By John Philip Wyllie
Later this month, the eyes of the world of soccer will be turned toward Japan and Korea as the 2002 World Cup gets under way. Next year however, it will be the women’s turn and Chula Vista’s Linnea Quinones expects to once again be in the nets for Mexico as the Tri-colores will strive to win its first ever Women’s World Cup game. She knows the way she performs in China’s 2003 Women’s World Cup will be determined largely on what she does this year to prepare. As the reserve goalkeeper for the WUSA Champion San Jose CyberRays, she hones her skills every day against some of the world’s best players.
“I was a little disappointed at first when I learned I was going to be a reserve,” Quinones said on the eve of last weekend’s 1-1 draw against the San Diego Spirit. “At the same time, I have gotten a chance to play (as a professional) and fulfill that dream. I look at it as a learning opportunity. I have a year to get that experience under my belt and to train with one of the world’s best keepers (LaKeysia Beene). Her back-up, Janine Szpara, has also played for many years all over the world.”
The talent-laden CyberRays have a roster that boasts a trio of brilliant Brazilian attackers in Katia, Sissi and Pretinha as well as Brandi Chastain who will always be remembered for her championship clinching penalty kick and shirt doffing celebration in the ’99 Women’s World Cup.
“I’m having fun learning what I can from LaKeysia and Janine, but it’s really intense,” explained Quinones. “At SDSU, there were days when I was tired from studying and just didn’t want to train that hard, but here they expect you to come every day and train at the highest level. And it’s not just the coaches that expect you to perform. If you aren’t cutting it, the players get on you as well.”
Quinones knows that the effort she expends in San Jose will help her once the WUSA season ends and Women’s World Cup qualifying begins. Having had a taste of World Cup competition as an integral part of the first-ever Mexican team to participate, she hungers for more.
“In late August or early September, I think we will begin playing a series of friendlies. Later on, we’ll play in the Gold Cup,” Quinones said. There will be a lot of additional significance to that tournament this year. It is being used for World Cup qualification.
Despite her limited role with the CyberRays, Quinones is doing all she can to help out. Willing to do whatever they ask of her, she has actively participated in several promotional activities.
“We did an appearance a few weeks ago at a Latina Women’s Festival,” Quinones said. “We signed autographs and let the people there know who the CyberRays are. There is a large Mexican community here in San Jose and so there is a great opportunity for us to get the word out about women’s soccer.” Someday, due to the efforts of Quinones and a handful of other pioneering players, the WUSA may become a home for a substantial number of Mexican-American stars.