Midfielder Eva Gonzalez will be a player to watch next fall at Owen T. Carroll Field. What a fan won’t see from her play on the field alone is the adversity and continued sacrifice that Gonzalez endures to play the sport she loves, while still committing to her academics.
Gonzalez is not just a student athlete, but it could be said, a student athlete plus one. She balances her schooling with her collegiate athletics, but is also committed to the Mexican national team, of which she has been a part of since she was about 15-years-old. Growing up in Mesquite, Texas, she first envisioned herself playing for the U.S.
The five-foot, two-inch Gonzalez was on track for that achievement, training with high level youth teams that put her in arm’s length of the United States national team. Although the cold reality hit her in a meeting one day that she did not fit the rudimentary vision that the U.S. Federation was looking for in its players.
“I went in for a meeting with a few of them and they told me, ‘Eva, we have nothing bad to say, but the people above me want girls with height and speed.’ You take one look at me and…that’s not me,” Gonzalez said.
The rejection hit Gonzalez hard. She admitted that the harshness of the news made her seriously ponder her future playing the game she loves.
“After that, if I’m being completely honest, I got to a point where I said, I don’t even want to play big anymore,” Gonzalez said. “I was always told, ‘Eva you’re too small, Eva you’re on the bubble because you’re so small.’ I got to the point where I said, I don’t even care anymore. It was not there in my mind anymore, and when I grew up it was always there, I always wanted to play.”
But with one door closing, another opened in the form of the Mexican national team. Gonzalez was spotted by a scout in Texas and the program instantly welcomed her with open arms. She has been a part of the U-17 and U-20 team for Mexico, getting the chance to play in tournaments like the U-20 World Cup, and travel to such places as Papua New Guinea.
“With the traveling, I love it,” Gonzalez said. “It does get like ‘ugh’ because there is so many. But I’m always going to a different place and I’m not paying for it, so, who can say that? It’s a blessing.”
With that level of travel under her belt, there is no need to ask about whether Gonzalez could handle the transition from Texas to New Jersey. Women’s soccer head coach Rick Stainton described Gonzalez as “dynamic and personable,” among other things.
The most difficult thing for Gonzalez has been balancing her commitment to both the Pirates and the national team. Gonzalez was a healthy redshirt last season, with her international schedule not offering enough availability to play a satisfactory amount with the Pirates. The reality of having to redshirt was definitely something that upset her.
“I got frustrated, I really did,” Gonzalez said. “Because I wanted to come in and I wanted to play and make a difference, because we are a growing program, and I wanted to be a part of the program growing. When I found out I was going to redshirt I said to myself, I want to play, I want to be there for the girls.”
James Justice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JamesJusticeIII.