Connect with us

2023 Women's World Cup

Ashley Sanchez, Sofia Huerta aiming to inspire Mexican-Americans dreaming of the national team

Ashley Sanchez and Sofia Huerta are gearing up for their first-ever trip to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. When they were named to the roster, they joined a small list of Mexican-American players that represent the U.S. women’s national team.

There was only one player on the list previously: Stephanie Cox, whose maiden name is Lopez, represented the U.S. at the 2007 and 2011 Women’s World Cup tournaments.

Now, Sanchez and Huerta join the list. They were interviewed on ‘My New Favorite Futbolista’ about their Mexican-American heritage, struggling to fit in and even Huerta’s time on the Mexican women’s national team.

Sanchez’ story is set in California, as she is from Pasadena. She was born to an American mother, and a Mexican-American father. Her paternal grandmother still lives in Mexico, and Sanchez only visited once during her childhood. Sanchez said she was born with thick black hair, but it turned blonde as she got older.

“They would see her name on something for school or for a team, or whatever, and they would say, ‘Oh, that’s Ashley Sanchez,'” Ralph Sanchez, her father, said. “And I said, ‘Yeah, she’s half-Hispanic.’ Nobody ever knew.”

Sanchez often got asked if she spoke Spanish. She didn’t back then, but she’s making the attempt to learn now. However, when she was playing soccer, she felt connected to her Hispanic roots due to playing with other Mexican-American, or fully Mexican, girls.

“When I was surrounded on a team with girls who were either half-Mexican or fully Mexican, it made me feel comfortable,” she explained. “They were so supportive. They were like, ‘We’re sisters.’ That really helped me to embrace it more.”

In college at UCLA, she was teammates with Karina Rodriguez, who was her teammate at the Washington Spirit up until joining Club América in Mexico last season, and the two bonded over their shared heritage.

“Being around her more, she helped me tap into those roots and also was a little cheerleader for me,” Sanchez said.

Meanwhile, Sofia Huerta has a much different story. Born and raised in Boise, Idaho, Huerta had a much harder time fitting in. A majority of her family remained in Mexico, namely in the Puebla area where her father is from.

“Idaho isn’t the most diverse area,” Huerta explained. “I struggled with my identity there. I wanted to fit in, and I only really fit in, I felt like, if I was white. I feel like it was a hard place to grow up. Thankfully, because of my parents, I was always proud to be Mexican. My dad’s from Puebla. He’s the only one of his siblings to move to the United States, so we had a lot of roots there. I grew up growing there twice a year, during the Christmas time and the summer. I always loved being Mexican and always felt that in my blood.”

Due to her roots, Huerta was given the opportunity to represent the Mexican women’s national team. She made her debut in 2012 and earned five caps and two goals for the senior national team — although she did not compete in FIFA regulated competitions, only friendlies.

“It was difficult for some fans to understand that I loved representing Mexico,” she said. “I’m from Idaho, and I didn’t choose that. I could’ve lived elsewhere in a Spanish-speaking area… but that wasn’t in my playing cards. I think when I was there, I was called a ‘gringa.’ I have lighter hair, I’m lighter skinned, and I think people were questioning how Mexican I was, which was so funny because my family is from Mexico, I go there all the time. It was always pretty difficult for people to understand who I really was.” 

Huerta said that when fans started to warm up to her, she decided to make the switch to the U.S. team. Although she did not debut for the U.S. until 2017, it was always her dream to play for the red, white and blue.

“Right when they started to receive me better, I left. Of course, I received some critique from the fans when I left,” Huerta said. “I was a ‘traitor,’ I wasn’t ‘really Mexican’ and I was told to go back to where I belonged. There was a lot of not so nice things to read… I was born in America, and playing for the U.S. was the dream since I saw them on TV.

“If I was born in a different situation, Mexico would have been my dream. I’m so thankful that I got that opportunity, but it really was always to play the U.S., and make an Olympic, World Cup team for the U.S.” 

Both players are in tune to their heritage and their roots, and even practice their Spanish-speaking skills on each other.

“We’re always trying to speak Spanish to one another, then we get embarrassed and then we laugh at each other,” Huerta recalled. “We’re not the best of speaking it.”

Sanchez and Huerta understand the immense amount of pressure the U.S. is under to earn a fifth star and World Cup trophy. However, they also have pressure on themselves to represent themselves, and their heritage, well.

“There is so much more to do and so many Mexican-American girls who are deserving of the spotlight,” Sanchez said. “I hope there are more players and it won’t be off in the distance. It’s going to become so common. I think it’s awesome. Even little girls with their signs and they’re so happy to look up to us, that’s a big deal.”

Huerta agreed. “What an awesome opportunity I have to be Mexican-American and having Huerta on the back of my name and having little girls who look up to me, being Mexican-American, because as cliche as it sounds, if you can see it, you can be it,” she said. “For any little girl or little boy who is from the Latinx community and sees my last name, they can do it.” 

Your account


More in 2023 Women's World Cup