By John Philip Wyllie
Growing up in San Mateo, Veronica Perez developed into an outstanding high school soccer player. She was good enough in fact, to later become the two-time team MVP at the University of Washington and then be selected by St. Louis of the WPS. As a kid, Perez dreamed, like many of her teammates, of one day playing internationally with the U.S. national team. On Sunday at USD’s Torero Stadium, she realized at least part of that dream. Perez gained her first international cap representing Mexico against the United States.
With Sunday’s appearance representing El Tricolores, Perez becomes the latest in a long line of American-born players with dual citizenship to head south in order to play internationally and prolong their careers. She had been on Coach Leonardo Cuellar’s radar for some time and he was delighted to welcome her to the fold.
“We have been waiting for several years to have the opportunity for her to become part of our program. She has now made that decision and we are very excited. She is a very dynamic player and she’s improving her technique. She will have to make some adjustments to the way we play, but she is great to work with,” Cuellar said. “With players like her along with Monica Ocampo, Maribel Dominguez and Iris Mora and some new players that are coming into the picture, we can have a very strong forward line and be very offensive.”
Mexico battled hard in losing 3-0 to the World’s top-ranked team. It struggled on offense. Most teams face similar fates against the powerful U.S. squad. Fortunately, Mexico doesn’t have to face the Unites States very often. El Tri should do well against many of the other teams it will face.
Having played in college in America and more recently with the U.S. U-23 team, Lopez was well known to her opponents on Sunday and was surrounded by a large group of well-wishers following the match.
“I am really enjoying this opportunity to play for Mexico,” Perez said. “I think we are improving every year and have a chance to improve some more. It was kind of a hard decision to make because I can’t play for both teams, but I am really glad that I chose to play for Mexico.”
The opportunity has been beneficial to her in more ways than one.
“I can speak a little bit of Spanish, but I understand a lot more. Every time I come to one of these camps I learn a lot more. So, my Spanish is getting better. I have been getting a lot of help from teammates like Rubi Sandoval and Leticia Villapando.”
“It is a little weird playing against America since I have lived here all my life, but I am happy to be playing for Mexico. As it is, I am starting with Mexico and playing against the best players in the world. My parents and coaches have been behind me all the way, helping me to live my dream.”