SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Having already participated in the U20 U.S. Women's National Team camp this year, Santa Clara women's soccer freshman Sofia Huerta recently returned from playing with the U20 Mexican National Team for one week. While the camp lasted two weeks, Huerta was only able to attend for one week due to academic responsibilities. Huerta, who is half-Mexican, has held dual-citizenship her entire life and her father hails from Puebla, Mexico.
"Playing for the Mexican National Team was a really great experience," said Huerta. "Not only did I get to play with new players in a new environment, I was able to become more culturally connected with my dad's side of the family. I was also exposed to a lot of the Spanish language which was very different for me, but also a lot of fun."
Santa Clara head coach Jerry Smith was contacted by the Mexican team's head coach Juan Carlos Chavez, who represented Mexico in the 1994 World Cup. When Chavez saw that Huerta was not on the U.S.'s roster, because of her dual-citizenship, Huerta was eligible to take part in the camp and he invited her.
"Even though I don't know a lot of Spanish, most of the girls on the team were from the United States," added Huerta. "I was spoken to in Spanish by coaches but I would ask questions in English. I didn't know any of the other players before the camp but there were a couple of girls from Northern California so they knew some of my Bronco teammates. I made sure to connect with them before camp so I would know some people when I got to Mexico."
Spanish, however, was not the only difference that Huerta noticed while she was playing in Mexico. The camp took place at a very high altitude which made breathing more difficult and wore out the players more quickly. There were also several differences between the styles of play of the U.S. and Mexico.
"The types of athletes on the Mexican National Team were different than the ones I have played with on the U.S. team," continued Huerta. "The players in Mexico are smaller and they play a different style of soccer. The U.S. is very technical and physical whereas Mexico has a very specific patter to its play. The speed of the game is also faster in the United States."
As would be expected, the coaches teach the game in Mexico very differently than American coaches.
"The style of coaching was also very different," said Huerta. "The coaches were much more strict and would yell at the players if they did something wrong. In the U.S. the coaches approach us after a mistake and talk to us about what we did wrong and how to fix it. All in all, though, it was such a fantastic experience."