By John Philip Wyllie
For the last several months, soccer star Maribel Dominguez has been training outside of Mexico City along with the Mexican national team as it prepares for the upcoming summer Olympics. She didn’t hesitate however, to take a break from that training to be a part of last weekend’s WUSA Soccer Festival at Carson’s Home Depot Center.
“I think it is important that we support each other and the league so that it can be restructured and continued next year,” Dominguez said.
The eight-team WUSA League is currently on a temporary one- year hiatus after just three years of operation. The hope is to reorganize, find some additional sponsors and resume play at least in some fashion, next spring. While Dominguez was only onboard for the 2003 season, the experience of playing against world class competition week in and week out was a very positive one. It has had a profound impact upon her career.
“The United States is the home of women’s soccer and the league has been very welcoming to players from all over the world,” Dominguez said. “I learned a lot of things (playing for the Atlanta Beat) especially how to move better on the field. I have grown a lot as a player and as a person in the last year. I am here because I wanted to give something back to show my appreciation for having been given this opportunity.”
During the four-day festival, the players conducted soccer clinics and interacted with many young players and fans. As the only Mexican player in the tournament, Dominguez served as a superb role model for the many Hispanic kids on hand. It is a role she clearly relishes. Long after most of her teammates had departed for the locker room, Domin-guez stayed on the field to sign autographs and pose for pictures. She would love to see some of her Mexican teammates receive the same opportunity.
“There are many players (on the national team) that would definitely be interested in playing in the WUSA,” Dominguez said. “I think it would be important for them and it will help us grow as a team. The (foreign) players in the league went back to their national teams and shared what they learned here, so everybody improved. The WUSA is the key to Mexican soccer as it continues growing.”
Dominguez was on the losing side of Sunday’s 2-1 battle with the San Diego Spirit, in the first game of the double header. The Philadelphia Charge defeated the San Jose CyberRays 2-0 in game two. A turnout of 7,123 demonstrated that the fans have not forgotten the players. The hugs, smiles and camaraderie exchanged between the former teammates and adversaries suggested that brighter days may lie ahead for women’s professional soccer.