Paul Lester was Johnston's coach when she was 11 until she was 14. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -
The U.S. has advanced to the knockout round of the World Cup and a big factor in their success is a player who grew up in Mesa.
Defender Julie Johnston has become the breakout star of this World Cup.
Here in the Valley, she played on the top-ranked SC Del Sol club team, and from the age of 11 to 14, Paul Lester was her coach.
He says who says she wasn't always the best player, but it's her work ethic that has helped her become the new star of Team USA.
"Julie's attitude is what made her successful - her work rate, her intensity, how she competed," she said.
He adds that she is a great role model for his current players.
"If we can inspire that in this group, who is to say they can't make some dreams come true," he said.
Lester's 12-and-under team just won the state championships and is now on their way to Idaho to play in the regionals.
Sophia Fischer is the same age Johnston was when Lester coached.
"It's great to know that somebody from home is doing so well and helping our country hopefully win the World Cup!" she said excitedly. "It puts your mind somewhere where you are like, 'I could be like her some day!'"