FRISCO, Texas – Thirty-three years after competing in the inaugural girls’ division of the Dallas Cup as a player, FC Dallas Junior Academy Director Ashley Gordon is leading her U-19 team to the final of this year’s Dallas Cup Girls Invitational at Toyota Stadium.
Gordon’s soccer journey began like it does for many of us, playing in a recreational league as a child. From there, she went on to win a State championship at Duncanville High School before playing collegiately at SMU, where she competed against U.S. soccer legends including Mia Hamm and Kristine Lilly.
But playing the game wasn’t her sole passion. Gordon began coaching during her SMU days, assisting Dallas soccer icons like Bobby Moffat and Schellas Hyndman at summer camps “just to have meal money”.
“As a young player still playing collegiately, I just got involved in the coaching side and loved it,” Gordon told FCDallas.com.
Although she continued playing at the semiprofessional level after college, Gordon began pursuing her coaching career seriously.
“I made sure I surrounded myself with the best coaches in the metroplex like my brother Chris Hayden (who’s now FCD VP of Youth Soccer), Chris Ring (now FCD’s Girls Director of Coaching), Aaron Gordon (her now husband) and Tom Durkin,” she said. “I really just surrounded myself with coaches who I could learn from and that really drove me to get my (U.S. Soccer) Federation "A" license.
“I wanted to learn from people and take the next step in terms of coaching, because I really just loved it. Once I got into coaching, I truly felt like I was playing the best soccer I’d ever played because I was seeing it from a different point of view. Going through the education part, obtaining my (coaching) license, really helped me grow as a player.”
After coaching at various youth clubs in the DFW area, Gordon made her jump to the collegiate level, becoming head coach at Richland Junior College where she led its women’s program to the NJCAA Division III National Championship in 2006. The achievement earned her Coach of the Tournament and NSCAA Coach of the Year accolades. Her success at the junior college level opened the door to a move to Texas Tech alongside her husband, Aaron, whom she met in ’91 while coaching at another summer camp.
The husband and wife coaching duo spent five seasons with the Red Raiders, helping them to a school-record 16 wins and appearance in the Big 12 Tournament semifinals in 2012. Later that year, the Gordons moved on to coach at Mississippi State University before returning to DFW and FC Dallas in 2017.
In addition to being FCD’s Junior Academy Director, Gordon is head coach of its U-19 and U-13 ECNL teams. In terms of her own coaching philosophy, Gordon believes it’s how you approach the game and tailoring it to the individual: “I think from a coaching standpoint, if your players feel the passion that you have for the game and love for the game, then your players will see that,” she explained. “If you can find a way to motivate a player regardless of their personality, because you can’t coach every player the same way, everybody reacts to different things. As a coach you really have to find how you’re going to reach that kid.”
There’s a sense of poetic coincidence that Gordon played in the first Dallas Cup to field girls’ teams back in ’88 (the run only lasted eight years before returning to an all-boys tournament). However, after 24 year, the 2021 tournament features the Dallas Cup Girls Invitational presented by Mary Kay, where Gordon is leading her U-19 FCD team.
Gordon’s girls topped their bracket with two wins and a draw before storming to a 9-1 victory in the semifinal. The team will now face Crossfire Premier U-19 ECNL team in the final on Thursday, April 1 at 4PM at Toyota Stadium and will be broadcast on ESPN3.
Win or lose, it’s already been an incredible journey.
“It’s rewarding to see these players grow – not just as soccer players – but grow into young women who can be confident, assertive and successful in life,” Gordon said. Looking back at it, I’ve stayed in contact with players that I coached when I got into club coaching right when I got out of college. Just being able to see my players grow into fine young women is so powerful.”