After seven weeks, the NWSL is just a few games away from the half season mark. Some of the rookies of NWSL 2016 draft class have seen considerable playing time in these last several weeks. One prominent rookie that stands out is Raquel ‘Rocky’ Rodriguez.
For those unfamiliar with Rodriguez there’s a few soccer tidbits you should know. She has been playing with the Costa Rican National Team since she was a teenager, and in 2015 helped the team reach the FIFA World Cup for the first time in team history. During a group stage match against Spain, Rodriguez made history again, netting the team’s first ever World Cup goal. After the international tourney, Rodriguez returned to Penn State University and helped the Nittany Lions win their first ever National Title in the NCAA College Cup. Penn State defeated Duke 1-0, with Rodriguez scoring the game’s victory goal.
After being selected 2nd overall in the NWSL draft, Rodriguez has settled into the league. When Sky Blue FC visited Chicago to face the Red Stars, she spoke with us about a few of her favorite things: Soccer and ice cream.
Backline Soccer (BS): I want to congratulate you on your first season with NWSL. How do you feel you are adapting to the league?
Raquel Rodríguez (RR): Thank You! I feel like I’m doing ok. I really like the tone that every match you don’t really know who is going to win. There’s differences in a lot of other leagues, and I think that Sky Blue is really forming. We’re a bit of a new group with a lot of rookies and we’re growing throughout trainings and such, but I think we are establishing elements that a team needs – but that takes time. I think that we’re on the right path, and as the season goes on the idea is to always improve and I think we are demonstrating that.
BS: You’re young but you have a lot of experiences playing with Costa Rica. You’re a Mac Hermann Trophy winner and won a National Title with Penn State. Why did you choose to play in the NWSL instead of a club or league in Europe?
RR: Well the main reason was that at the time I hadn’t completed my college career, and I had taken time for training and NWSL is perfect for that because its only six months a year and after the season I can use that time for international training. I also had certain feelings about it because I am more familiar with the United States as opposed to overseas. There were all types of things that came into play, right? And I am just really grateful, first, to God for opening the doors for Sky Blue, and second to Sky Blue for confiding and believing in me.
BS: Can you speak a bit about your experiences in the World Cup with Costa Rica?
RR: It was a very unique experience. I always say it was a dream come true. Especially because it was the first World Cup for Costa Rica participated in. It was very symbolic of many years of fighting for women’s football in Costa Rica. I am sure that we’re not the only country fighting for more popularity and more support. But that World Cup I felt was the closing of a difficult chapter with ignorance towards women’s game in Costa Rica. I also felt it was the beginning of another chapter of growth, and development of women’s soccer. All in all, it was a very emotional time and amazing experience for all of us.
BS: Do you feel more support with the Costa Rican Soccer Federation after this World Cup?
RR: Yes, absolutely. I think the most important thing to come out of it was the communication aspect that has developed between the federation and the players. Ultimately, we appreciate that. We like to know what’s going on regarding the team, and they now do things they may not have done in the past, right? So I think that even the media coverage has now helped. Now they might talk to me or someone like me and report about it. Report about us. It’s no longer just about the Men’s side, it’s the Women’s side and many other sports as well. So after the World Cup I think it helped create some huge strides.
BS: You’ve have the chance to play with two National captains in your career. Shirley Cruz for Costa Rica, and now on Sky Blue FC, Christie Rampone for the United States. Can you speak about some of their differences or some things they have in common?
RR: Every captain, every leader, is different. They all have their own things. Shirley is a player very passionate, with a lot of courage, and a lot of heart. Those are trademarks of her play. She is the soul of the team she plays for. She’s the soul, the motor. With Christie, she gives you a sense of security just with her presence. She’s the kind of leader who has done a lot of good for the game. She’ll give you one on ones. She’ll observe someone, and grab them and give them some coaching. So to have her on the team is a privilege and great honor. It’s those kinds of examples I’m so grateful to God for.
BS: This question is for the Penn State fans. Do you have a favorite Penn State Creamery flavor?
RR: Ok, I have to say that I love ice cream! Out of all the deserts. I’m going to have to say just vanilla with Oreo. It’s my all-time favorite. You know, but I mean Penn State Creamery, gosh, I had several flavors. I don’t remember them [laughs] but that’s the main one. I can honestly eat any kind, all the time, milkshakes! All the time. But I can’t do that, got to try and keep and shape! [laughs]
BS: That’s so great, we had a writer who did an interview with Ali Krieger who asked the same question but Krieger said the mint chocolate chip. Since you’re Penn State player I had to ask too.
RR: Oh Yeah! Really? Oh the mint chocolate chip! Yeah, that’s sweet.
BS: I have a question for your family. Since the NWSL streams their games on You Tube, is it easy for your family and friends to catch you live and watch your games?
RR: Yes! I think that’s something for cool for my parents and everybody. They’re really happy supporting me and watching the games on the internet, on YouTube.
BS: Finally, do you have any words or advice for any young Latinas out there who maybe watch you in the games and are dreaming or striving to be where you are at this level?
RR: Yes. I don’t know about advice, But I always say to not be scared to dream. Because when I was growing up I had all these dreams and I didn’t always see how they could be possible. I knew that if I wanted to experience those dreams I had to first of all commit my ways to the Lord, because I knew that I wouldn’t, I couldn’t, be able to do it on my own. I just always prayed to god and trusted in my heart that he would have great plans for my life. Second of all just work hard. Do what we can do and when the opportunities come, just don’t be scared. There is always going to be nerves, or being afraid of going to the unknown, but it’s part of the risk we take. If you never take the risk, if you never take the step, you’re not every going to make your dreams come true. Just dare to dream. It doesn’t even have to be soccer. Just don’t be scared to dream.