Photos by Amy Kontras courtesy of ISI Photos
By Rachel Gaylor
The resume of Amy Rodriguez is longer from the past 10 years than most people have in a lifetime, but no challenge has been harder than the one “A-Rod” has been facing for the past three months.
In the FC Kansas City season opener on April 16th, Rodriguez started her second comeback season after giving birth to her second child, Luke, back in July 2016. She had come back from pregnancy once before in the 2014 season, so she knew what to expect. However, life never seems to go how we expect it to.
In the 48th minute of the game against the Boston Breakers, Rodriguez scored her first goal of the season and her first for the Blues since the game-winner in the 2015 National Women’s Soccer League Championship. The excitement and emotions of that moment were completely reversed only seven minutes later…Rodriguez’s career would once again be interrupted, this time by an ACL tear. Her season that had just started was over in an instant.
“I knew right away,” Rodriguez said. “Everyone tells you the symptoms and the experience and it was just like that. The pop, the feeling. It didn’t hurt, but I knew what the feeling meant, I just felt it in my knee.”
Rodriguez’s career really took off a decade ago. She led the USC Trojans to their first ever college cup win. The following summer, she won her first of two gold medals with the U.S. Women’s National Team at the Beijing Olympics. She also won a gold medal in 2012 in London. In 2013, she took a year off to have her first son, Ryan, and joined Kansas City before the start of the 2014 season.
From there, she really became a leader on the team and a player that not just other players, but the coaches looked up to as well.
“She brings a lot of things,” coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “First of all, she’s a great person. We love to have her on the team. She’s a great teammate and a great player to coach. Her energy and enthusiasm are contagious. She comes in with a smile on her face and she is always ready to practice.”
In the 2014 season, Rodriguez finished second in the golden boot race amounting 13 goals. She was third in MVP voting, named to the NWSL Best XI and led the team to a 2-1 victory over Seattle Reign FC to win the team’s first championship, scoring both goals.
In 2015, Rodriguez only made 11 appearances due to the Women’s World Cup, but still scored six goals in those games. She also scored two of the three goals in the Blues’ 3-0 win over Chicago in the playoff semifinal and then scored her one and only NWSL header in the final against Seattle to give the Blues the win and their second straight championship.
Following that season, Rodriguez took 2016 off to have her second son and worked her way back once again before the injury halted the comeback.
“Honestly, the injury hurt worse,” Rodriguez said about the ACL tear compared to childbirth. “The surgery and the initial recovery is far worse for me. Far worse. I’ve had two kids, but it’s a happy pain when you have children. This was devastating and I didn’t choose this.”
Andonovski said that, while he had hoped that it wasn’t as bad as it seemed, he knew as well that Rodriguez was done for the season.
“Knowing A-Rod, I had never seen her stay on the ground for so long,” he said. “She’s always back up on her feet. That’s what scared me. The second thing is that when I came up next to her, she said ‘coach, that’s it. I know that’s it.’ As a coach, you always hope for the best. Up until the next morning when we got the MRI results, I was hoping that it wasn’t as bad as we thought it was.”
Rodriguez may not have experience with the injury side of adversity, but she did share some wise advice for players who may not know if they are good enough to break through.
“It was never smooth-sailing,” she said. “In high school, I remember trying out for club teams that said they didn’t want me, they didn’t think I was good enough, and I just set out to prove them wrong. If you have the mindset and the work rate for it, you can do anything. Don’t let other people put you in a box or tell you what you can and can’t do. It’s all about your mindset.”
When asked the difficult question of which championship was her favorite, Rodriguez said she couldn’t pick a favorite but had different feelings with each one.
“I felt the most influential with my first Olympic gold medal,” she said. “But some of my fondest soccer memories are with FCKC and winning the championship. So much of that year and the responsibility was put on my shoulders, it really felt like I was a part of it and I was able to do something great for my city.”
Underneath the medals and cups and accolades is a player that is described by Andonovski as “a true goal scorer.” She has been through adversity before and has fought her way back time and again. If her past is any indication, she will be back better and hungrier than before.
Rodriguez will be in attendance and signing autographs as FC Kansas City hosts the North Carolina Courage for the first time this Saturday at 7:00 p.m. CT. Tickets for the match at Swope Soccer Village can be purchased here.