Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Utah Royals FC forward Amy Rodriguez (8) signals for a foul during the match against the Chicago Red Stars at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, April 14, 2018.
When I finally stepped out on the field and put on the jersey, it was just a huge adrenaline rush. So fun. Felt very normal. Felt like my old self for sure. —URFC's Amy Rodriguez

For the third time in her career, Utah Royals FC and United States Women’s National Team striker Amy Rodriguez made her return to the pitch last Saturday after a lengthy absence.

The mother of two boys, a 4-year-old and a 21-month-old, “ARod” came back after each time she gave birth, and then on Saturday, she came on in the 77th minute of the Royals’ inaugural home opener, a 1-0 loss to the Chicago Red Stars, after tearing her left ACL in her 2017 NWSL opener with FC Kansas City.

After missing URFC’s first two matches, Rodriguez was removed from the injured list for the Chicago contest, but still wasn’t sure if head coach Laura Harvey would call on her.

“I will say that I prepared for it,” she said this week at training. “I was available for the game, so I knew the potential of going in was there, so I was excited about that. When I finally stepped out on the field and put on the jersey, it was just a huge adrenaline rush. So fun. Felt very normal. Felt like my old self for sure.”

In other words, Rodriguez, who has 130 caps and 30 international goals to her name, didn’t have any reservation despite having not played in 363 days.

“My knee felt great, body felt good,” she said. “I wish I could have done more in the game to help the team and get a point back on the board, but otherwise, a good first game back as far as my knee feeling great.”

While Rodriguez wishes she could have made more of an impact, she was URFC’s most dynamic player during her short stint on the field, as she put pressure on the Red Stars' defense and produced the home side’s only shot on goal of the afternoon.

It was a welcomed sign for a squad that has struggled to get much going offensively in the early going of the season, having not scored in 267 minutes.

“She’s absolutely brilliant,” said assistant coach Scott Parkinson. “Technically, tactically, physically, she’s got everything. I think the one thing now that she’s really got to work on is just getting that physical side back, getting that pace back, getting that endurance back, and that’s going to be up to ARod on a day-to-day (basis) just doing things right.

"She’s done it right for her entire career, so it’s just going to take a little bit of time until she’s back to her best, but we’ve got our fingers crossed that it happens sooner rather than later.”

Rodriguez said the plan is to not rush back too quickly, as she’ll likely work up to playing a full 90 minutes, increasing by 15-20-minute increments over the next few games.

“If we can keep going without any injury pain,” she said, “then we’re on the right path.”