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Making history with Sofia Huerta

After a whirlwind international break, the Red Stars midfielder opens up about her past and her future

New Zealand v United States Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Born in Boise, Idaho, Red Stars midfielder Sofia Huerta has never been shy about her Mexican-American heritage. Not that she had much opportunity to be shy - Huerta’s journey begins in a community where the according to the 2010 census, is 89% White.

She relished the opportunity to grow up in a bilingual household and vividly remembers the cultural struggles her Mexican father endured while adjusting to life in the United States. She remembers the language barrier being difficult for him to break through and the fact that he had to assimilate the rest of his community. The fact he was willing to make those sacrifices for his children really sticks in the back of Huerta’s mind.

Sofia enjoys just being a little different from the rest of the crowd.

“My favorite thing about being Mexican-American is just having the culture in me,” Huerta told my HTIOT colleague Sandra Herrera during an interview in July.

Huerta added, “I understand Spanish, but only kind of speak it. I’ll eventually get there, I hope.”

Because of Huerta’s dual eligibility, she had the option to play for the United States or Mexico. Huerta initially tried out for the United States but got cut from the squad prior to the 2012 U-20 World Cup. The Mexican Federation then began the process of courting the young player - and would eventually be successful.

Huerta played for Mexico throughout the entire duration of the 2012 U-20 World cup and some international friendlies but was never cap-tied to the Mexican Federation. In 2014, she declined invitations from Mexico to attend further camps. She was grateful and realizes what doors the opportunities with Mexico opened for her.

Opportunity would knock again this summer as United States Head Coach Jill Ellis would invite Huerta into camp to train with the US ahead of the Tournament of Nations. Huerta wasn’t permitted to compete for the United States due to her ties with the Mexican Federation. Still, she was surrounded by fellow Red Stars like Casey Short, Christen Press and Julie Ertz.

She would once again be invited into camp for a series of friendlies with New Zealand, but there was a caveat this time. Huerta decided that she was going to switch federations and was moving forward with the process.

On September 14th, Huerta and the USWNT got some incredible news.

Huerta would find out that she was eligible for the United States’ first match against New Zealand in Commerce City, Colorado and would be available for selection off of the bench.

In the 51st minute, Huerta was presented with her opportunity for the United States as she would replace an injured Taylor Smith at the right back position and collect an assist on Alex Morgan’s goal in the 79th minute to seal the United States 3-1 victory over the Kiwis.

The appearance for the United States was a culmination of everything Huerta has worked for and to get an early contribution was extra special. Understandably, she was a little emotional after such a momentous occasion. Huerta’s appearance marked the second time a Mexican-American player represented the United States in the program’s 32 year history.

“Not only was it emotional because I got to play my first game, but I was unaware I was going to be able to because we didn’t know if the papers would go through. It all happened so quickly,” said Huerta of the whirlwind week.

“I went into the camp thinking I was going to do what I did the camp before and just kind of practice and watch and then my papers went through! I found out I was dressing the night before and then I was on the bench. Then Taylor got hurt, so going in was unexpected but it was a really fun time and everyone was super supportive and really nice after the game and congratulated me.”

The United States Women’s National team partake in a unique tradition after a player’s first match. The team gets together and autograph the game ball to present it to the player. Huerta commented that she did receive the game ball from her teammates and the coaching staff but she was unaware of the history she had made by appearing for the United States.

With her appearance last Friday night, Sofia Huerta is the first female player to play FOR and AGAINST the United States in the entire history of the federation.

“I did not know that,” Huerta said shockingly after I broke the news. “Honestly, I guess I assumed but now that you say that, I never had really thought about that.” When she was informed of the history making occasion, Huerta looked over to US Soccer’s press officer Aaron Heifetz to confirm my statement and then smiled.

“Oh wow, yeah,” Huerta acknowledged.

The transition to the international level has been made a bit easier for Huerta as six Chicago Red Stars were represented during the international break for the United States. Sofia admitted there was a level of comfort in the camps because she was surrounded by so many familiar faces.

“I’m really close with Casey, Julie, Press and Alyssa. They were all really supportive and any question I had they would so willingly answer and be there for me,” recounted Huerta. “So it is easier because if at anytime I got nervous I’d just kind of look around and go “Oh there’s Casey, there’s Press, there’s Julie.” So I felt more comfortable for sure.”

Soccer: International Friendly Women's Soccer-New Zealand at USA Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Stars midfielder remains incredibly grounded about her new opportunity she is presented with.

“I want to do anything I can to help the team. I’m playing a new position so I want try to perfect that,” said Huerta of her national team experience.”

“I want to be more knowledgable about being an outside back. I have a dream of making that 2019 (Women’s World Cup) roster. A short term goal is to keep getting called up and then perform at my best and do anything I can to help the team.”

Following her success with the USWNT, Huerta now sets her sights back on the Red Stars and a fierce playoff battle. Chicago sits in third place in the NWSL standings and a win Saturday could lock things up for the Red Stars.

Huerta and her teammates are looking to parlay the momentum from the international break and gain confidence along the way.

“We need to get a win. I think there are multiple ways we get to the playoffs but I think just going into the playoffs you want confidence,” said the Red Stars midfielder.

“I think getting confidence is when you need a win and to play well as a team. I think that it’s good a lot of us are here, we’re training against the best players in the country and some even in the world. We have a lot of confidence leaving this camp and going to the Red Stars and hopefully that will play into it and have a good game versus Houston and clinch our playoff spot.”