By John Philip Wyllie
Of the handful of Mexican-American players plying their trade in the new WUSA or women’s professional soccer league, Southern California’s Monica Gerardo, who had a goal and an assist in last week-end’s 3-0 rout of the San Diego Spirit, has probably been the most successful.
Gerardo saw substantial playing time a year ago as a central midfielder for Mia Hamm’s Washington Freedom. This season, she returned to camp determined to make an even greater impact. With two goals already in the early going, she is well on her way toward reaching that goal.
Prior to reporting, she had some advice for the two newest additions to the WUSA, Boston’s Monica Gonzalez and San Jose’s Linnea Quinones. Quinones, who has been frequently featured in La Prensa San Diego, hails from Chula Vista.
“I trained with them in January and I just wanted to make sure that they went into it fit and mentally prepared. It’s tough and it’s a different game than what we experienced in college. Every day you are out there fighting for your position. Both Quinones and Gonzalez heeded Gerardo’s advice and latched on with their respective teams. They are following the trail blazed by their Mexican national team teammate, Gerardo.
“Last year, I was kind of inconsistent in my play. This year, I have been doing a little bit better and hopefully that has been showing. I’m playing in the middle again and that’s great because that is where I feel most comfortable. I have a little more on my shoulders this season, so I need to go out there and be an offensive threat and a playmaker,” Gerardo said.
Ranked second on Notre Dame’s all-time goal scoring list with 73 tallies, Gerardo got off to a great start with a goal in the Freedom’s season opener against New York, but then injured a hamstring in week two. Knowing her parents would be in the stands last Sunday, Gerardo was determined to regain her health for Washing-ton’s only local appearance this season. She didn’t fail the many family members and friends that drove down from Corona to watch her play.
“My family is here, my friends are here and I have a bunch of friends on the other team. I love coming back to San Diego,” Gerardo said. It seemed only appropriate that Gerardo, the only Mexican-American player on the field on this Cinco de Mayo Sunday should walk away with game’s top scoring honors and lead her team to an upset victory.
“I’m happy to see the league is still going strong and happy to be where I am today,” Gerardo said. “ I couldn’t be more grateful to the women who put this league together.”
Gerardo has been in some pretty impressive company lately. Last week, she was invited to the White House for the Cinco de Mayo celebration hosted by President George W. Bush. She has also met Mia Hamm’s latest flame, Boston Red Sox superstar, Nomar Garciaparra on several occasions. Gerardo’s primary focus however, has been on the field. And she likes what she is seeing.
“The teams are definitely better than they were last year and I can see that that trend is going to continue. Each year we are going to get better quality players coming out of college and the players already in the league are developing more and more. It’s a great lifestyle and a great league.”