In the aftermath of the USWNT’s dramatic 2-1 victory over Japan in the Olympic gold medal match, one of the storylines that hasn’t gotten much attention is the rapid fall-off of Amy Rodriguez’s playing time with the USWNT.
In the 2011 World Cup, Rodriguez started five of six games. In the 2012 Olympics, Rodriguez did not earn a single start and only saw 29 minutes of playing time over six games.
One player whose experience has been the polar opposite of Rodriguez’s and whose experience may provide a path forward, is USWNT defender, Kelley O’Hara.
A year ago at the World Cup, Kelley O’Hara had one appearance in the tournament, coming on as a substitute. She played 17 minutes in the entire tournament.
At this summer’s Olympics, O’Hara played every single minute of the USWNT’s six matches.
In the 2011 World Cup, O’Hara was competing for minutes as a forward and outside midfielder against Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach, Lauren Cheney, Rodriguez, Heather O’Reilly, Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath.
As good as O’Hara was as an attacking player (she was an All-American at Stanford and the 2009 Hermann Award winner as the nation’s best collegiate player), she wasn’t good enough to crack the U.S. lineup.
Her move to outside back saved the U.S. when usual starter Ali Krieger injured her ACL during a CONCACAF Olympic qualifier in January and O’Hara quickly became one of the U.S.’ most consistent players, now as a defender.
The current USWNT battle for minutes at the forward position is between Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach and youngster Sydney Leroux. Waiting in the wings is 2010 Hermann Award winner Christen Press. The odd man out appears to be Amy Rodriguez.
Fighting for minutes as an outside midfielder, Rodriguez faces an even more competitive battle, with the starting positions claimed by Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath with Heather O’Reilly, also a very accomplished player, coming off the bench.
One wonders if Rodriguez, who is only 25, would benefit from an O’Hara-type conversion to outside back. As an outside back, Rodriguez would provide speed and a willingness to go forward to help the attack. And anyone who has seen Rodriguez play knows that she isn’t shy going into a tackle.
And O’Hara is not the only player this type of move has been successful with. Former USWNT left-back Brandi Chastain, who was a mainstay of the U.S. backline through 192 caps, was a converted midfielder.
With three years before the next major tournament, and competition at the other spots fierce, turning A-Rod into an outside back is worth a try.
John D. Halloran