Amy Rodriguez has accepted a royal(s) role…
National Women’s Soccer League expansion side the Utah Royals has named the 36-year-old Latina World Cup winner and two-time NWSL champion as manager.
Rodriguez spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach at her alma mater, USC, and now returns to Utah, having spent time there as a player from 2018 to 2020 during a previous incarnation of the club.
Utah was named as the latest NWSL expansion side last month and will begin play in 2024.
“The moment that the Royals organization gave me the phone call, I had the butterflies in my stomach,” Rodriguez told ESPN via telephone. “I was so excited to potentially go back to a club that I had so much enjoyment to play for.
“But this obviously is a much different role, one that is a bit daunting. And I’m not going to lie. I’m nervous about the task at hand. But it’s an exciting time, too. So I’m like, rolling my sleeves up, ready to go.”
Rodriguez acknowledged she will undergo a steep learning curve in terms of going from assistant coach to manager, as well as coaching professional players for the first time.
“Anytime you step into a role that is above you, there’s definitely way more responsibility that comes with it,” she said. “There’s an excitement [and] a potential to make something my own, and that gets me fired up.
“But I take it with a great amount of responsibility that I’m going to now step into, and I’m going to give it my very best. I think as a player, I always leaned on hard work, and I think similarly in this coaching role, I’ll do the exact same.”
Rodriguez has a long history with Royals president Michelle Hyncik, as the two were teammates in high school. When Hyncik suggested they talk over video instead of catching up over the phone, Rodriguez said she was “caught off guard” that this wasn’t just a time to catch up with an old friend.
Those sentiments continued when she was told she was under consideration for the job. She even admitted there were moments when she thought she “wasn’t deserving” and had more to learn before taking on such a role.
“I just had reflected back on what I always tell my players,” Rodriguez said. “Before a big match or opponent, I’m always like, ‘Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Be brave. Go out there and give it your best shot.’ And I thought to myself, ‘If I ask this of my players and I can’t do this for myself, then what kind of coach am I?’
“And so I think that was like a light bulb in my head where sometimes in order to grow and to become the best version of yourself, you have to be uncomfortable. And this definitely makes me uncomfortable, but in the best way possible.”
Hynick said the hiring of Rodriguez is a perfect fit with the club’s broader mission.
“Empowering women both on and off the field has been an underlying driving force throughout the journey of our Return of Royalty. The hiring of head coach Amy Rodriguez embodies this Utah Royals’ mission to advance women’s careers in our Utah community and beyond,” The Utah Royals president said in a club statement.
“Amy’s commitment to excellence, winning, community and family aligns with our Utah Royals’ creed and we are honored to have her at the helm to lead us into the next era.”
Taking over an expansion team, Rodriguez is essentially being handed a blank canvas. The same is true of her first foray into management. There’s also an immense amount of work to do, even before she begins to think about what style she’ll want to play.
“We have a very large task at hand, and we’re starting from scratch, so building the infrastructure and player identification and player acquisition, creating a staff, building what I would need to make this the most successful organization in the end,” she said.
“So even though it’s a big task to start from scratch, it’s also a wonderful opportunity to build something that we want from the ground up. And I’m looking forward to it.”
Rodriguez’s career as a player spanned multiple leagues, starting in 2011. She played for the Boston Breakers and Philadelphia Independence of Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS), and later with FC Kansas City, the Royals, the Kansas City Current and the North Carolina Courage in the NWSL. Over that span, she scored 64 goals in 102 appearances, and was part of two title-winning teams in Kansas City in 2014 and 2015.
At international level, Rodriguez made 132 appearances for the U.S. women’s national team, scoring 30 goals and adding 22 assists. She was part of the 2015 World Cup-winning side, and played on two Olympic gold-medal sides in 2008 and 2012.
Rodriguez is currently in the process of earning her U.S. Soccer A-level senior coaching license and was part of the first group of players from the National Women’s Soccer League — supported by the NWSL, the NWSL Players’ Association and U.S. Soccer — to receive her B-level license.