By John Philip Wyllie
While the critical 1-0 July 1 victory over the U.S. offered a ray of hope for Mexico's struggling national soccer team in their bid to gain entry to the 2002 World Cup, the news received by one of the players on Mexico's women's national team was anything but good.
July 1 was the day that all of the WUSA teams had to finalize their rosters.The need to bring U.S. national team star Joy Fawcett back from maternity leave on to the active roster of the San Diego Spirit meant that somebody had to go. That somebody turned out to be Mexican national team defender, Gina Oceguera. Spirit coach Carlos Juarez talked about the move following San Diego's 1-1 draw June 30 with the New York Power.
"I hated to see her go because she had a lot of talent and ability," said Juarez. "We had high expectations for Gina because of her past performance and physical abilities. It just came down to positions and she was the one I had to let go."
Oceguera faced an uphill battle
for playing time in a solid defense that features Chinese national
team stalwart, Fan Yunjie and Swedish international Kristin Bengtsson
as well as Kim Pickup, Rhiannon Tanaka and Karissa Hampton.
Her lack of experience as a defender may have been the deciding factor.
"Gina's problem was that she had always been a forward prior to playing as a defender for Mexico," said Juarez. "That's where I drafted her to play, but she never really fit into that position because she was competing against our other defenders (all of which were much more experienced). Still, I think she has a future somewhere in this league."
"If things were different and we were winning we might have kept her, but we needed to fix things right now," Juarez said. Currently in sixth place with 13 points, the Spirit will need to get hot in order to qualify for one of the four available playoff berths. They currently trail fourth place Washington by four points with nine games left on their regular season schedule. It won't be easy, but it is not impossible.
On a more positive note, Spirit midfielder, Erin Montoya played another solid game starting at forward and then moving back to her regular flank midfield position. She provided Mercy Akide with a perfect cross in front of the net, but Akide failed in her attempt to launch a shot.
"Erin keeps getting better and better," Juarez said afterward. "She is so offense- oriented and attack-minded. She's fearless when she goes forward and she has been very productive for us. I think she is going to score some goals for us too."
The Spirit round out their current three game homestand on July 8 when they battle the Boston Breakers.