Boots of a Spanish Leather: Thorns FC's Verónica Boquete quickly having an impact in Portland

Portland Thorns FC midfielder Verónica Boquete came to the Rose City with much fanfare. Captain of the Spanish national team, former Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) Player of the Year, Boquete’s path to soccer began as she grew up in the city of Santiago de Compostela in the Galicia region of northwestern Spain.

Her mother a chef and father a coach, Boquete came from relatively moderate background, but intense football upbringing. Soccer was born and bred in her family, with father Nicasio coaching both her and brother Adrian on the game since they could stand well enough to kick a soccer ball. Both Boquete children showed talent on the pitch, with Adrian making it to the second division in Spanish football before eventually leaving to pursue a career as a police officer. Vero, on the other hand, initially found things were more difficult.

When she was a youngster in the early ‘90s, it was not easy for Boquete to be a girl in the soccer-crazed, macho culture that existed in Spain. Even though Boquete practiced with her junior team every day, she was not allowed to play during games due to a rule separating the sexes. Her father Nicasio knew that had to change.

“When I was six years old, I was the only girl that played soccer in my city,” said Boquete. “My dad fought for it, as well as the president of the club, and the next year I could play.”

From there on out, there was nothing that could stop the determined young woman from Galicia. Boquete rose through the ranks of Spanish women’s soccer quickly, playing for first division side Prainsa Zaragosa when she was 18 years old. A natural goal scorer, the she racked up 79 goals over 151 appearances in her first five years of domestic play in Spain.

That put Boquete front and center as a premier attacking player. With stints in Spain, the U.S., Russia and Sweden, Boquete’s career hit a new high when she reached the Champion’s League Final with Swedish side Tyresö FF in 2014.

Playing alongside Brazilian star Marta and rising U.S. forward Christen Press, Boquete contributed a goal and assist in the final, though Tyresö would eventually fall, 4-3, to VfL Wolfsburg. Even with the loss, Boquete says she cherished her time in the Champions League.

“It was amazing,” said Boquete. “To be able to play that final, to live that experience is something that I will never forget.”

Of course, for someone like Boquete, the sting of losing on the greatest stage isn’t something that will go away quickly. A student of the game, Boquete is determined to get better, game after game. Off the pitch, her nose is often buried in books, learning about her craft as she studies for her eventual goal of becoming a coach. In a dedicated franchise like the Thorns, Boquete has fit right in.

“I love soccer too much,” laughed Boquete, speaking of her dedication to the sport. “But we have a really close team and we always try to do things together.”

But it’s not just been team barbeques and days spent as a group exploring the city of Portland that has made Boquete feel at home in the Rose City. After playing with some of the best in Swedish football, Boquete’s arrival to the Thorns has made sense on a talent level as well.

Portland’s roster is jam-packed with national team players from around the world, giving Boquete the opportunity to challenge herself in practice. Level of play as well and an incredible stadium environment were both motivators for Boquete’s move stateside, but so too was her familiarity with head coach Paul Riley. One of Boquete's former stints in the U.S. was in 2011 with the Philadelphia Independance, a club ran by Riley at the time.

“I think Paul knows what I can do and I know what he wants,” said Boquete. “I’m adapting to the team quickly.”

Indeed, it took Boquete just two games to score her first goal, putting home a right-footed low shot off an assist from Amber Brooks in the 78th minute of a 2-0 over Washington on June 15. It was a performance that earned Boquete NWSL Player of the Week accolades.

Portland currently stands in a tie for fifth place in the NWSL league table, with the goal of playoffs and a second-straight NWSL Championship still very much in sight. For Boquete, the chance at winning some hardware in 2014 is a shot at redemption for a challenging loss back in May.

“The loss in the Final will be there forever,” said Boquete. “But to fight for and win the NWSL Championship will help me a lot to get over it.”