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The Magic of Veronica Perez

Veronica celebrates a goal (photo by Jane Gershovich, SoundersWomen.com)

Tukwila, WA – Veronica Perez has a knack for scoring goals and helping her team win. She already has nine goals in all competitions for the Seattle Sounders Women, most notably scoring a hat trick at home against the LA Strikers a couple weeks ago. Perez has undoubtedly risen to stardom playing for the blue and green and playing amongst the very best, but take one look at her resume and you can see that she is no stranger to the big stage.

Perez, known as "V" to everyone she meets, grew up in San Mateo, California, a city just outside of San Francisco. By the early age of four, she knew she had a special connection with the game of soccer.

"Since I was young, I've always wanted to become a soccer player. I don't know what I would have been doing [if I didn't play],” said Perez. “I think I just knew that I was going to keep playing, just because I fell in love with the game."

After trying softball, basketball, and tennis, nothing compared to the beautiful game. By the time Perez was 12 years old, all she did was play soccer. She would train every day with trainers who came from abroad. She also practiced constantly with her younger sister, Amanda, who is currently on trial with the Mexican U-20 team for the World Cup in Japan this year.

The work ethic, the determination and the passion she has for the game that developed at a young age has stuck with her throughout her journey to become a rising star wherever she went.

Veronica played just one year of high school soccer for Crystal Springs Uplands High School, earning first team, All-League honors. She decided to forgoe her junior and senior years because of commitments to the Pleasanton rage, while also representing the Far West region Olympic Development Program (ODP) team at the 2005 U.S. Youth Soccer Adidas Cup. Her success with high school and club soccer landed her as a top-150 national recruit in the class of 2006. It was time for her to decide her collegiate path.

"I initially committed verbally to a school, but then something happened and I ended up looking for another school to go to,” Perez explained. “I knew I wanted to stay in the West Coast because my family was in the Bay Area and I wanted to play in the Pac-10 (now Pac-12). I then e-mailed and called [the University of Washington] and asked if they had any more spots left because I'd love to come up there. I went up for a visit and fell in love with it."

In a short while, she would help bring the University of Washington back to the national spotlight. During her first two years at UW, Perez had helped the team drastically improve their record, but Washington didn’t earn a spot in the NCAA tournament. Perez wasn’t satisfied with the seasons she was having.

“I had a rough first two years in college,” Perez said. “I was young, naïve and probably thought I knew more than I did. I wasn’t working out extra and putting in the time to try to develop and get better. I was also following people instead of taking control and being accountable of my actions. By the end of my sophomore season, I hadn’t been performing well and pretty much blamed other people for that. But then something changed and I decided that if I wanted to see improvements, I needed to change my training, eating, resting and social habits. I began to invest my time in soccer and school mostly and really committed to getting better. I think that’s when it all started coming together.”

It wasn’t until Perez’ junior year that she really became the “V-Magic” as everyone knows her now. The nickname, given to her in college, was pretty fitting. Going into the 2008 season with just two career goals, she finished the year as the team leader in goals by netting 13, six of which were game-winners. That put her name on the UW single-season charts, ranking her third all-time for both categories. She had a goal in each of UW's first four games, similarly to how she started for the Sounders Women. Her "goal-a-game" trend might well have started at Husky Soccer Stadium.

In 2008, Washington made its first NCAA appearance since 2004. In an exciting first round match against LSU, the match Perez says was one of her greatest moments as a Husky. UW rallied to come back and take the victory, thanks to a game-tying goal to send it to over time by V-Magic. Perez and the team rallied to take a 3-2 victory.

Finishing her breakout season with an impressive 31 points, which ranks fifth on the single-season charts, and her first All-Pac-10 selection, Perez continued her dominance on the field in 2009. After tying for the team lead with six goals, getting two game-winners in back-to-back games, and recording a team-leading 66 shots, she was named the team's Player of the Year, the Husky Offensive MVP, and a Second-Team All-Pac-10 selection for the second-straight season. She led the team to another Second Round appearance in the NCAA tournament. Besides putting the Huskies back on the map, Perez got something that winning couldn’t provide – a lifetime of relationships built.

“The coaches and teammates are amazing. You really feel like part of a family,” Perez said. “Right now, I’m living with the coaches at their house. Even when you’re done, you still feel apart of it. I still go to a lot of the games. It’s kind of just like a family.”

