By John Philip Wyllie
Later on this month, Monica Gerardo will no doubt look into resuming her soccer career with the women's national team of Mexico. But right now however, her focus is squarely on the WUSA's playoff race. And she doesn't like what she's seeing.
Gerardo was in town this week for Wednesday night's matchup with the hometown San Diego Spirit. She has enjoyed her first season of top level professional soccer as part of the Washington Freedom despite her team's troubles. Playing along side mega-famous Mia Hamm, she has been learning what it takes to play with and against the world's elite.
But contrary to most preseason predictions, Mia and Co. are looking up from the bottom of the pile, ahead of only Carolina in the eight team standings. Needless to say, the Freedom have their work cut out for them if they hope to compete in the first ever WUSA championship game on August 25.
"I don't think it's been any one thing, it's just a matter of us clicking," Gerardo said following Tuesday's practice. "I don't feel like we've had that (cohesiveness) throughout the season. Sometimes we do and sometimes we don't." A lack of scoring has been one big problem.
It's hard to figure why a team that features Hamm, international soccer's all-time leading scorer and a pair of deadly Brazilian snipers in Pretinha and Roseli, hasn't scored more goals. No one on the Freedom's roster is listed among the league's top ten goal scorers. And their paltry 1.3 goals per game average places them dead last in scoring.
Gerardo has done her part notching two goals and an assist despite playing an ever changing role. "It's been up and down. There have been times when I'm playing a lot and others when I've not. I just take it all in stride. Whatever happens, happens. I just go with the flow and respect whatever decisions the coaches make."
One decision she hasn't regretted is her decision to continue playing after her career at Notre Dame ended. While there, she contributed to a Fighting Irish NCAA championship. Gerardo fully realizes the opportunity she has been given as a member of this groundbreaking league and holds the pioneering founding players like Hamm in high regard.
"Mia is the type of player that pushes you to do your best. She's obviously done her share around the world soccer-wise," said Gerardo. "On certain occasions when things arise she can be very helpful. And of course, you take her advice."
While most of the world knows Hamm only as the woman battling Michael Jordan in the Gatorade commercial or for her exploits on the soccer field, Gerardo has gotten to know Hamm as a person.
"You sometimes read about certain athletes doing crazy things and making fools of themselves, but Mia is very down to earth, low key and humble," says Gerardo. "Despite all her accomplishments, she is very easy going and tries to keep herself under wraps." If Hamm can somehow lead her team back into playoff contention, it will rank as one of her greatest achievements.