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Linda Frías forges her own path through soccer

The Santos Laguna Femenil forward’s journey has taken her from colleges in the United States to El Salvador and now to Mexico, but it’s all gone according to plan.

Linda Frías of Santos Laguna Femenil Club Santos Laguna press release

It’s always a good thing when a plan comes together. Just ask Santos Laguna’s Linda Frías. The Santos forward has taken a path through soccer that no one else has taken, but it’s all gone according to plan.

Born and raised in Southern California, she started playing soccer with American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) teams when she was younger, but it wasn’t until later that she realized that she had a gift. “ My freshman year I made varsity,” she told SB Nation in an interview. In her freshman year she scored 46 goals. “So that went well. (My) sophomore, junior, and senior year, I was captain for my high school team. We weren’t the best, but we were always trying.”

Frías had goals though beyond high school. She played two years at Bethesda University in Anaheim, California before transferring to Santa Ana College for the 2017-18 season.

Her mom is from El Salvador and her father is Mexican. “I went to see one of the games for first division (in El Salvador).” She wound up meeting with the president of Alianza Fútbol Club, who invited her to try out for the team. She made the team, but the reaction among her friends wasn’t all positive. “Don’t go to El Salvador. What are you gonna do down there? It’s really poor. They’re not gonna pay you much,” she says, recalling telling friends she was leaving the United States to go play in one of Central America’s nascent footballing nations.

But it wasn’t just about her. “In my mindset, it wasn’t about the money, it wasn’t about how much they were going to pay me. It was more about, ‘No, it’s my mom’s country, and I want to go and play.’ It doesn’t matter if they are not going to pay me, doesn’t matter if they aren’t good. It was something that I did it more because my heart wanted to play down in El Salvador.”

Frías helped Alianza win a title in 2019 and 2020, although the 2020 season was complicated with everything shutting down. “Unfortunately because of all the COVID situations and me being back in LA,” she says, “I missed almost the whole second season that I was going to be with Alianza. I only got to play I think maybe like one game (after soccer restarted), and that was like my, my final game to say goodbye to the team.”

Frías won titles with El Salvadoran giants Alianza in 2019 and 2020.
Frías won titles with El Salvadoran giants Alianza in 2019 and 2020.
Linda Frías

She has no regrets about playing in El Salvador though. As with life, the moves a person makes tends to have consequences down the line. “The consequence is I got an opportunity here in Mexico.”

Frías met up with some coaches that had “(played professionally in teams such as Chivas and other first division Mexican teams.” in Los Angeles and Orange County area who worked with her. “It wasn’t just that,” she explains. “The coaches did like 10%, and my hard work was 90% of it. You’ve got to work hard and keep training, and that’s how I got here to Santos.”

“I went to play out in El Salvador hoping for an opportunity here in Mexico. And sure enough, I got lucky enough to have a tryout with Santos and I made the team.”

There’s been a learning curve, as you’d expect going from one league to another. “The soccer is a lot different from El Salvador to here. It’s a lot more competitive in La Liga MX (Femenil). It’s grown. It’s been in play for a few years, so it’s grown quite a (lot). Down in El Salvador, it’s not (as) grown. But it’s getting there.”

Frías is getting up to speed with her teammates too and enjoying her time with Santos. While she might not be getting the playing time she wants, she says “it’s it’s going amazing there.” She also sees the potential of the team, despite being in the midst of a tough season. “It’s a good group of girls. They’re really young, but they all have one focus and the focus for the season was making it into the top eight. So we work really hard for it. Sometimes our results don’t come out as we play, because sometimes we have really good games, but our results and our goals aren’t at the end.”

And she’s not done. Her goal is to play for the El Salvador national team, travelling there at one point for tryouts. “My idea was to go and play for the national team, but all this COVID hit.” If called to La Selecta, she would join a very small club of players who play in Liga MX to play for another national team. So far only Tijuana’s Valentina Oviedo has played a senior team game for a nation other than Mexico, representing her father’s native Colombia.

She has said she wants to pursue nursing when her career in soccer is done, she’s not just talking on the pitch. “I have quite a few options,” she says. “One of my goals I set for myself was maybe coaching the El Salvador national team. And maybe being a coach in El Salvador, if soccer if the women’s soccer program grows out there. But not the only in El Salvador, but maybe in Mexico, or even in the US since I was born in the US.”

That’s most likely in the distant future, however Frías has planned for these things before.