Sofia Huerta could see the writing on the wall.
The Boise native’s inexperience as a defender limited her rise with the U.S. women’s soccer team. And with World Cup qualifying in October, she knew she needed to close the gap or risk being left at home.
So Huerta requested that her professional club, the Chicago Red Stars, trade her to another team where she could get more minutes as a defender. The Red Stars fulfilled her request last week, sending her to the Houston Dash.
But the request might have backfired, as Chicago also shipped defender Taylor Comeau with her to Houston, erasing Houston’s need for an outside back and blocking Huerta’s development at her position with the national team.
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“Taylor Comeau is one of my best friends. I’m so glad she’s coming with me,” Huerta told The Equalizer, a website dedicated to covering women’s soccer. “But I think everyone in the league knows that Taylor Comeau has been playing outside back. That was a part of the trade that I wasn’t familiar with.
“Going into this, my only reasoning for being traded was for me to get reps at outside back.”
Huerta made her debut with Houston on Friday and made an immediate impact, scoring in the 12th minute of a 3-1 loss to the Portland Thorns. But like Chicago, Houston views Huerta as an offensive weapon, starting her as a central attacking midfielder.
Huerta told The Equalizer that Houston coach Vera Pauw informed her she wants to help Huerta develop as a player but has no plans to use Huerta as a defender.
“Of course, that’s devastating for me to hear,” Huerta said. “But I am really going to do everything I can in my power to keep developing and keep proving to everyone that I deserve to be someone who’s in the mix and a contender to make the World Cup roster. I won’t let an unfortunate event keep me from that.”
Huerta, a 2011 grad of Centennial High, received a one-time transfer to play for the U.S. national team in September after starting her national career with Mexico. Since then, national coach Jill Ellis has called Huerta into camp ahead of every U.S. game. She’s played in seven of the team’s past 14 games, including two starts.
While she shined as a winger and forward for the Chicago Red Stars, Ellis fit her into a stacked U.S. roster as an offensively gifted outside back who can press forward and join the attack.
Huerta has only a handful more opportunities to impress U.S. coaches ahead of World Cup qualifying Oct. 4-17. The U.S. competes in the Tournament of Nations from July 26 to Aug. 2 before a pair of friendlies against Chile on Aug. 31 and Sept. 4.
“Nothing in my career has ever been easy, and I think that determines the kind of person I am,” she told The Equalizer. “I think that’s ultimately what’s going to help me conquer my dreams, because it’s not an easy dream to have.
“It’s unfortunate the way it laid out for me, but I will make the most of the situation. I believe in myself. I’m rooting for myself, and I think that’s most important.”