Amy_rodriguez_-_asn_top_-_isi_-_uswnt_2018_-_brad_smith Brad Smith/ISI
USWNT Spotlight

USWNT players and coaches thrilled to have Rodriguez back

Becoming a parent and rehabbing from a torn ACL has kept Amy Rodriguez away from the U.S. national team for long stretches in recent years, but the veteran returned last night in a 1-0 win over China, leaving her teammates and coaches thrilled to have her back.
BY John Halloran Posted
June 08, 2018
6:20 AM
SANDY, UTAH—For a player with 131 caps to her name, 14 minutes in a throwaway friendly might not seem like much.

But for Amy Rodriguez—who missed an entire year of international play recovering from an ACL injury suffered last spring—the minutes symbolized much more than the time itself.

“It meant a lot because this was my first game back after being out a year,” said Rodriguez, speaking to the media after the United States’ 1-0 win over China on Thursday night. “All those moments of it being an uphill battle and very difficult this last year came to fruition when I got to step back on the field again. I’m really happy.”

“I put a lot of tears, a lot of sweat into this,” she added.

Rodriguez is no stranger to comebacks and, paradoxically, her last five years on the pitch have been both prolific and uneven.

In 2013, she missed the inaugural season of the National Women’s Soccer League due to a pregnancy with her first child. A year later, she not only returned to action, but managed to score the game-winning tallies in both the NWSL semifinals and finals. In 2015, she repeated the feat, leading FC Kansas City to a second straight title, again scoring the game-winners in the semifinals and finals.

Then, in 2016, she missed another season due to another pregnancy, and was once again forced to make the long journey back to fitness. The next spring, fans had every reason to believe she’d pick up right where she’d left off. In the 48th minute of Kansas City’s season opener, Rodriguez slotted home to seal her return to the field.

However, just nine minutes later, disaster struck. In an awkward challenge with a Boston Breakers’ defender, Rodriguez fell to the ground. Crumpled on the field, the forward had suffered one of the most dreaded injuries in the game and now faced surgery and another long recovery.

This spring, she returned to club play and, last week, earned her first call-up to the U.S. squad in over a year.

“I’m so happy to be standing here,” Rodriguez told the media a day ahead of Thursday’s match. “A year ago, when I was just getting my rehab started for my ACL, who knew what was going to happen for me? You never know what kind of player you’re going to be after an injury like I had.

“I’m proud of myself. I’ve had two kids and I’ve worked really hard to return after tearing my ACL. All I can do is put my best foot forward and keep working hard and, hopefully, the payoff will be a spot on this team again.”

The California native’s comeback also drew praise from head coach Jill Ellis, who specifically pointed out Rodriguez’ commitment and mindset in her recovery.

“It’s remarkable, in terms of just how well she’s come back,” explained the coach. “I know the work she’s put in and I know being a parent, to do that with two young boys is just exceptional.”

“[She] still has the same qualities, in terms of just her ability to turn players, her willingness to run at players,” Ellis added. “She’s just a great human being—great for a team [and] team chemistry as well.”

The gap in Rodriguez’ international play had been quite remarkable. Between October 2015 and Thursday’s match against China, the experienced international had only played 10 minutes in a span of 956 days.

Becky Sauerbrunn, a long-time teammate of Rodriguez at both the club and international level, echoed Ellis’ praise of Rodriguez’ long and deserved comeback.

“I’ve been super proud of [Amy],” said Sauerbrunn.

“I know she’s felt like she hasn’t been herself, but to me, looking at her, she looks sharper, she looks fitter, she looks better than ever.”

A veteran of two World Cups and winner of two Olympic gold medals, Rodriguez is just happy to back with her team and once again representing her country.

“It’s just so nice to be back on the pitch again wearing the Red, White, and Blue.”

John D. Halloran is an American Soccer Now columnist. Follow him on Twitter

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