October 21, 2009
By Charles Cuttone
WNT players learning to deal with club and country
The advent of Women’s Professional Soccer has created a new set of challenges for some of the younger players with the U.S. National Team. Over the past five years, playing for the national team has been largely a full time profession. For some, like Heather O’Reilly, Carli Lloyd and Amy Rodriguez, it meant balancing college and country.
|Former Boston Breaker Amy Rodriguez is among a younger generation of players learing to make the adjustment playing for club and country.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
But a longer professional season, with games on both coasts and in the Midwest, coupled with a new environment and the loss of old support systems, can be a struggle on the field and off.
“The transition for me has been great, “ said Amy Rodriguez who was recently traded by the Boston Breakers to the expansion Philadelphia Independence. “I’ve really enjoyed playing with different players.”
Rodriguez, who helped USC to an NCAA Championship and was also a part of the Olympic Gold Medal winning team in the same year, says the biggest transition is from college to national team.
“It’s adapting to the game,” she said. “The difficulty comes in the adjustment period. Going from college games to the national team, the rules are different, it’s just finding your niche.”
Because of national team call ups in her junior and senior years, Rodriguez missed a lot of school time, something she is busy making up for this offseason. In fact, she is joining the national team for their friendly against Germany a little later than her teammates because of her class schedule.
“It’s better for me when I’m able to play for different coaches with new and different attacking styles,” said Rodriguez. For her, that means 2010 will see her playing under her fourth coach in as many years, starting with Ali Khosroshahin at USC, Pia Sundhage with the National Team, Tony DiCicco with the Breakers, and now Paul Riley with the Independence.
After being named National College Player of the Year by Soccer News Net in 2007, when USC won the national title, Rodriguez spent 2008 with the national team and the Trojans, and then was the first overall selection in the WPS draft by the Breakers. Her first year as a pro was frustrating.
“For me it was a season of tough results, “ said Rodriguez, who struggled to find her form with the Breakers, scoring only one goal. “We’d beat a team one week, then lose to them the next.
“I thought it was very competitive. The caliber of the players and coaches was very high.” Rodriguez says the competiveness of the league was evident throughout the season. “LA had a great run at the start of the season, then couldn’t win.”
For some players, the move to a professional club is a bit more difficult, with struggles both on and off the field. National team midfielder Carli Lloyd, who signed with Sky Blue FC on Monday, faced those difficulties in her first WPS season.
“With Chicago as well as any other team, you get thrown into a group and have to perform well and you don’t know each other’s tendencies. By the time you’re getting comfortable with each other, the season is almost over,” said Lloyd.
Lloyd hopes that moving to her hometown team, one that includes five other players with U.S. National Team experience, will be easier for her.
“There’s so many familiar faces that I know on the team, so we’ll be able to gel well on the team,” said the 27-year-old native of Delran, NJ, who played four years for Rutgers on the same field Sky Blue call home.
Rodriguez is looking forward to joining the Independence and to her first trip to Philadelphia, but in the meantime is off to Germany, where the National Team will face the European champions on October 29 at the newly constructed Impuls Arena in Augsburg. She will then return to school before joining the Independence.
“It’s a constant battle with my suitcase,” Rodriguez said.
Of course, with experience, the battle becomes more easily won, at least according to one veteran of the National Team and both the WPS and its predecessor, the Women’s United Soccer Association.
“You get used to living out of a suitcase,” she Heather Mitts, who like Rodriguez is making the move from the Breakers to the Independence . “We’ve been doing it for so long, it’s not a big deal.”