Amy Rodriguez: A Long Journey Back to the Field

U.S. WNT forward Amy Rodriguez has reached the highest pinnacles in women’s soccer. With two Olympic gold medals (2008 and 2012) and a World Cup title (2015) on her resume, she also has also scored some important goals in U.S. WNT history. None of them were bigger than the one in 2010 against Italy during the second leg of the Women’s World Cup playoff that gave the USA a 1-0 win, and a 2-0 victory on aggregate, which secured a berth to the 2011 Women’s World Cup in Germany.

Rodriguez became a mom for the first time in 2013 when she gave birth to her son Ryan about a year after winning the gold medal in London. She got back to full fitness in time to earn a spot on the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup team where she contributed to the USA’s historic championship. A year later, she gave birth to her second son, Luke.

Rodriguez’ final WNT game before her second pregnancy leave was on Oct. 25, 2015 during the USA’s Victory Tour. She did not play a competitive match – for club or country – in 2016. In 2017, after working incredibly hard to bounce back from having the second baby, Rodriguez was fit and ready to step back on the field and resume her career.

Her first official return to competition came with the U.S. WNT on April 6, 2017, when she played a solid 10 minutes against Russia in Frisco, Texas. Twelve days later, she stepped on the field with her club FC Kansas City for its opening day match on April 18, 2017.

It was a dream start, if only for a few minutes, as Rodriguez scored in the 48th minute to put FCKC up 2-0. There was joy and jubilation. The long-awaited return had come and been punctuated with a goal. But sometimes the universe can be cruel, and just six minutes later as Rodriguez was receiving a pass, an opposing player knocked into her right side, forcing her to jam her left foot awkwardly into the ground. The pressure appeared to cause her left leg to buckle, at which point she fell to the field, curled onto her left side and pounded her fist repeatedly on the turf.

It was tough to watch. Fans in the stands sat in complete silence. Everyone in the women’s soccer community was left speechless. She has battled so hard to return, and now this? It was unfair, and it probably would have been the end to a career for many.

She had won a World Cup, two Olympic medals, a pair of NWSL titles and an NCAA title at USC. She could have called it quits and retired from soccer with her legacy secure.

But Rodriguez didn’t feel like she was done. The Southern California native is a competitor and never for a moment did she doubt she was going to pull on the U.S. jersey again.

“It’s remarkable how well she’s come back, and I know the work she’s put into it,” U.S. WNT head coach Jill Ellis said. “To do it with two young boys, its exceptional. Her commitment is fantastic. She still has the same qualities and she’s just a great human being.”

On April 14, 2018, Rodriguez made her return to the field at Rio Tinto Stadium with her new NWSL club, Utah Royals FC. It was a special moment, coming almost a year to the date of her ACL tear.

And then on June 7, she stepped on that same field, but this time for the National Team. It was a heartwarming moment. An almost two-year journey had brought her back to play for the USA in front of her home fans.

“Gosh, it’s so fun to play with this team,” Rodriguez said following the USA’s 1-0 win against China in Utah. “I’ve been out a year with my ACL tear and to be back on the pitch, wearing the red, white and blue and supporting my team. I just wanted to get my legs back under me and just help the team solidify the win.”

Behind the scenes, being an elite athlete come with a grueling lifestyle. There are long training days, constant travel and non-stop dedication that a player must have to reach the top. There many ups and downs and Rodriguez has faced them all, all the while managing it with patience, class and a smile on her face.

“Tonight, was everything I remembered, but it also meant so much more because of the uphill battle I faced last year with the injury,” she said. “It’s never easy to come back. You never know what kind of player you’re going to be or if you’ll be as good as you once were. I put a lot of tears and sweat into this, and I was just happy to be back on the field.”

An incredible journey by an incredible woman. The soccer world is a better place when A-Rod is back in action.