How sacrifice helped Ashley Sanchez make it to the World Cup

Jenna Watson-USA TODAY Sports
Ashley Sanchez missed parties, vacations, and more to train to play in the World Cup. Her dedication to her dream is paying off.

MONROVIA, Calif. — When Ashley Sanchez’s family, friends, and community describe her, they often mention her loyalty and dedication. And two members of that group, her parents, Julie Sanchez and Ralph Sanchez, saw it constantly as she grew up. 

Ralph coached Ashley as she grew up playing soccer at the American Youth Soccer Association (AYSO), club, and school levels. While doing so, she was frequently traveling to play in tournaments, games, and more. But her desire to succeed fueled her journey. 

“It was hard work, training. I can’t make her want this,” Ralph said. “And at an early age, at about nine years old, ten years old, is when I started to notice she kind of took that and ran with it.” 

“In high school, I think she went to one dance, never went to football games, missed countless family vacations, birthday parties, weddings, anniversaries, everything because she’d be traveling. Or if she wasn’t traveling, she was home on a Friday night. A lot of her friends would be at parties and stuff, and she’d be on the treadmill working out.”

Many of Ashley’s other coaches will say the same, as her dedication and strong character became evident to almost everyone she interacted with. Her private coach, Israel Sanchez (unrelated), quickly mentioned such characteristics when describing Ashley. 

“If I say let’s meet at seven in the morning, she’ll be there at seven in the morning,” Israel said. “She doesn’t think about her sleep or staying in. She knows what she had to do to get to the next level.”

But commitment is only one of Israel’s favorite attributes of Ashley. He loves their open communication and believes it has benefitted her success on the field.

“Anytime she says, ‘I tried this at training; I saw how this is gonna benefit me.’ and things that work for her in the game, it’s rewarding for her,” Israel said. “It is also rewarding for me to feel that I’m doing a small part in her development and growth because there are a lot of people that she has worked with before me.”

The aforementioned desire to grow on the field, paired with Ashley’s amiable personality, is what had schools like UCLA reaching out when she was in high school. Eventually, she played three seasons there, setting a school record with 42 assists in three seasons, among many other accomplishments. 

Ashley’s success at UCLA led her to be selected by the Washington Spirit fourth overall in the 2020 NWSL Draft. And while thriving (again) with the Spirit, the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) came calling for her services. She had played for the United States U-20 and U-17 teams but received her first senior team cap in 2021. And now, in 2023, she is with them in the World Cup.

Credit: Jenna Watson-USA TODAY Sports

While Ashley plays halfway across the world in Australia and New Zealand, many people from her hometown of Monrovia, California, are rooting for her. In the United States’ second group stage match against the Netherlands, her community came together at Basin 141, a social bar and kitchen.

“We’ve got neighbors, friends, family. Old players used to play with, coaches who used to coach her,” said Ralph of the crowd at the watch party.

Siete Family Foods hosted the event as one of their local legends viewing parties, which included one for Naomi Girma and Sofia Huerta.

“When she was named to the team, and when we had the opportunity to not just support her, but support everybody that has been a part of her life on what is arguably like the biggest stage and women’s soccer, to be a part of that is just exciting,” said Miguel Garza, chief executive officer (CEO) and co-founder of Siete Family Foods.

Ashley did not enter the match, but the crowd of hundreds cheered for her team to support her. They all have partaken in her path in different ways but were there with the same purpose: to celebrate her accomplishment and character.

“It just shows the kind of person she is,” Ralph said. “She’s pretty quiet, but she does have a huge circle of friends. But her circle is pretty close. Her friends are very close and very tight. She’s a very loyal person. She is connected with everybody that’s here in one way or another.”

Credit: Robert Mora/Siete Foods

Ashley’s United States tied the match against the Netherlands, 1-1. Next, Isabel and Ralph plan to travel to the World Cup to support Ashley in the World Cup if the United States makes it to the knockout stages. They plan to leave Monrovia on Thursday ahead of the Round of 16.