After concluding her UW career and leading the Huskies to back-to-back NCAA appearances her final two seasons, Perez deservingly heard her named called up in the 2010 Women’s Pro Soccer (WPS) draft, the then-top tier of women’s professional soccer in the U.S. The Saint Louis Athletica selected the forward/midfielder in the fourth round as the 37th pick overall. Her hard work and dedication to the sport finally paid off.

She would have joined former Husky greats Hope Solo and Tina Ellertson, but the organization folded after just three and a half months due to a financial shortfall. Still, that didn’t stop her from playing at the highest level.

“When our team (Athletica) folded, that was the time when Mexico was starting to prepare a lot for the World Cup qualifications,” she said. “They started having a bunch of training camps. It actually worked out for me because I was able to go straight from St. Louis to Mexico and just train with Mexico a bunch.”

The national team, however, was not new to her. She had trained with the team during college after an assistant coach for Mexico saw her play in a game. Since her parents were born in Mexico, she was able to play on the national team.

“I was like, sweet!” Perez said after initially finding out she was qualified to play. “I went in and got my dual citizenship and passport. I went down for a couple of camps and the head coach really liked me and kept calling me back.”

Perez made an immediate impact for Mexico. In possibly one of the greatest upsets in international women’s soccer history, Mexico stunned top-ranked U.S. in 2010 Women’s World Cup Qualifying. Mexico denied the U.S.A an automatic berth in the 2011 World Cup, thanks to a game-winning goal by (who else but) Perez. A few months later, she led the team to a third-place finish in the 2011 Pan American Games after scoring a crucial goal that rolled them through to the semifinals. Talk about some clutch game-winners in the most important games of international play. Despite the success, Perez, humble and soft spoken, is all about team and playing her hardest to have her team win.

“I’m super proud to be able to represent the country and just step on the field and know that every one is looking up to you. What you do is going to leave an impression. I always just try my best and have a good attitude and just always give it my all, because I know they’re going to appreciate that,” she said. “That’s one thing that I take pride in, is that I’m always going to try my best and leave it all on the field and have a good attitude.”

With all the success Perez was having, it was hard to imagine that there was a stopping point in her professional career. But that time came when Mexico didn’t qualify for the 2012 Olympics, and she found herself stuck.

She explained, “I was kind of scrambling to find a team to play for because we don’t have anything big with Mexico. That kind of fell through… nothing was really happening. So then I called Frenchie (Sounders Women head coach).”

After connecting with Michelle French, Perez was back playing in Seattle again. Perez has certainly impressed the Sounders fans and has become one of the prominent faces of the franchise. She has started in all the games this season, leading the team in goals scored (6 in W-league play) and points (12). After scoring the game-winner against the Colorado Rush, in the regular season home opener, she was named to the W-League 11 of the Week.  She instantly became a fan favorite.

“It’s awesome,” Perez said. “It’s kind of like playing at home because a lot of my friends and family are here, so someone [that I know] is always at a game. Playing in front of your home crowd – Seattle is a big soccer city. We get some of the men’s players at our games, so that’s pretty awesome. I don’t know if any of the other teams get that. We have great fans and the support is awesome around here.”

Perez has overcome the ups and downs throughout her journey. From playing in the suburbs of San Mateo to playing on one of the best teams in women’s professional soccer, she has appreciated every single step of it.

“I do believe that everything happens for a reason,” she says. “Sometimes it’s a good thing, sometimes it’s not the outcome you wanted. But as long as I know I did everything I could and gave it my best shot, then I’m okay with it. Don’t expect to reach your goals if you aren’t going to invest your time and work hard for it. It’s not going to happen unless you do something about it. It’s not a sacrifice for me anymore because I enjoy what I’m doing and I love to play the game.”

So, what’s in the future for the current 24-year old? “Probably coaching” since she wants to be involved with soccer somehow, but that most likely won’t be happening for a while.

“I want to play for as long as I can, until my legs don’t move anymore. I am going to be playing for a long time.”

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The Sounders’ next matches are on June 30 and July 1 in Colorado. They take on the Colorado Rapids Women on Saturday and the Colorado Rush on Sunday. The matches will be aired live on KKNW Alternative Talk, 1150AM and 1150KKNW.com.
 

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