By Celia Balf
Amy Rodriguez feels like royalty. This could be from the cozy and luxurious Utah Royals FC robe or it could be from the fact that the forward is back in the NWSL. Perhaps a combination of the two.
Rodriguez has had a highly decorated, yet brief NWSL career to date. In just two seasons in the league she managed to win two championships with FC Kansas City: 2014 and then again in 2015. In just 38 league appearances, including the playoffs, the two-time Olympic gold medalist has scored 26 goals.
Last season Rodriguez took the field for FCKC for the first time since missing the prior season to give birth to her second son. In pure royal fashion, Rodriguez scored in the 48th minute over Boston. Despite helping her team win that opening match, she suffered a season-ending ACL injury which has kept her sidelined for the past 10 months.
In February, fans everywhere were thrilled to see Rodriguez wasn’t even close to done yet. She signed with the new NWSL franchise Utah Royals FC for the 2018 season. While Rodriguez is not fully cleared to play, and will start the year on the 45-day DL, she has been in Utah with the team training preparing for the club’s inaugural season.
NWSL Media got the chance to catch up with Rodriguez following training just days away from the Utah Royals FC season opener against the Orlando Pride on Friday, March 24 (7:30 p.m. ET go90) at Orlando City Stadium.
Question: How are you feeling? Can you update us on your recovery?
Amy Rodriguez: I feel really good. I’m so excited to be here with the team training. I’m still working on my return to play and building up to full strength. I’m slowly re-entering with the team, with less and less restriction. You know just trying to get ready and as thoroughly and as safely as possible.
Q: What was the rehab process been like this offseason?
Rodriguez: Obviously last year was devastating when I went down with my knee injury. I’ve never had something like that before. I was kind of in the middle of coming back after having a baby so the emotion of coming back to soccer was exciting and thrilling. I was looking forward to you know hopefully winning another championship with Kansas City, but that obviously got stripped away pretty quickly from my injury. There were a ton of hours in rehab, good days, bad days, and a lot of ups and downs. But, I’m happy to say that I worked with a great team doctor, therapist, and I have wonderful family support. My husband, who’s a physical therapist; can kind of understand my story a little bit better than most, probably, you know even though he wasn’t part of my rehab team, he was part of my support team. I have to say that I’m really happy with my progression and how things have come over the last 10 or so months and I’m looking forward to now embarking on another NWSL season. I am just going to give it my best shot and see how things go from here.
Q: Was there a specific “A-ha” moment in your recovery where you felt proud or reminded that you could get through this?
Rodriguez: Yeah, a ton of those little moments throughout ACL recovery, where you know just walking for the first time with equal weight bearing on both legs like that was a huge marker for me! And getting my range of motion, you know you want to be able to get your leg back to the same range of motion you had before the injury and when I got those it was like another notch on the belt. And things just built up, and even though it does takes so long to recover you take the little battles one at a time and week by week and you end up just improving and before you know it… now I’m here and I’m training with the team. You know I’m almost completely ready and it’s a good feeling to be on this side of it.
Q: How are things in Utah? So much excitement around the new team!
Rodriguez: I will say that this probably the most professional environment that I have ever played in in the NWSL. Definitely fantastic squad and staff, training facilities and the players facility, it is top of the line. It is kind of the best place to be if you were in my shoes trying to get myself back out there. I’ve got all of the amenities, support, medical staff that I could possibly need or want and they are taking really good care of us here. I am excited to see what the team puts on the field and hopefully come away with some big Ws this year.
Q: Do you feel any particular kind of emotion being back at Rio Tinto? (Rodriguez scored the 85th minute game-winner in the USWNT’s game against Canada in 2012.)
Rodriguez: A soccer field is a soccer field to be honest. I will say that I love playing here. It’s wonderful. It’s a beautiful place, wonderful stadium to play in and the fans are really rallying behind us, but I think it goes deeper than just playing at one location. For myself, it is about getting back out on the soccer field in general, and I think that’s probably where my emotions come from. I’m just happy that I’m back out here again, because I think when you have an injury the big question mark always is, “Will I ever be able to come back? Will I be the player that I was before?” And I can see that I’m on the path to return to my old self, so I’m happy about that.
Q: How is the team coming together? Can you tell us about how the chemistry is shaping up?
Rodriguez: So we have a great squad. I will say that we have some really great friends on the team. We all have drive and get along really well. Just a really good mix of girls and yeah a big chunk of girls come from Kansas City so [there are a lot] who have that playing experience together and [then] some that are new, but I think the combination of who Laura [Harvey, Utah Royals FC head coach] and the staff have added combined with who we had before is just going to make a dangerous squad. I’m looking forward to seeing what we put on the field.
Q: Has there been a particular highlight in preseason for you so far?
Rodriguez: We got to go to California last week which is where I’m from! We got to take a preseason trip up to California, so I got to go home, see my kids and be with my family. I had the team over at my house, you know it’s just been fun.
Q: What would you say are your personal and team goals for the season?
Rodriguez: Goal for the season would be to win a NWSL championship. You know I’ve actually only played two seasons in the NWSL, and I have been able to win both, so I feel like my record is pretty good so I’d like to keep that going. I’d love to bring Utah their championship in their inaugural season, especially ‘cause everybody wants us to do well. Yeah, that would be my personal goal and team goal for this season.
Question: And lastly, how are those robes?
R: Very comfy. We feel like royalty in them.
— Utah Royals FC (@UtahRoyalsFC) February 18, 2018