CONCACAF Q&A: Sofia Huerta (Chicago Red Stars)

Forward Sofia Huerta (light blue jersey) is a standout player with the Chicago Red Stars of the National Women's Soccer League in the United States. (Photo courtesy of the Chicago Red Stars)

Sofia Huerta is a rising star with the Chicago Red Stars of the National Women’s Soccer League. The 23-year-old forward, in her second season as a professional, was a finalist for the league’s Rookie of the Year award on the strength of six goals in 19 appearances.

She represented Mexico in the 2012 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, but is working hard to excel at the club level and possibly earn a place on the United States roster one day.

Learn more about Huerta, her early influences, her motivations and aspirations in this Q&A.

The Chicago Red Stars got off to a fast start in the NWSL with three wins in the first four games.  What’s the reason for the early success?

Our team has a lot of underrated players but then we also have some of the best U.S. National Team players as well, such as Julie Johnston and Christen Press, who has three goals in four games. I think we all just realize our role on the team and do whatever we can in order for us to be successful.

The first game we played wasn’t the best and I think we realized we had to change certain things about what we did in that last game. We’ve conquered that and won our last three games.

You enjoyed a standout career in U.S. college soccer with Santa Clara University through 2014.  What did you enjoy most about the college game?

Playing at Santa Clara I think is a different experience than playing at any other college. I might just be biased because I went there, but there’s something about the community that is so tight knit.

Jerry Smith is one the top coaches in the NCAA. Of course, every coach wants to win, but his biggest thing was teaching his players life lessons. That is something to which he stayed true. Not only did I come out of Santa Clara as a better soccer player, but also as a better person and had a mature and good outlook on life.

Playing Division I NCAA soccer is just so much fun. It’s crazy how there’s so many teams and so many players and it’s so competitive. You could just be so passionate and into that time of your life. It’s fun to look back at that and I’m really happy I went to Santa Clara. It’s a really good school.

In 2015, you were selected in the second round of the NWSL draft by the Chicago Red Stars. What did it feel like to realize that you could be a professional soccer player?

It was a great experience, something I’ll never forget. I remember waking up like 6:15 a.m. and later all my friends and family were surrounding me and then I just got the call from [Chicago Red Stars coach] Rory [Dames] before it was even announced that I’d be drafted. He said, ‘hey I’m going to draft you. Do you want to come to Chicago?’ I was like, ‘well obviously.’ Then I heard my name over the radio, because I was listening to the draft and I wasn’t in Philadelphia.

It was one of the best feelings, an emotional day. It was exciting because I kind of felt I had a connection with Chicago since Julie [Johnston] was here and I played with Julie in college soccer and youth soccer through the regional team and in the U.S. camp. I kind of felt I’m going somewhere I’m going to know people.

What is the biggest adjustment from college to professional soccer?

In terms of just soccer, the biggest adjustment is the level of play. The competitiveness is a lot higher, as is the level and the speed of play. Also, in college, you have so many things balancing out your day with school and homework and soccer. In pro, you practice a couple of hours a day. You have more free time, but now soccer is your job.

At what age did you start playing soccer, how did you first get involved and who were some your influences growing up?

I think the first name that comes to mind is Mia Hamm because when I was younger she was so huge, scoring all the goals and winning gold medals. I even bought her book (Go for the Goal). My other inspirations were my siblings. Both my older brother and older sister played soccer and I wanted to be just like them.

I started playing when I was five and competitive soccer when I was in the third grade. I played up two years until I was in high school. My family was a big soccer family so I started pretty young.

Before my dad signed me up I was playing with my brother’s team. I would go with my dad who was the coach and jump in and play with boys every once in a while.

What motivates you as a player each day?

The main thing that motivates me is wanting to be on the National Team and it’s about what I can do every day to make myself a better player. In general, athletes are so competitive so every day knowing I’m going to compete and be the best player I can be motivates me.

What are some your favorite things to do away from the soccer field?

I enjoy being around my family and friends. I really like being outdoors. In California there was a bunch of hiking trails, the beach, a bunch of outdoorsy things to do. We don’t really have that in Chicago, but its cool because Chicago is such a fun city. It’s nice to go into the city and walk around. There’s a beach, although its really by a lake, but its really fun to walk around and there’s people everywhere.

If you could play with any player in the history of soccer, who would it be and why?

Brandi Chastain is such an icon for women’s soccer and she was actually our volunteer assistant coach at Santa Clara, so I got to play with someone like that on a daily basis, which I guess I kind of took for granted. Maybe Neymar. It seems like he’s pretty cool. Or maybe Messi, Ronaldo, any of the big players.

CONCACAF Women’s Football Day will be celebrated later this month. Why can playing soccer be so important to young girls today?

Playing the sport in college and pro makes you feel important, like you’re a part of something and we can influence and change the world. My mom always talk about not having the opportunities I have. The fact that women’s sports are so up and coming is incredible if you look at our history. Anything that empowers women and gives us something to do, to play for, and stand by in a sport that was at one point just a man’s game is powerful.

What are your future goals in soccer?

My main goal is to play in the World Cup and Olympics, but right now I’d say focusing on the present and trying to be the best I can be for the Red Stars now is probably my biggest goal.