The Washington Post

Nataly Arias, a former Maryland Terrapin, likely headed to Women’s World Cup ... for Colombia

Earlier today, we posted a story about Ali Krieger, a former Washington area high school star who is heading to the Women’s World Cup with the U.S. national team. Turns out, her good friend Nataly Arias, who also rose through the youth soccer circuit in Northern Virginia, is expected to play in the German-hosted tournament as well — against the United States.

Arias, a 25-year-old right back from O’Connell High School and the University of Maryland, is a prime candidate for Colombia’s 21-player roster. A key figure in South American qualification, she is currently training with the squad in Bogota ahead of the May 21 roster deadline.

Colombia, appearing in its first Women’s World Cup, will face the United States July 2 in the second of three Group C matches.

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“Fingers crossed,” said her father Fernando, a native of Venezuela, who is a longtime coach for the VISTA youth program and, during the work day, runs a furniture upholstery business. “It’s a dream for her and she’s close to reaching it.”

Nataly was born and raised in the D.C. area. At O’Connell in Arlington, she was a two-time All-Met and The Post’s player of the year in the fall of 2003. (Krieger won the honor in the spring of ’03 while at Forest Park.). Because of her parents’ heritage, Arias was eligible to play for three countries: United States, Venezuela and Colombia, her mother’s homeland.

Nataly was invited to a U.S. youth camp many years ago but didn’t make a strong enough impression to return. So Fernando, a former player in Venezuela, reached out to the Venezuelan federation, which didn’t show much interest. When he contacted the Colombians, they were intrigued, and last summer, brought her to training camp. She was a regular in World Cup qualifying and scored multiple goals as Colombia finished a surprising second behind heavily favored Brazil.

She has made the adjustment to the backline after playing in the midfield in high school and college.

“They call her ‘Gringa,’” he said of the good-natured label given to his daughter by her Colombian teammates. “Her Spanish is good but not great, but it’s getting better the more time she spends there. It’s an exciting time for her.”

Steven Goff is The Post’s soccer writer. His beats include D.C. United, MLS and the international game, as well as local college basketball.


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