Sofia Huerta, a junior forward on the Santa Clara women’s soccer team, had one dream growing up in Boise, Idaho.
“I had a scrapbook when I was younger playing soccer, and I cut out a little piece of paper with the cool scissors and it says ‘One day I’m going to play on the U.S. national team,’” she said.
Her dream has come true, sort of. While she plays for a national team, it isn’t the United States at this point in time. Holding dual citizenship, Huerta currently wears the red, white and green for Mexico when she isn’t suited up for the Broncos, but is still holding out for the day when she can represent the stars and stripes.
The All-American forward has continued to evolve as an intimidating force for the Broncos’ attack over the past three years, racking up numerous goals and assists en route to keeping Santa Clara among the nation’s best women’s soccer programs.
But, the all-important call Huerta has been waiting for from the senior leaders of the U.S. brass has not been made for some time.
As a 14-year-old, the youngster competed at the United States’ camp and immediately found success, dribbling circles around opposing defenders. But during the first full day of practice, Huerta tore both quadriceps muscles and was sidelined due to the injury.
Huerta would not receive another opportunity to solidify a position with the Americans until she finished her first year at the Mission Campus. At the behest of Santa Clara Head Coach Jerry Smith, she was given a second chance to lace up a pair of boots and duke it out against her fellow countrymen.
The results were not what she’d hoped for.
Competing against players who had spent a number of years playing together, mastering each other’s idiosyncrasies, Huerta was out of the loop and lacked chemistry. Despite being one of the nation’s rising standouts, the Boise native was once again left without a spot on the U.S. roster.
During that time, Huerta was just a freshman in college, learning how to balance academic, athletic and social life. Still a rookie, she also lacked a vital tool necessary to become one of the best in any sport: confidence.
“I know I’m a good soccer player but then I know that I have flaws in the way I play,” she said.
Smith has told Huerta that she has the attributes to become a world-class player but the Santa Clara star has found it difficult to buy in completely, a quirk that has hampered her at times during her run on the pitch.
“The U.S. can see that; if you’re a confident player,” said Huerta. “They study that and they know. So I think they definitely had an issue with it and if I would have been a little more confident, I probably would have played better as well.”
Confidence may have been the only thing that kept Huerta from wearing the red, white and blue a couple years ago.
“If she wants to have a good game, it’s up to her,” said Alesha Blair, one of Huerta’s former Santa Clara teammates and longtime friend. “There are not too many other factors that can really dictate how well she is going to do and that’s a luxury a lot of players don’t have.”
In the previous two seasons, Huerta’s self-confidence has been growing exponentially. The Bronco’s offensive machine led the Santa Clara squad in overall points (40) and goals (16) this past fall and helped lead the Broncos to the No. 7 overall ranking in the country. Because of her output on the field, Huerta capped off the 2013 campaign being named an All-American and West Coast Conference First-Team member.
This recent success has solidified her roster spot on the U-20 Mexican Women’s National Team. In only a few appearances, Huerta has steered the relatively mediocre Mexican side to some triumph at the most recent FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.
Switching allegiances and playing for the Americans is still on the table for the soon-to-be senior at Santa Clara. Being a native of the U.S., Huerta can utilize her one-time switch allowed by FIFA to take the pitch and play for her dream team.
“I think it comes down to her buckling down and doing it,” said Blair. “If she puts her mind to it and if she’s willing to put in the hours of work to be the best at all aspects of her game; if she’s willing to do that and if the factors that make the U.S. team difficult (to play for) fall into place, I don’t see why it can’t happen.”
In the near future, Huerta could be called up by the United States’ U-23 team and work her way towards becoming a full member of the senior roster.
“If I’m doing well and I focus and I give up some things to reach my potential and the U.S. senior team called me, there would be no question in my mind that I’d play for them and not Mexico,” she said. “That wouldn’t even faze me.”
— Brendan Weber