Becca Moros has hopped from one dream job to the next. First, as a pro soccer player, then as an assistant coach for Gotham FC in the National Women’s Soccer League, and now as the new head coach of the Arizona Wildcats.
Her fortuitous path hasn’t been lost on her.
“I’d be remiss to say I haven’t had a lot of good luck in my career,” she said.
But luck only partially explains how Moros, 36, got here. She’s confident and ambitious. So much so that when she joined Gotham FC’s coaching staff in 2020, she was up front about her desire to be a head coach someday—and soon. She just didn’t expect it to happen for at least six more months. Florida hiring Tony Amato away from Arizona left the Wildcats with a rare vacancy in late May and Moros leapt at the opportunity.
“They reached out to me, I think some people floated my name by them, and then they did their research and came knocking,” Moros said. “And then it was like, ‘heck yeah, let’s go.’ I think it was a really good fit for both sides.”
Well, depending who you ask. Almost every head soccer coach in the Pac-12 was either the top assistant at another major-conference school or a head coach at a smaller university before taking over their respective programs.
Moros had only been an assistant in the NWSL for two seasons before Arizona brought her on board. She’s now the youngest head coach in the Pac-12 and doesn’t have many roots in the region. She was born in New York and graduated from Duke.
Perhaps her biggest connection to the Conference of Champions is that she played for the Portland Thorns and Utah Royals, or that her agent is based in Phoenix and she had visited the Valley a few times. (Though never Tucson.)
Moros has heard the chatter that she’s unqualified for the Arizona job. That she doesn’t have the experience to be a head coach in a cutthroat conference. She understands it but she doesn’t buy it.
“I mean, I’m a professional athlete, I’ve seen stuff on Twitter my whole career,” she said. “All I can say is that I’m going to be the best coach these players have had and I’m going to give them everything I can.”
The Wildcats and their new leader will open the 2021 season in August, less than three months from the day Moros was hired. It will be a mad dash to get her team into game shape by then. College soccer teams usually only have a few weeks of formal training before their first match.
Fortunately, Moros has a good idea of what she’s stepping into. Among other responsibilities, she helped Gotham FC scout for the NWSL Draft, giving her plenty of opportunities to watch the Wildcats, and the Pac-12 as a whole, on video. She’s aware of Arizona soccer’s upward trajectory and is excited to continue it.
“But also to take it in the direction of my vision and give us an opportunity to hopefully compete at even higher levels in the Pac-12, which I think I‘m really hopeful we’ll be able to do that this season,” she said. “Obviously, there’s some building that takes place, but we have great players, so I feel really confident what we’ll be able to do this year.”
Moros envisions Arizona playing an aggressive, competitive brand of soccer like it did under Amato. The difference, she said, is that her teams will be more possession oriented.
“I think Arizona probably has some of the most direct play in the country, certainly in the Pac-12,” she said. “I like penetrating straight through the middle of the field. I’m not a big fan of this big, C-shaped possession that kind of goes around the backline. I expect players to be intelligent, be able to make great decisions, to keep track of the ball, keep track of the movement of their teammates, recognize where pressure is shifting from, manipulate passing lanes to be able to penetrate into the most dangerous areas, timing of movement is huge to create tiny, little advantages.”
Moros said the Wildcats will spend a lot of time in practice learning how to create numerical advantages and how to exploit them before the other team can close them out.
“So it’s speed of decision making,” she said. “And in that sense, they’ll have a lot of freedom, I don’t limit touches in training. I don’t put a lot of restrictions. I put tactical objectives. I put them in tight spaces. I put them under a lot of pressure and work a ton on any areas that present as limitations.”
Moros isn’t concerned about how to put her vision into action. She said she designed most of Gotham FC’s practice plans and knows what an effective training session entails. The key, she said, is maximizing every minute.
“You can’t assume that you’re just more talented than everybody, right?” she said.
Moros believes Arizona’s personnel—“extremely athletic” and “dynamic”—fits her philosophy nicely. While she has seen her players on video, she’s looking forward to evaluating them in person when they arrive on campus next month. As much as she enjoys poring over film—she’s the type of coach who will rewatch the same game three times to absorb up every nuance she can—nothing can replace the old-fashioned eye test.
“We’ve got a lot of talented players who most of them came from possession clubs before they got to Tucson, so that’s where they were thriving first and that’s how they got recruited, so I think a lot of them are really interested to see what the next level of possession football looks like,” Moros said. “And I think I have some of the best tactics in possession football and I think that they’ll really enjoy that. When you play really direct football, there’s a bit of a ceiling on how far you can go with that and I’m going to take that ceiling off, and we’re going to see just how far we can push.”
In the meantime, Moros’ No. 1 objective is to build trust with her new players. She knows it’s been a tough year for them with COVID and the coaching change. She wants them to know she’s someone they can confide in.
“I‘ve been extremely impressed with their conversations, the questions they’ve had, how they’ve answered my questions,” Moros said. “They’re clearly a really ambitious, competitive group of people both on the field and in the classroom. So I think I’m inheriting a team that’s in an amazing place with really good people and soccer players.”
Moros plans to surround them with a coaching staff that can make up for some of her weaknesses. She acknowledged that she doesn’t have as many recruiting connections as other head coaches or any expertise coaching goalkeepers.
She hoped to have her staff finalized the day she was hired—”I could use some help,” she admitted—but her mentors have reminded her to be patient because “that’s the biggest decision you can make at this point.”
“Obviously you want to work with people who are ambitious and love the game and are passionate, and so that’s sort of something that we have in the office, but also something we take out to the field and create an environment that’s optimal for the players,” Moros said. “But it’s got to be somebody who cares about the players in a big way, who’s going to sacrifice for the team...and somebody who wants to help them develop as good people, both on and off the field.”
Moros is a good role model in her own right. The former defender was an All-American and team captain at Duke, as well as a member of the United States U21 national team before enjoying a long pro career that included six seasons in the NWSL. All those years as a pro allowed her to study the game vigorously and line up with hundreds of elite players and see up-close what makes them tick.
Moros believes she’s built up such a knowledge base that, soccer-wise, “I’m gonna be unrivaled.” Plus, she studied psychology at Duke. If there’s any one who can impart her wisdom to players in ways they can comprehend it, it’s her. In her free time, Moros likes to read about the human mind and how learning actually happens.
She knows it will take on-field success to change the minds of critics. Everything up to this point in her career makes her believe she’s up for the challenge.
“In a year no one will even have that dialogue anymore if we do what we need to do this year,” Moros said. “But if I was going to college, I’d want to play for a coach like me. I’d want to play for someone who’d done it, someone who could say, ‘this isn’t good enough, this is good enough, and this is how we’re going to get there.’ And I can do that.”