Please Credit: Angel City Football Club
Just three months ago, Becki Tweed found herself in an unfortunately similar position: the head coach of her team left the club following a string of poor team performances. In 2022 it was Scott Parkinson departing NJ/NY Gotham FC and now it was Freya Coombe parting ways with Angel City FC.
Although similar, there was one substantial difference this time. While Tweed maintained her assistant role at Gotham, Angel City offered her the chance to lead the club through the back half of the season, maybe even to a spot in the National Women’s Soccer League playoffs.
“I didn’t need to think about it, I just said yes,” Tweed told The Equalizer. “You can never feel ready. I’ve always said from the start of my career that I want to be a coach that walks into a job because it’s right for the environment and the players, not just because I want a job.”
Two days later, the newly-minted interim coaching led Angel City to a 2-1 victory over in-state rivals San Diego Wave FC. The morning before the game, sitting in the hotel with her team, Tweed was feeling optimistic about their chances against the Wave. With the deck stacked against them, the team had something to prove.
“You don’t have time to think about these things, you just get straight into it, do it, and learn as you go. I’d lie if I said I wasn’t nervous, because I was,” Tweed said. “I was really proud of everybody’s effort, how everybody pulled together that week, players and staff. It’s never easy when you lose your head coach. You have to go into business mode, and that’s exactly what we did.”
Since Tweed took over, Angel City has gone ten games unbeaten and now sits in eight place with a viable route to a playoff spot.
Secret to success
From the start, Tweed wanted to make sure her players always felt challenged, well coached, and set up to be the best versions of themselves. For her, this means having difficult conversations and keeping lines of communication open.
“The relationships you build with players are really important for trust, and buy-in is really important. We’ve talked about this heavily as a group,” Tweed explained. “It’s ok to not like your role every week, but you must be the same person. There are 26 players in the room, you can’t all be in the eleven, or score the winning goal, or be the impact player. Your role may change every week, but it should never come as a surprise.”
General Manager Angela Hucles Mangano and Interim Head Coach Becki Tweed share their thoughts on approaching the second half of the season. pic.twitter.com/2laQDXLOa0
— Angel City FC (@weareangelcity) June 16, 2023
Tweed prides herself on expecting transparency and vulnerability from herself, her staff, and her players. “There should always be a level of conversation and honesty so that everybody knows they are respected and knows where they’re at,” Tweed said. “It’s been really, really important to me to build relationships with players in that sense.”
Tweed’s own secret to success is to never stop learning. From a long career coaching youth players, to her time in the NWSL, Tweed knows there is always more to learn.
“You can learn in any environment, whether it’s from a 10-year-old youth player or someone who has won a World Cup,” she said.
To find success with Angel City, Tweed has applied all of the lessons she’s learned from her coaching career, which started in 2010 when she moved from England to New Jersey.
“I have been lucky enough to work with every single age level possible in my coaching career, and I think that has been really important for me for relationship building and problem solving,” Tweed said. “As a female coach, I’ve had to face some moments where I could have just walked away and quit. I probably didn’t realize it at the time, but those are the moments where I grew as a person both on and off the field.”
An adjusted Angel City
Since taking over Angel City, the club has significantly improved defensively, allowing only 0.7 goals per game compared with 1.85 under Coombe. The goalkeepers have also improved, increasing their saves per game from 3.3 to 3.8. According to Tweed, the team makes sure to celebrate individual performances that lead to the team’s success and create a training environment where players can compete, grow, and trust in one another on game day.
“We play a fairly high-pressing, aggressive style that requires every person to feel like they know their role and can execute it,” Tweed said. “We talk a lot about becoming a little bit more resilient. We recognize what we’ve been through so we can prepare for every single possible factor. This changes the preparation and mentality of players’ willingness to defend.”
In addition to a stronger defensive unit, Tweed has also taken more advantage of her deep roster and utilized substitution windows than her predecessor.
“We’ve been successful against Portland and North Carolina because we weren’t afraid, we stayed true to who we are, and pressed how we want to press – but it’s hard to be a high-pressing player for 90 minutes with eleven players,” Tweed said. “Playing 60 quality minutes and having somebody else come in and share the load with you allows the team’s success. If you get selfish and base your success on whether you’re starting or playing 90 minutes, that’s not team success. Team success is how we share the load between 26 people so that we can all be successful in our positions.”
Pointing to her rotated squad with the ability to interchange in many positions including defenders and even goalkeepers, Tweed says that this Angel City team understands that different games require different things, and they can find success by playing to their collective strengths.
“That’s the joy of having such depth,” Tweed said. “It’s not pushing people to perform at 60% of their best because they’re exhausted, you’re actually getting the best out of everyone.”
Tweed attributes much of her success to her support system, including goalkeeping coach Daniel Ball and assistant coach Eleri Earnshaw.
“Dan is one of the few people that is able to hold me accountable, tell me how it is, and help me in my personal development every day,” Tweed said. “I also don’t think Eleri is spoken about enough in the league. She’s level headed, intelligent, and keeps me the best version of me.”
The right coach for the moment
As Tweed and her team look forward to their last four games, the focus stays the same. “It was never about getting a certain amount of points to get over the line, it was always, who do we play this weekend and how can we beat them? We just go game by game, week by week, and try to be the best versions of ourselves,” Tweed explained. “That’s been the real key. We’re not looking ahead, we’re just looking at ourselves and controlling what we control.”
With the season wrapping up, question marks hang over her and the team’s future. Fans have not held back their calls to name Tweed as the full head coach, and Tweed is grateful to be embraced by the city’s dedicated supporters.
“The city of LA is just incredible and the atmosphere at home games is something you have to experience,” Tweed said. “You can’t do this without the support of the fans. I’m flattered [by their support] and it’s a privilege to lead the team at this point.”
“I said at the start that for me it’s not about the job and the title. For me, it’s about what is best for this club and group of players to help them be successful,” Tweed said. “Am I the right person for it? Only time will tell, but I’m super focused right now on game to game, on continuing this streak, and pushing this team to bigger and better things. That will be my focus between now and whatever decision is made.”