younger age groups, I know there are definitely girls on other male teams. I am sure there are examples, but I can’t think of one right now. Her being able to play with this group is pretty phenomenal, and she’s definitely a special player.