Sofia Huerta Accepts U.S. Callup, Fulfilling a Dream
July 24, 2017
IF IT'S POSSIBLE for an injury to be fortuitous, the one Sofia Huerta suffered shortly before 2015 World Cup qualifying might fit the bill.
After having represented Mexico in the 2012 U-20 World Cup and El Tri's senior side in a handful of friendlies, including one against the United States in 2013, Huerta missed the 2014 CONCACAF Women's Championship with an injury. That tournament—used as the federation's World Cup qualifier—would have permanently cap-tied her to Mexico.
Instead, the time off gave Huerta time to rethink her international allegiance.
"I was out from playing for a few months during the winter and spring," Huerta explained to American Soccer Now, "and having that time off made me realize, 'What have I really been doing the last few years of my life? What am I really working toward?' It's always been a dream of mine to play for the U.S."
Born in Idaho to a Mexican father and American mother, Huerta was eligible to represent both nations on the international stage. In 2012, when she failed to make the U.S. roster for that year's U-20 World Cup, she instead accepted an opportunity to play for Mexico.
Her three goals in four games during the tournament led to more call-ups, eventually to Mexico's senior team. But while Huerta admits she gained friends and more confidence through the experience, it also helped her realize playing for the Red, White and Blue was her real goal.
"When I decided to play for Mexico, I was at a different time in my life," said Huerta.
"I wasn't aware of exactly what I wanted and what I was actually capable of," she added. "So, when Mexico offered me a spot on the U-20 team and then to play in a few friendlies and I was 19 or 20 [years old], it didn't seem like an opportunity that I could pass up. But shortly after I played for them I knew it wasn't where my heart was at."
Three years later, Huerta is finally getting her opportunity for the United States as head coach Jill Ellis has called the attacker into the American camp ahead of this week's Tournament of Nations.
Huerta freely admits that many times over the past few years her dream of representing the U.S. "felt so far away and so unrealistic." When she did finally get the call, a congratulatory message from a longtime friend reminded her of how long she had dreamed of this moment.
"One of my favorite texts I received yesterday was from one of my childhood friends," Huerta explained. "She texted me, 'Holy crap, Sofia. This is amazing. I remember when we were in fifth grade and you did a project on the U.S. national team and said you wanted to play on their team.'
"I honestly read that and said, 'Holy crap, that's true.'"
After finishing up her career at Santa Clara as a third-team All-American, the Chicago Red Stars drafted Huerta in 2015. In Chicago, Huerta has found the perfect environment to hone her national team ambitions.
In addition to the opportunity to play with U.S. veterans like Christen Press, Alyssa Naeher, Julie Ertz, and Casey Short on a daily basis, Chicago has a host of players who have earned call-ups into the national team for shorter stints—like Danielle Colaprico, Arin Gilliland, and Vanessa DiBernardo. Huerta says they've all played a part in her improvement.
"You have the girls on the national team who you look up to naturally because they've made it," she noted. "They're doing it and you get to watch their work ethic and their competitive nature and their focus every day. I strive to be like Julie and Press and Casey and Alyssa. I look up to them so much.
"But then you also have Vanessa, Arin, Dani, and a lot of other players who I'm in the same position as. Just watching them continue to chase their dreams and to continue to have confidence is something that I learn from every day. We're all really close and it's a hard dream to have. It's competitive and there are so many talented girls in this league. Just being surrounded by strong women and confident women is something I think influences me and inspires me every day."
Her Chicago teammates have noticed Huerta's effort and are excited to see her get a chance with the national team.
"Sofia has worked so hard," said Christen Press. "She came into the season super fit and I've seen her growth over the last two years. I'm just really excited for her to have the opportunity."
"She's been really focused this year and put in a lot of time and effort and energy into really working on her craft," added Alyssa Naeher. "I'm happy for her to get the opportunity and I think she's ready for it."
Although Huerta won't be game-eligible during this camp as her one-time FIFA transfer is processed, she's still excited about the chance to train with the U.S.
"I think every girl who has this dream will understand that it means everything," she observed. "It's a surreal feeling because you've been working so hard toward this. Just to get a call-up is such an opportunity."
John D. Halloran is an American Soccer Now columnist. Follow him on Twitter.