December 18, 1998

Local Mexican-American Goalkeeper Within One Game of Reaching Women's World Cup

By John Philip Wyllie

After a four year career at Bonita Vista High School, Linnea Quinoes spent the Fall season shuttling between SDSU (where she served as the back-up keeper) and the Mexican National Team.

One game. That is all that separates former Bonita Vista High School goalkeeper, Linnea Quinones from appearing in the `99 Women's World Cup. Quinones is one of eight American born, Mexican-American players bolstering the Mexican national team roster as they prepare for Saturday's crucial match against Argentina.

In the first of the two scheduled playoff games to determine the final entrant in next summer's quadrennial event, Mexico won handily 3-1. After allowing a goal in the opening minute, Quinones and the Mexican defense shut down the Argentine attack while their midfield dictated the flow of the game. American Monica Gerardo, Notre Dame's All-time leading scorer, knotted the game in the 24th minute. Four other American players contributed to the win as the Tricolor added two goals in the second half.

The extent of Mexico's reliance on American players has raised some eyebrows within the soccer community, but it has the fledgling team on the verge of qualifying for their first ever Women's World Cup. All that stands in their way is Saturday's return match in Buenos Aires. One person who isn't complaining about Mexico's importation of American talent is U.S. Women's National Team coach, Tony DiCicco.

"I thought it was a good move, quite honestly," DiCicco said. "The American collegiate system is probably a bit more advanced than the Mexican system, so utilizing the American players was a good move. And now they are one step closer to qualifying. Hopefully, this will be a good thing for CONCACAF and create more interest in women's soccer throughout our region. But, there are some other ramifications from what they've done," DiCicco cautioned. "We might have to keep a closer eye on our Mexican-American talent and make sure that we don't have some sort of hemorrhage involving a player or two that might become important to the United States."

Prior to departing for the two game road trip, Quinones returned to her alma mater and discussed her reasoning for playing under the Mexican Flag. "It has always been my dream to make it to the World Cup. I always wanted to represent the United States, but I didn't get the chance. When this one came along, I saw that it was a great opportunity. I'm very happy to be playing with Mexico."

The feeling was apparently not reciprocated by some Mexican soccer fans, at least, not initially. "The spectators hassled us at first," Quinones said. "They felt like we shouldn't be playing on the team since we weren't born in Mexico. Maybe they thought we wouldn't have pride in playing for Mexico. But, I think as time has gone on, people are starting to accept us." The estimated turnout of well over 1,000 spectators for game one of the Mexico-Argentina series was believed to be the largest crowd to ever witness a women's match on Mexican soil. To a team for which recognition has come slowly, it was a step in the right direction.

"Everyone in Mexico is concerned about the men's team and how they are doing. Until now they have never invested the time or the money into the women's program," said Quinones. That changed after Karlo Pedrin, the father of one of Quinones' Bonita Vista teammates persuaded the Mexican Soccer Federation to incorporate a group of American collegiate players with Mexican heritage within the Mexican women's team. The added boost secured a second place finish for Mexico team at last summer's CONCACAF qualifying tournament in Canada. That, in turn insured the two game series with South American second place finisher Argentina for the last remaining slot in the `99 Women's World Cup.

Mexico will be mismatched should they face tournament favorites such as the United States and Norway next summer, but winning the tournament is not the goal, at least not in `99. "If we can qualify, it should help us financially, in terms of news coverage and in every way," Quinones said. "Hopefully we will bring a lot of exposure to the women's game in Mexico. And maybe after seeing us, little ten year old Mexican girls will want to play in the Women's World Cup themselves some day."

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