Wed, Jul 14 2010 02:27 AM Posted By: Phillip Brents
Mention Sophia Perez' name around South County soccer circles and four things usually pop up on the radar: Bonita Vista, San Diego State University, the San Diego Sunwaves and the Mexican national team.
A 2000 graduate of BVHS, Perez went on to star at SDSU and, in the process, earn a multi-year gig with the fledgling Mexican national women's team that literally took her around the world.
She also planted firm roots locally with the San Diego Lady Gauchos and the Sunwaves of the W-League and more recently with San Diego United of the Women's Premier Soccer League.
At 28, her career is by no means over. In fact, she said, it could be entering another level.
"I'm not with the Mexican national team at present," she said after a recent SD United contest. She stopped there, leading one to believe her future status with the team could change.
Based on her performance this season, international competition could be back in her play book sooner than she might think.
"I took a year off from playing, so it takes a while to get that rhythm back," she said. "All goalkeepers need to be in a rhythm."
Perez led the Sunwaves to the Western Conference championship in 2007 and earned All-WPSL honors during SD United's inaugural season in 2008.
But earning accolades in the second division W-League or even in the lower level WPSL is one thing. Playing at the top of the soccer ladder is another. Thus, Perez elected to audition for the start-up Women's Professional Soccer, the domestic first division successor league to the celebrated but short-lived Women's United Soccer Association that spent like a major league power broker but attracted minor league-type crowds from 2000-03.
The crowds might be even smaller in WPS but the next generation league kick-started itself with a much more fiscally-restrained operating budget. Only one team (the L.A. Sol) folded after the inaugural season in 2009 but, with two expansion franchises, the league is actually operating with one more club than last year.
Perez sought out employment with (New Jersey) Sky Blue FC, one of the more solid organizations in the fledgling circuit.
"I went back there for tryouts and got cut but they liked me and told me to stay around," Perez said. "I was paid as a coach at their soccer school and practiced with the team, so it made me feel I was still part of the team. I just didn't play in the league games."
The time with Sky Blue FC was well spent, she said.
Being involved with a top-flight organization such as Sky Blue, and being around a coaching staff that included national team-caliber goalkeeper coaches and national team-caliber goalkeepers, Perez said it was a pivotal point in her career.
"I learned so much in that eight-month span," the former BVHS and SDSU standout said.
That much is evident when watching Perez on the field with SD United, particularly in how she directs the defense in front of her and constantly offers encouragement to her teammates. Known for always being vocal on the field, her verbal dispatches now carry more a focus now.
"There's a difference between being just vocal on the field and being vocal in terms of communicating with everyone," she said. "My heart is in playing soccer. For me, it's about getting back to where I was as a player before I took the year off. It's also about helping my teammates grow as soccer players. I feel like a coach and a player now."
San Diego United: Did you know?
With a season opening 3-0 win over the SeaLions at Cathedral Catholic High School on May 21 and a 1-1 draw between the teams June 20 at USD's Torero Stadium, San Diego United won the annual San Diego Derby between the two regional rivals.
Stephanie Ochs (USD) leads SD United in season scoring with three goals and two assists. Beth Lloyd (Central Connecticut State University) ranks second with three goals and one assist.
SD United plays in the Pacific-South Division alongside rivals Ajax America Women, the Claremont Stars, LAFC Chelsea, PSSCV Rooks and SeaLions.
SD United's remaining schedule includes matches at LAFC Chelsea (July 10 at La Canada High School) and Ajax America Women (July 11 at Nansen Field in Rolling Hills Estates) and a home match against the Claremont Stars (July 17 at Torero Stadium).
The Women's Premier Soccer League was formed in 1998 and is sanctioned by the United States Adult Soccer Association and is an affiliate of the United States Soccer Federation.
For more information about SD United, visit the Web sites at www.sdunited.net and www.wpsl.info.
SD United Rewind
The 2009 WPSL campaign was a memorable one. SD United was named the WPSL Organization of the Year in 2009 after reaching the Pacific Conference Final Four tournament following an outstanding 11-1-2 regular season record.
Forward Lindsay Browne (Clemson University) and goalkeeper Michele Dalton (University of Wisconsin) both were named to the All-Pacific Conference team. Dalton earned further accolades as the conference's goalkeeper of the year.
Browne led SD United with seven goals and 16 points last season, followed by Rebekah Patrick (Cal State Fullerton) with six goals, Melanie DeSalvo (Cal State Dominquez Hills/Eastlake High School) with five goals and Ochs with four goals. The team's strength, however, was its defense that allowed only four goals all last season, including the playoffs.
SD United coach Elio Bello received honor as the 2009 WPSL Pacific Conference Co-Coach of the Year.
BVHS grad has SeaLions compiling fast finish
The ending of regular season play in the Women's Premier Soccer League is two weeks away. If the San Diego SeaLions continue to play the way they have the last two weeks, a trip to the WPSL's national finals in Dallas at the end of the month is not out of the question.
The SeaLions, coached by former Bonita Vista High School and Women's World Cup standout Jen (Lalor) Nielsen, have gone undefeated in their last three matches (2-0-1) to challenge the defending WPSL finalist Ajax America Women and newcomer LAFC Chelsea for the Pacific-South Division lead.
Of note, the SeaLions defeated LAFC Chelsea, 2-1, on June 26 and added a 3-1 victory against the Claremont Stars on June 27. After kicking off the season 2-0, the SeaLions have gone 4-1-1 in their last six matches.
The SeaLions host Ajax America in their season finale July 18 at 2 p.m. at Cathedral Catholic High School in a match that could determine the division championship.
The SeaLions appear to have regained their rhythm following a 1-1 draw against regional rival San Diego United on June 20. In that game, the SeaLions out-shot SD United 15-9.
"Playing a high-level technical game is heavily stressed," Nielsen said. "The goals will come if we continue to lay the foundation of solid technical play. It would be worrisome if we were not creating the chances, but we are and that is encouraging."
© 2009 The Star-News