UCF women’s soccer’s Andrea Rodrigues juggles playing for the Knights and Portugal’s national team
Published: Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, July 11, 2012 17:07
It’s tough to fathom.
Considering the more than 4,000 miles between UCF and Portugal, it’s remarkable just to say that senior midfielder Andrea Rodrigues is a starter for both the Knights and the Portuguese National Team.
And yet, that is just the case. Rodrigues has been participating in international competition for the Portuguese National Team, all the while she remains an important part of the UCF women’s soccer team — a program fresh off a run to the Elite Eight in last season’s NCAA Tournament.
The two programs represent dueling tasks and that challenges the St. Petersburg native in different ways.
“I train in a college atmosphere [for UCF], and we have our own personal style; two weeks later, I’m training with Portugal, and they want something totally different,” Rodrigues said. “The transition was difficult at first, not because of the style but because of the coaching. My coach here wants a certain type of play, wants specific things, and the coach of Portugal says to do the complete opposite.”
Being a college athlete is already a difficult balance in and of itself. The task of maintaining superior grades, attending team functions and things like jobs paired with a social life make for a hectic schedule. For Rodrigues, that hectic schedule became all the more so when the Portuguese came calling.
“I had just gotten back from Brazil for an under-20 call up after being there for two weeks,” Rodrigues said. “The Portuguese national coach saw my last name, and my father confirmed that we were legal citizens of Portugal. … I went to Portugal after being back in the United States for three days, and I’ve been playing there for two years now.”
With two parents of Portuguese ethnicity, the St. Petersburg High standout decided to honor the invite of Portugal’s national team coach, who assured her father that if she worked hard enough, she would become a starter on the team quickly.
She did just that, and now the two commitments paired together make for quite the gauntlet for the talented footballer. Still, if there’s anyone capable of the constant and the quick adjustments, Rodrigues is more than qualified. She was one of UCF’s student-athletes who placed on the 2011-2012 Conference USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll and has excelled as an international athlete as well. She scored two goals in a Union of European Football Associations qualifying match against Armenia for Portugal, a 6-0 win in February where Rodrigues also had an assist. She has also been a key contributor for UCF — starting a career-high 19 matches for the Knights in the 2011 season while scoring a goal and tallying three assists.
Rodrigues has even embraced the challenge of playing a different position during her time away from the Knights. For Portugal, the UCF midfielder gets some work in at forward. It is something that she has accepted as a challenge and as an opportunity to improve.
“I take the expectations [of playing a different position] as a compliment that they see me as a diverse player. They aren’t thinking I can only play one position, which also helps me in the future,” Rodrigues said.
“Hopefully, when I graduate in December, I can go play abroad, and whenever I talk to the coach of a team, I can let them know my ability to play at mostly any position.”