Xcaret Pineda is on her own journey in soccer at OSU.
When it came time to determine the start of that journey, however, the Cowgirl freshman wasn’t sure where to begin. Looking for answers, she turned to family to help guide the way.
“All five of us grew up playing soccer every day for hours, said Victor Pineda Jr., Xcaret's eldest brother. "We never thought of it as a job or as a career or anything. It was just like playing video games to us.”
The beautiful game and the Pineda family are nigh-inseparable from each other.
Whether in the backyard or the basement of their Bolingbrook, Illinois, home, pickup games or spontaneous training sessions are commonplace throughout the year.
“We would always train together, playing one-on-ones or two-on-twos,” Xcaret said. “There’s five of us, so we would all play against each other.”
For however many scrimmages they’ve played over the years, each sibling has taken their own path on to greater things. Guided by family patriarch Victor, the Pineda children have succeeded at some of the highest levels of the sport.
Victor Jr. was a player for the Chicago Fire of Major League Soccer and now runs a soccer academy in the Greater Chicago area. Her sister, Cindy, played for four years at Notre Dame. Her next-oldest brother, Mauricio, is a centre-back for the Fire after playing for four years at the University of North Carolina.
“I think we each went our own route,” Mauricio said. “My brother signed straight out of high school. I signed out of four years of college. I think X kind of wanted her own journey too.”
Xcaret wanted the best shot at becoming a pro, but knew from conversations with Victor Jr. trying to get a contract would be a tall task.
Signing out of high school with the Fire, Victor Jr. was the franchise’s first homegrown contract signing. Started in 2012, the homegrown contract can be given to players who did not participate in the MLS Draft but were part of the club’s youth system instead.
“I think it's just a little bit different as well for women and men still," Victor Jr. said. "That's something she's always been aware of, and I think she was very aware that she probably couldn't take the same path as I did. Luckily for her, she had Cindy and Mauricio to guide her and tell her about college and how good of an experience it was.”
Despite her family ties to ACC powerhouses, such as those in South Bend and Chapel Hill, Xcaret chose Oklahoma State. Her siblings understood the choice.
“I obviously supported her if she wanted to go to UNC,” Mauricio said, “But I think she kind of wanted to do her own thing, go to her own school and not really be known as ‘someone's sister at a school.’”
Settling into life in Stillwater and the Cowgirl soccer team, the next chapter of Pineda’s journey has begun. As for why she picked OSU?
“It just felt like home to me,” she said. “I really liked the coaching staff and the facilities, and I thought it fit me pretty well.
I'm glad that I chose it.”