The NWSL may be the American soccer league, but many of its most talented players come from all over the world. This series looks at some of the league’s most talented internationals and looks at their careers in the NWSL, their roles within their national teams, and their overall style of play. This week, we will look at Costa Rican international and Sky Blue FC forward Raquel Rodriguez.
Who Is She?
Raquel “Rocky” Rodriguez is an attacking midfielder/forward for Sky Blue FC and the Costa Rican National Team. She was born in San Jose, Costa Rica, and played soccer at a young age, despite the hesitations and discouragement from her community. She attended Penn State University for four years, serving as their captain in 2015 and leading the Nittany Lions to a NCAA College Cup that same year. In the 2016 NWSL draft, Rodriguez was selected second overall by Sky Blue FC. In her first year, she started in 17 matches in 18 appearances and scored a rocket goal against the Washington Spirit in Week 10. At the end of the season, she took home the NWSL Rookie of the Year award, an honor that showed her strength and talent in a strong season of rookies. With the Costa Rican National Team, Rodriguez has been a part of a special generation. Speaking with Lifetime earlier this season, Rodriguez says that she hopes that she can be a Costa Rican role model for another young girl aspiring to play the Beautiful Game.
Rodriguez received her first call-up for the youth Costa Rican program at the age of 11. She made her debut for the senior team in 2010 and has since been a part of a squad that has led their nation to unprecedented success in the women’s game. The culmination of this growth was their qualification for the 2015 Women’s World Cup. In their opening match against Spain, Rodriguez scored the team’s first-ever World Cup goal. The team went on to earn two draws and a loss, failing to advance out of the group stage. Now, they have their eyes set on the 2019 World Cup. In an interview with Backline Soccer earlier this year, Rodriguez spoke of how badly she wanted to help lift the Costa Rican team. “Anything I learn here in the international level, in the NWSL,” Rodriguez said, “It’s to bring back to Costa Rica.” Rodriguez has been one of the team’s most successful players, accumulating over 40 caps and scoring over 35 international goals. Her opportunity to gain experience and skill in the NWSL makes her unique amongst Costa Rican players.
Sky Blue FC
Rodriguez was chosen No. 2 overall in the 2016 NWSL Draft by Sky Blue FC. She quickly became a critical member of the young attacking squad, performing so well in her first year that she earned the honor of 2016 NWSL Rookie of the Year. She is one of many young players on Sky Blue’s roster gaining experience with each passing game. At just 23-years-old, Rodriguez plays alongside young superstars like Sam Kerr (23-years-old) and Maya Hayes (25-years-old). But she also gets to learn from team captain and U.S National Team veteran Christie Pearce, whom Rodriguez said it was “a blessing and an honor” to learn from. Sky Blue FC has had a fantastic season, earning a lot of late-game goals and thrilling wins. While a lot of that success is (rightfully) credited to Sam Kerr, the Australian sensation who leads the league in goals, players like Rodriguez also play a critical role in setting up that success. It may appear that playoff hopes are fading for Sky Blue, who sit in 6th place with 29 points (six points behind 4th place Orlando Pride). But the players on that roster still have hope and have every intention of leaving their hearts on the field and striving for success. It won’t be an easy path, but they are prepared to battle it out, each day hoping not only to climb the rankings but improve as young individuals.