LONG-TERM INJURY PUSHES FORWARD ASIA MINOR TO SOAR WITH WASHINGTON SPIRIT - BALTIMORE ARMOUR U-15

By Marc P. Serber

In the lead-up to the 2019 Spring Showcase, we're highlighting a number of stand-out stories across the Academy. First up is Washington Sprirt-Baltimore Armour U-15's Asia Minor. Though an arm injury has impacted her since birth, it has pushed her to reach new heights. You can watch Asia and the Spirit take on Lonestar SC in a feature game on Sunday, April 28 at 1:15 p.m. ET on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Never tell Asia Minor that she can't do something. She will prove you wrong.

The Washington Spirit Academy - Baltimore Armour center back-turned-forward is thriving. All this despite suffering from brachial plexus, an injury Minor sustained at birth when the nerves of her right arm were pulled away from her spinal cord.

To those that have known Minor since she was young, her success on the field is no surprise. Asia has always been out to flip the script. She's been doing it since she was a toddler.

"Ever since she was two-years-old, she was told she couldn't write with her right hand because of the injury," Asia's mom, Dina Minor said. "At that point, she started to try and write with it and kept at it. She could write with her left hand, but she continued to work at writing with her right hand too."

A few years later, when teachers saw that Minor couldn't fully extend her right arm, they told her that the monkey bars were off-limits. Minor just kept working harder until she showed everyone that she was able to glide across them.

Fast forward to the age of 14 and the struggle continues, but it's because of that struggle that Asia is thriving.

"All of those traits- resiliency, commitment and dedication- all made a big difference for her," Dina said. "She was so determined to make sure she proved people wrong and not let them say, 'I can't do something.' She wanted to make sure that 'I can do everything the other kids can do.' If not the same, even better."

Asia remembers when this journey began to involve soccer.

"It kind of just came to me," she recalls. "One day my friends were playing and I thought it would be cool to play with them and that's when I kind of fell in love with it."

"My injury makes some things difficult, but it's not as hard because I'm determined and I work really hard to achieve things that I can't do as well as other people. It's different with my arm, but I've learned to deal with it."

As far as the Washington Spirit is concerned, Asia has nothing to prove when it comes to whether she belongs on the field.

U-15 head coach Danny Skelton says the best part about working in the Development Academy is that instead of looking for big, strong, fast players, he can seek out young women who are technically proficient with high soccer IQ's. When speed of thought is combined with a deft touch, the physical aspect of the game is actually ratcheted up.

"For Asia, especially with the deficit with her arm, it becomes a challenge that she has to deal with at times," Skelton said. "She's had to learn how to compensate, to play stronger or strengthen other areas of her game, to anticipate better. It speaks to her ability to read the game so that she doesn't put herself in vulnerable positions. The two years I've been working with her, there's never been a moment in a game where I questioned her ability to maintain the physical level or even raise that level when necessary."

Asia flourished playing as a center back for the Spirit's U-14 squad last year (2004 birth year). So much in fact, that the coaching staff made the decision that her development would be best served by getting out of her comfort zone and testing herself against stronger, faster players in the U-15 (2003 birth year) age group.

Once she made the jump, Asia played in 21 games for the 2003's last season with 20 starts and two goals before starting all three playoff games as one of the team's youngest players.

This season with the current U-15 squad (2004 birth year), she has logged 20 games with 16 starts and two tallies.

The stats are even more impressive when you throw in another wrinkle. In order to stay in the starting XI this season, Asia had to conquer a new position.

"She started the season at center back for us and in the past, that's where she's had a lot of her minutes," Skelton said. "It was a good fit because of how well she reads the game, her speed and athleticism. But with this team this year, with so much depth and strength, we were able to utilize her in other areas of the field. Most recently, she's been playing as a forward and she's been able to bring that same fire, flair and speed that was so helpful for us defensively, but is now causing all kinds of problems for the opposition."

"It didn't really take much time to get used to playing forward," Asia said. "I'm a versatile player, I feel like I can move around to different positions and be just as good."

Asia speaks with confidence and there's a determined fire in her stare, an intensity that is born out of a desire to be the best.

"If she didn't play well or didn't practice well, it would lay heavy on her," Asia's father Dominic Minor said. "She's harder on herself than anybody, harder than we as parents or the coaches could be. She very rarely makes the same mistake twice."

Yet, so much of Minor's determination comes from a desire to see others succeed.

"Her speed, her athleticism and her technical ability are certainly things that make her stand out amongst the crowd in the Academy," Skelton said. "But definitely that work ethic and attitude, the commitment to fighting for her team and her teammates are her top qualities."

Minor is the first to greet players at practice and feels like it's her responsibility to help keep her teammates' spirits up so that they're in the proper mental state to perform at their very best.

"She loves to be here," Skelton said. "She lives and breathes the game. When you see that conveyed in the way that she plays, it just bleeds through to the rest of her teammates. That's why she's such a great leader for us. It just speaks to the kind of person she is, to her character."

"I would say I'm a leader for this team," Asia said. "I try my best to push everyone to do their best. I encourage everyone and try not to let them get down during games or a tough practice."

Minor's fierce desire to rise to new heights, combined with her leadership and compassion are the reasons her teammates love her and opponents fear her.

They just better make sure that they don't tell her she can't do something.