The 2018 season marked the third comeback for Amy Rodriguez. The previous two times, Rodriguez had taken time off from soccer to give birth to her sons, Ryan and Luke. Both times, she came back to full fitness. The first time, Rodriguez came back to earn a spot on the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup and win the 2015 NWSL Championship with FC Kansas City. The second time, Rodriguez again returned fit and ready to contribute to FCKC’s 2017 season.
Her return was short-lived, however. After scoring in the 48th minute for FCKC, in the 54th minute, she was knocked to the ground, causing her to tumble awkwardly with her left leg buckling. From that moment, as she pounded her fist on the turf in Kansas City, Rodriguez, her teammates, coaches, and fans knew that this would be a serious injury. Two days later, it was confirmed that Rodriguez had torn her ACL and would miss the entire 2017 season. Rodriguez was again determined to return to the pitch for a third time.
“I think there’s just something in me that says I’m not done yet.”— NWSL (@NWSL) April 16, 2018
@lifetimetv x @AmyRodriguez8 pic.twitter.com/LstLlU5Qpf
This time, her return would bring her to Utah Royals FC. And though she did not immediately play in Utah’s first two games of the regular season, she subbed in on April 14, 2018 in the 77th minute in front of 19,203 fans at Rio Tinto Stadium, officially marking her return and first appearance with Utah. She was welcomed back with a thunderous reception and played like she had not missed a season.
In her second game against Portland Thorns FC, both Utah and Rodriguez were urgent for URFC to get their first win and goal of the season at home. In the 53rd minute, Rodriguez made a run past the Portland defense for a through ball. She evaded the goalkeeper and a defender before putting away her first goal of the season and first URFC goal at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Rodriguez’s goal celebration is what defined her comeback, running towards her teammates, her fist raised up as she was picked up. One could tell how much that goal meant to her after missing the 2017 season. She made the comeback for 2018, and that goal and celebration defined it.
Amy Rodriguez' goal last night had everything in it you could ever want from a forward - hustle to win the ball, technique to round the keeper, composure to finish off the chance. pic.twitter.com/rbl9gLpjAi— John D. Halloran (@JohnDHalloran) April 29, 2018
Though Utah struggled offensively all season, Rodriguez rarely relented on the field. Every game, Rodriguez was on the attack, producing 41 shots, 19 of which were on target. Rodriguez produced 5 goals for Utah, 4 of them came inside the 18. Four out of her five goals gave Utah either a win or a draw. She finished the season on a three-game scoring streak, and had the season extended longer, Rodriguez could have potentially added to her goal tally.
Much of Utah’s offensive struggles, which hurt Rodriguez’s goalscoring, had to do with the lack of speed on the attack line. With the addition of Christen Press mid-season, Utah’s offense had a boost, and we saw the benefit of having two U.S. internationals up front. But it wasn’t until Kelley O’Hara returned healthy late in the season that we saw the potential of what three USWNT members could produce. And if all three return, as they are expected for 2019, Utah could have one of the strongets offenses in the NWSL.