Ashley Sanchez simply loves soccer and setting up teammates

She’s been heralded as a future USWNT star. She’s one of the most accomplished players in UCLA women’s soccer history. But, for Washington Spirit rookie Ashley Sanchez, soccer can simply be described as a sport that she absolutely loves to play. “I have so much fun playing soccer; I have since I was 4 years old,” Sanchez told BGN. “Nothing has changed.”

While Ashley has fun playing soccer, it’s equally as enjoyable to watch her perform on the pitch. She has great energy and creativity when in possession, eluding defenders and creating angles with step-overs and slick skills on the ball. With her dribbling ability, vision, and unselfishness, the ball usually goes from her foot to a teammate, then into the back of the net. At UCLA, she set numerous school records including most career assists (42 in only three seasons), most assists in a season (15, twice), most NCAA tournament assists (14), and assists in a match (4). Ashley explained, “I love being able to create scoring chances for others, it honestly brings me more joy than scoring myself.”

That playmaking ability and her overall game put her on the USWNT radar early on. 2016 was her breakout year for the Stars and Stripes. She won the Golden Ball (Best player at the tournament) during the United States’ title-winning run in the CONCACAF U-17 Women’s Championship and became the first US player to play in two Women’s World Cups in the same year, as she captained the U-17 team before also playing for the U-20 team. That year, she also was called into camp with the first team as a 17-year-old and won the US Soccer Young Player of the Year.

With her status growing on the national team scene, expectations and talk of her becoming the next generation star of the USWNT increased. But, the outside noise doesn’t get Sanchez off her game. “It doesn’t add any pressure to be called a future star for the women’s national team,” she said. “I don’t really pay attention to what people are saying. I have goals for myself and that’s what’s most important to me.”

She was able to accomplish the goal of becoming a professional soccer player when the Washington Spirit selected her with the fourth overall pick in this year’s NWSL College Draft.

Growing up and playing her college ball in California, moving to the East Coast to join the Spirit is a big shift for Sanchez, but she’s enjoyed the transition and still talks to her family back home almost every day. “Coming from California to D.C definitely has been a change, but D.C has become a second home for me,” she said. “I do miss the beach a lot though. The fans have been great since day one of the draft; they were so kind and welcoming.” As a new D.C. resident, she’s already on board with some of the local music. “Wale is definitely on a playlist of mine. ‘Lotus Flower Bomb‘ is an all-time favorite,” she added.

Another exciting change in Ashley’s life as she’s become a professional is joining the Three Stripes family, signing a contract with Adidas. “I love what Adidas represents and the confidence they have in me made it an easy choice,” she explained. “My favorite soccer cleat would have to be the Copa, and my favorite non-soccer shoe would probably be Ozweego.”

Sanchez will hope her Adidas only bring good news for Washington as they kick off their NWSL Challenge Cup run. The Spirit’s first match will be against Utah Royals FC on June 30th at 12:30 PM Eastern Time, live on CBS All-Access. If you haven’t had the opportunity to see her action yet, you can expect skills, set-ups, and smiles from Ashley Sanchez in Utah this summer.

Carson A Merk

Reporting live from Sin City, I have covered both RGVFC and Las Vegas Lights FC since their inceptions. I also write profiles to highlight players from the NCAA to USL to NWSL and everywhere in between.