11 Questions With U-17 WNT Forward Ashley Sanchez

Forward Ashley Sanchez is the leading scorer for the U.S Under-17 Women’s National Team, tallying 18 goals in 18 international matches as the team heads into the 2016 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Jordan. She sat down with ussoccer.com to talk about the upcoming World Cup, her time with various U.S. National Teams this year and which teammates make her laugh.

ussoccer.com: This has been a long cycle and you are finally at the World Cup. Can you talk about how the team has grown over the past two years?
Ashley Sanchez: “Off the field, we’ve become more professional, whether it be eating better, improving our fitness or taking our preparation more seriously. I feel like at the beginning of the cycle, I was just a kid, and our coaches and staff have really helped us learn how to take care of our bodies and get ready to play. Throughout the cycle, we were all competing against each other for positions, but since the team was named I feel like we’ve grown more as a team. We know our roles and we feel very united.”

ussoccer.com: You bounced back and forth between the U.S. U-17s and the U-20s in the past year. What was that experience like?
AS: “It was kind of hard to adjust to all the different players and their individual styles, but off the field, I feel like I’ve been able to keep in touch with both sets of teammates and continue to create that bond, which is important with whatever team I’m with. It’s been busy for sure, but I’m really excited to have the opportunity to play with both teams. Playing with great players is the best way to get better and the experience with both teams has really helped me develop as a player.”

ussoccer.com: You got to train for a few days with the full U.S. Women’s National Team in April. What did you gain from that experience?
AS: “It was good to see the highest level and to know that I have a lot of work to do to get there. To see those professional players and how they train and their mindset was super valuable. They are world champions for a reason and I just wanted to learn all I could. I have to admit that the speed of play and the physicality was eye-opening, but it was a great experience and hopefully I can go back one day.”

In April, Sanchez spent a few days training with the full U.S. WNT in Orlando

ussoccer.com: The U-17 WNT has a strong bond off the field. Who makes you laugh the most?
AS: “All my teammates are pretty funny, but Civana Kuhlmann and Jaelin Howell always crack me up. We have so many inside jokes that I’m sure people have no idea what we’re talking sometimes, but that’s okay. We’re teenagers so it’s good to be weird sometimes. It helps us get rid of stress from soccer and school off the field, which is important.”

ussoccer.com: The opening game of the World Cup is just a few days away. Are you thinking about that game at all, or are you taking it day-by-day?
AS: “I think it hasn’t really hit me yet that we’re here playing in the World Cup. We spent a few days in Cyprus that were really quiet and relaxing, and we got some good work done, but I know that we are mentally in a good place. I think once we have our pre-game training and see the stadium it’s going to get real really fast.”

ussoccer.com: The U-17 WNT has had some excellent results this year but will be facing some talented teams in group play. What do you expect from the level of play at this tournament?
AS: “It’s hard to know because we’ve never been in this situation before. It’s the first World Cup for all of us, but I know that all the teams will come out and compete as hard as they can. I know that all the teams in our group have really talented players and they want to win as much as we do, which is a lot. We have to be consistent and get the results we need in group play so we can qualify for the knockout rounds and then keep getting better in those games.”

ussoccer.com: You are wearing the number 10 jersey in this tournament. What does that mean to you?
AS: “The number 10 obviously has great history in our sport. It’s supposed to be a play-maker and a goal scorer and Carli Lloyd wears it so well on the full team, but I just want to keep contributing in the best ways I can for the team in whatever role I am asked to play. I love scoring goals, but I also love passing to my teammates and I know we have some really dangerous attacking players on the team so we’re excited to show what we have.”

ussoccer.com: Which player do you like better: Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal and Chile, or Hugo Sanchez, the great Mexican player?
AS: “Since you just told me I wasn’t even born when Hugo Sanchez was playing, I’d have to go with Alexis Sanchez. But I do really like watching him play. He’s very creative and scores some fantastic goals. He wears the Sanchez name very well.”

Sanchez has scored a team-leading 18 goals in 18 games for the U-17s 

ussoccer.com: You’ve been sporting a “scrunchie” in your hair during training. Is this a throwback to the 1980s and will you be wearing it during the World Cup?
AS: “I didn’t even know they wore scrunchies in the 1980s. It’s just a stylish look for a stylish gal. And yes, you might see it in the World Cup.”

ussoccer.com: Would you rather score on a bicycle kick or a diving header?
AS: “A bicycle kick, as long as I don’t injure myself, which I’m pretty sure I would if I tried it. But I guess if it scored, it would be worth it.”

ussoccer.com: You’re only 17 years old and you’ve been to eight foreign countries including Jordan. What do those experiences mean to you as a young person?
AS: “I like being able to travel and play soccer. I feel really fortunate to have had these experiences, see new places and see how big this world is. Being in Jordan is really special and different as I’ve never been to this part of the world before. I hope we can all take in as much of the culture and sites as possible while still focusing on soccer.”