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The Royal Watch: Sky Blue FC troubles & the future of Amy Rodriguez

The Royal Watch returns with a look into the issues surrounding Sky Blue FC and the future of Amy Rodriguez

Cindy Lara | RSL Soapbox

Hi. It’s been a while. The winter days have been long, cold, and dreary. Soccer pitches all throughout the land are dark and awaiting the start of the season. I know I have been, and the NWSL off-season appears to be one of the longest ever, but it is around the corner. The preseason starts March 4, and the season officially kicks off April 13. Just two more months to go...and as we wait, here are a few storylines to follow.

Sky Blue FC troubles

The NWSL is entering its seventh season, which is historic because it is the first women’s professional league to last this long, beyond a third season. But for a league that is entering its seventh year, there is still plenty of growth (salaries, attendance, etc.) and issues to address. Mainly, the troubles surrounding Sky Blue FC. I’ve been following the Sky Blue FC issue since reports about subpar conditions surfaced late last season. It makes me feel uneasy, honestly. The last time I felt so troubled by what was happening to a team was when FC Kansas City folded in the fall of 2017. I think if you’re a fan of the league, regardless of how your team is doing with its fancy robes and state-of-the-art soccer stadium, this should bother you.

For years, Sky Blue FC has barely met league standards for training, playing, living, and traveling conditions, and they’re stuck with a General Manager that does not seem to care very much and refuses to resign, despite numerous calls for him to do so. It has reached a point that players from last season have asked for trades (Shea Groom, Katie Johnson), chosen retirement than play there (Christina Gibbons), moved to play overseas (Rebekah Stott, Amanda Frisbie), and top draft picks, like Hallie Mace and Julia Ashley, refused to sign with the club. At this point, Sky Blue FC may have trouble fielding a club, and if they do, it will not be with top talent and will again face a winless season (they won one game in 2018).

And as I’ve read report after report, I keep thinking, “What is the league doing?” and “Why are they not addressing this harder?” Maybe they are behind the scenes like they did with FC Kansas City and Boston Breakers. But they have been way too silent.

The future of Amy Rodriguez

Last season, Amy Rodriguez returned to the NWSL after missing the 2017 season with an ACL injury. It was a comeback year for the U.S. Women’s National veteran and a year to prove that she could continue to break into U.S. Soccer rosters. She did in June against China and July for the Tournament of Nations, and though she did not initially get a call in August, Rodriguez was added to the roster when Megan Rapinoe suffered a rib injury. But that would the last time Rodriguez would join the national team, perhaps capping her international career with 132 caps and scoring 30 goals since 2005.

Rodriguez, since 2013, has been one of the players whose salary is paid for by U.S. Soccer and joined Utah Royals FC in 2018 as an allocated player, meaning that the RSL organization did not have to pay her salary. But with Rodriguez making fewer appearances in a U.S. Soccer jersey in 2018, it appears that Rodriguez is no longer a player in Jill Ellis’ plans for the future. So when the Allocated List is released (and we have no idea when that will happen), do not be surprised to not see A-Rod’s name.

It’s not a cause of concern, however. We can expect Rodriguez to return to Utah Royals FC as a non-subsidized player. I think Laura Harvey values her too much to let her go after one season, and with Christen Press expected to be on international duty due to World Cup prep, Utah Royals FC need A-Rod.