Cruz plays with pride for El Salvador U17 women

Ashley Cruz (pictured) scored three goals in El Salvador's win over Nicaragua in a Central American qualifier for the 2016 CONCACAF Under-17 Women's Championship on November 4, 2015, in Guatemala City, Guatemala. (Photo: Luis Rolando Solares)

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala -- Ashley Cruz was born in the United States, but proudly wears the jersey of El Salvador, the country of her parents.

It was only a few months ago that the 16-year-old forward’s club team – the Esperanza Tigers – played a Mexican side in Los Angeles. She drew the attention of observers for her refined technique and exceptional offensive abilities.

Fast forward to Wednesday as Cruz scored three goals in her El Salvador debut, helping La Selecta to a 7-1 win over Nicaragua in a qualifier for the 2016 CONCACAF Under-17 Championship.

"I feel very proud to represent El Salvador because both my parents are Salvadoran" Cruz told “My father’s dream was always that his daughter would play for La Selecta.”

Still excited by the promising international introduction at the Estadio Mateo Flores, Cruz recalled one of the tips she received before the match: “My dad told me to take every chance you get.”

 In order for the Salvadorans to secure a place in the CONCACAF event, they must capture first place in their three-team Central American Zone group. They will return to action on Sunday, two days after host Guatemala squares off against the Nicaraguans. Depending on the result of that encounter, a draw may be all that’s needed in the last Group A match to book a ticket to Grenada.

"We play as a strong team,” Cruz remarked. “We still have a game yet in order to qualify and we expect to do well.”

After the tournament, Cruz will continue working towards her other footballing objectives.

"I want to play football at a high level for a university in the United States,” she finished. “I hope that playing for national team helps me.”