VAVEL USA Exclusive: Raquel Rodriguez talks awards, competition, and goals
VAVEL USA Exclusive: Raquel Rodriguez discusses her time in the National Women's Soccer League

Eyes have been on Raquel “Rocky” Rodriguez way before her Rookie of the Year season in 2016. The Costa Rica native made her country proud when she scored Costa Rica’s first ever Women’s World Cup goal as an equalizer in a group match against Spain in the 2015 World Cup. Rocky played every minute during Costa Rica’s World Cup campaign, before going back to her senior season at Penn State University. She lead Penn State to their first-ever NCAA Women’s College Cup title when she scored in the 72nd minute to put them at Duke University. After her amazing run at Penn State, she was awarded the highest individual award a college soccer player can get, the MAC Hermann Trophy.

Rookie of the Year

It was clear when she was drafted second overall by Sky Blue FC in the 2016 National Women’s Soccer League, that she would come in and make a huge impact. Rodriguez was a huge asset to the midfield and the team. At the end of the season, Raquel was awarded the 2016 Rookie of the Year award.

When asked if she actively sought to be rookie of the year she gave this humble response, “I definitely think it was, honestly, it wasn’t even one of my goals to get any award. It was just, of course, you know, play my game, give the best I can give to the team first of all and then whatever happens after that’s great. I think I came in with the mentality of I have to work hard, first of all, to get a spot on the team to contribute and whatever came after that was just extra, which was also welcome.”

Raquel Rodriguez keeps her eye on the ball, watching the play | Source: Kaitlin S. Cimini

NWSL Competitiveness

Now that the next major tournament in women’s soccer is two years out there won’t be as many players leaving for long periods at a time. The NWSL has been growing in competitiveness every year since it starts five seasons ago, but in the last two years, a lot of players were in and out of the league because they had national team duties. Rocky is aware that many players moved abroad, but pointed out the women’s soccer is growing.

You know I think there are FIFA dates but that’s why it’s FIFA dates, so no one missing any games. But there is a case that many other players went overseas, so I don’t know for how long they’re going to be out but not because there is a tournament later on necessarily means it’s going to be more competitive. At the same time, I think as the league grows it gives more opportunity to other players to show up, which is not always the case in college soccer so I think the main factor of the league being more competitive  is the facts that it’s only growing not necessarily the competition.”

2017 NWSL Goals

This upcoming NWSL season will only be Rocky’s second, but she and the team are growing all with their eyes on the NWSL Championship, “Well, of course, our goal is to win the NWSL league, you know we always, well this only my second year. But we just come with the mentality of working, putting the team first and then, in this preseason we’ve been working on chemistry and just trying to bring out the best that we can.

And personally I think just that, just keep contributing to the team the best way that I can with what I can bring as a soccer player and as a professional, as a person. Of course, it’s always a two-way street we’re all here to contribute so to answer the question, just grow personally and therefore the team will grow if we all grow personally.