April 6, 2001

Montoya a little overwhelmed, but excited to be playing for the Spirit

By John Philip Wyllie

A couple of years ago, Erin Martinez Montoya could have used a good genealogist. Her inability to provide documentation of her Mexican ancestry caused her to miss out on the greatest single women's sporting event of all time: the 1999 Women's World Cup. Fortunately for Montoya, she is getting a chance this year to display her abilities on a soccer field in another history-making event: the inaugural season of the women's professional soccer league or WUSA.

Erin Martinez Montoya, forward for the San Diego Spirit.

Montoya, who was known as Erin Martinez prior to getting married nine months ago, was a four-time All-Conference forward for the Santa Clara University Broncos from 1994 - 1997. While there, she drew the attention of Mexico's Women's National Team coach, Leonardo Cuellar, who was then trying to assemble Mexico's first ever Women's World Cup team. Martinez's speed and crafty skills might have made a considerable impact on Mexico's fledgling team, but in order to get on to the field, she had to show documentation of her Mexican roots. While her ancestry was an established fact within her family, proving it turned out to be a difficult proposition. As a result, Martinez was forced to watch the games from her living room and miss out on what was for more than a half dozen other Mexican-American soccer players, the opportunity of a lifetime.

"It would have been awesome to play in the Women's World Cup," especially since some of my friends were able to go." said Montoya. "It is something that I would definitely look into to doing (in 2003) if I could figure out how to get a hold of the paper work." For now however, Montoya is focusing on her role with the Spirit which is at the moment that of a reserve flank midfielder.

"Coach (Carlos) Juarez has been playing around with the lineup, but I've been getting in here and there," Montoya said following a scrimmage. We have some awesome players on the field, so whatever time you can get in is good."

Montoya came in for Swedish international Kristin Bengtsson in the 67th minute of the Spirit's final game at the league's combined training camp at the Arco Olympic Training Center last Saturday and played well. Not particular about where she plays, Montoya will most likely see most of her minutes this season coming off the bench as an attacking midfielder.

"Erin has some special qualities that can't be taught," according to Juarez. "She has creativity and she is very skillful. She just needs to get herself in tune with the team in terms of confidence and knowing what her role is. Once she does that, she is going to contribute a lot to this team."

"This training camp has been kind of overwhelming," says Montoya. "There has been so much going on, so much media and so many new things to learn. All of the best players in the world are out here, so it's a little bit intimidating, but more than anything it is exciting."

The Spirit will scrimmage and train over the next two weeks and then open their season on April 22 at 7:00 p.m. at USD's Torero Stadium. 1 (877) 4-SOCCER.

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