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Sky Blue FC’s Raquel Rodriguez named NWSL Rookie of the Year

The Costa Rica native was recognized by the league and its fans for her performance in Sky Blue’s midfield.

Raquel Rodriguez Robyn McNeil, ISI Photos

Sky Blue FC midfielder Raquel “Rocky” Rodriguez was voted the 2016 NWSL Rookie of the Year.

Rodriguez beat out USWNT and Portland Thorns FC defender Emily Sonnett, the no. 1 pick in the 2016 NWSL college draft, and English-international Rachel Daly of the Houston Dash to win the honor.

The award was voted on by NWSL coaches, general managers, owners, players, media and fans of the league.

From the very start of her rookie season, Rodriguez has been a fixture in Sky Blue’s midfield. She made her professional debut in the team’s season opener against the Seattle Reign FC in Seattle and would go on to play in 18 games this season, starting in 17 of them. She missed only two games, one because of injury and one the day after playing with the Costa Rican women’s national team in an international friendly against the USWNT.

“We are absolutely delighted for Rocky in being voted as the NWSL Rookie of the Year,” said Sky Blue FC Head Coach Christy Holly. “This award is great recognition for all of the hard work she has put forth over the past season.”

Rodriguez may have been a quiet force in Sky Blue’s midfield, but she was undoubtedly a mighty one. Her presence in the midfield helped Sky Blue make an impressive run for the playoffs, reaching a top-four spot during the summer before eventually falling out of contention.

She recorded one goal and one assist and had 22 shots for the season. Her lone goal of the season came in 8th minute of the June 25 match against the Washington Spirit, which Sky Blue would go on to win 2-1.

“Rocky just quietly goes about her job and…she's been dropped in the deep end and asked to hold down the midfield with Sarah [Killion] time in and time out,” Holly said. “Rocky, you know, she's helping out every day, she's away at the ESPYs, she's away with the national team, she's won a Honda award, and she's straight up in the midfield, working hard and doing her job exceptionally well.”

Taken as the second-overall pick in the 2016 NWSL college draft, a pick that Sky Blue FC traded forward Nadia Nadim to obtain, Rodriguez came to New Jersey after an impressive 2015.

In 2015, Rodriguez helped the Costa Rica to their first ever Women’s World Cup and scored the team’s first World Cup goal. She followed that performance by scoring the championship-winning goal in the NCAA College Cup final for Penn State, the school’s first ever national title win.

She was named the 2015 Missouri Athletic Club (MAC) Hermann trophy winner, won the Honda Sport Award for soccer and was a finalist for the Best Female Collegiate Athlete of the Year ESPY award.

Rodriguez’s win marks the first time the winner of the MAC Hermann trophy, the award for the best collegiate player in the country, has ever been named Rookie of the Year in any of the United women’s professional soccer leagues in the United States.

The NWSL Rookie of the Year award was previously won by Chicago Red Stars midfield Danielle Colaprico (2015) and defender Julie Johnston (2014) and FC Kansas City midfielder Erica Tymrak (2013).