Perez Doing Big Things With Mexican National Team
By Janice Lee (Courtesy: GoHuskies.com)
There's something about Veronica Perez that makes her one of UW's and the Mexican Women's National Team's most prominent players who ever placed foot on the soccer field.
Perez was part of the group that transformed Husky women's soccer to national fame and then helped send the Mexican National Team to the 2011 World Cup with the game-winning goal to beat the USA at the Gold Cup. Now, the two-time Second Team All-Pac-10 honoree can add 'medal winner' to her resume.
No wonder she's known as "V-Magic."
Recently, former Husky forward Perez and the Mexican National Soccer Team won the bronze medal at the XVI Pan-American games, the second largest multi-sport event next to the Summer Olympics. With the games being held in Guadalajara, Mexico, you'd think Perez and the rest of her teammates had some pressure going in.
"When you walk in the stadium and it's packed, all eyes are on you and you just feel really happy and proud," Perez says on representing the national team. "We wanted to do something the Mexican women's soccer team has never done [before] and win the gold medal. Plus, we were playing in Mexico, so we wanted to win even more for our country in front of our fans. Honestly, I think we had to win a medal. It would've been a little embarrassing if we hadn't. We've created higher standards for our team, so we definitely expected to medal."
Mexico was placed in group A with Colombia, Chile and Trinidad. Although they tied with Chile and Trinidad to begin group play, a victory against Colombia rolled the team through to the semifinals, a game where Perez came up big - she scored the only goal of the match in the second minute to give hope to the Mexican National Team.
"The toughest game was the last group phase against Colombia," Perez said about the match. "It was a MUST WIN to advance out of our group."
Perez and the team went on to play a tough match against Brazil, where they lost 1-0. However, Mexico was not going out of the competition without giving their fans something more to cheer for. A rematch against Colombia for third place sealed the deal, coming out victorious, again, in a 1-0 overtime win.
As Canada went on to become the eventual women's soccer champions, Perez was humbled about the experience, saying, "It was unbelievable. Soccer is a big part of Mexican culture and we were very excited for the opportunity to showcase our abilities in front of our fans. The support was great. You get butterflies hearing them cheer "Mexico, Mexico, Mexico" or "Sí se puede." When the crowd gets into the games like that we want to give more."
To get a successful outcome as Mexico had, there comes months of preparation and training. And after coming so close to winning gold in the CONCACAF Women's Gold Cup and not winning a Pan-Am medal since 2003, all the training really paid off for Perez and her national teammates.
"We trained in Mexico City for about six weeks prior to the Pan-Am games. It was long, but since there's no professional women's league in Mexico, it helps our national team players come together and get into rhythm. We took it one game at a time. We watched film and our coaches did an excellent job at preparing us for each game and we went out there and tried to execute best as we could."
So, what's next for the 23-year-old from San Mateo, California?
"I have camp [with the Mexican National Team] in Mexico City on November 13th. We have a friendly against France in Franc eon the 20th. Then we begin preparation for Olympic Qualifying in December. That event takes place in Vancouver at the end of January."
But for now, Perez can sit back and let the emotions of winning a medal sink in.
"It's my first medal [and] I'm proud of it," Perez says. "I was being cheesy and kissing it and biting it. You see your role models doing it on TV and you want to do the same. The amount of time, effort and hard work we put in, like all the other athletes, was a lot so when you get that medal placed around your neck you just feel like, "Wow, look what we were able to accomplish." I'm so grateful and truly blessed to do what I love."