I recently caught up with former Santa Margarita High School forward and O.C. sports icon, Amy Rodriquez. The 25-year old is currently touring the country as a member of the Olympic gold medal-winning U.S. Women's National Team.
While at SMCHS, A-Rod was a 2003-2004 Parade All-American and named the prestigious Gatorade Player of the Year in 2005. At USC, the speedy striker led the Trojans to the 2007 NCAA Women's Soccer Championship, finishing her collegiate career ranked fourth all time in goals (31) and points (79).
Playing behind Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan on the national team, the Lake Forest native has gathered 96 caps and 25 goals, as well as two Olympic gold medals and a second-place World Cup finish.
I spoke with Amy at the team's open practice at Home Depot Center before their match against Australia last month (U.S. won 2-1).
How does it feel to have the opportunity to play in front of your hometown crowd in Southern California?
Amy Rodriguez: It's great to be playing in my backyard, so to speak. To have an open practice and see all the fans there, is just so awesome. It's not even game day. That's pretty exciting. The hype and enthusiasm about women's soccer is really motivating for us.
We haven't played Australia in quite awhile. I'm excited to match up against them. They'll be a good team for us to play. I understand this is kind of a victory tour for us, but we know Australia is going to come out hard. You know they want to beat us and I expect a good game. We have a great crowd for the match.
Lately, you've been asked to play more of a sub role on this team. Is this the first time in your career where you've been asked to play off the bench?
Absolutely not. We have so many great players, the way the national team works is that any player can be thrown into any type of role in any game. For me right now, it's coming in off the bench and I'm definitely happy to do so.
I'm hoping to be breaking into that starting lineup again soon. In the meantime, I'm just making my mark on this team and doing the best I can for them.
You have two gold medals at 25-years old. Was this part of your dreams as a kid?
I never thought I would be a gold medalist. It kind of fell into place and I put in the hard work to make it happen. It came with a lot of luck and good timing. But I'm very thankful for the opportunity.
I talk to a lot of kids in the O.C. area and every girl playing soccer wants to be like Amy Rodriguez. What advice do you give those kids who aspire to achieve the type of success you have?
I would say, if you really enjoy playing, then put your time into it and really work on developing yourself as a soccer player. It comes down to dedication and hard work and whether or not you're willing to put your all into it.
And enjoy playing soccer. This is the time to enjoy it and have fun. And if you want to turn it into something serious as a career or a competitive sport, definitely give it all you have and don't give up.
Sometimes it's going to be tough. There'll be times when you won't want to practice, but get out there and do your best and hopefully it will pays off.
Who did you look up to as a kid growing up in the O.C.?
I can remember having posters of Julie Foudy and Mia Hamm on my walls. So, it's an honor to kind of be in their shoes now.
As a young kid, you played AYSO. What was your favorite soccer memory at that time?
My favorite AYSO memory was when my parents went to the meetings to pick up my jersey and stuff and they came home with the number that I wanted. That was always such a big deal.
Any lessons you learned in youth soccer that you still take with you today?
I think AYSO is where you first develop that passion for the game. Obviously that happened in my life. I turned it into a career now so I'm very thankful for my experience in AYSO and started me going to where I am today.