Sept. 12, 2012
UCF Athletics Social Media Directory
By Jenna Marina
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - When the No. 6 UCF women's soccer team suits up for its final non-conference game of the year Friday at home against North Florida, starting senior midfielder Andrea Rodrigues will be halfway across the world in a country she never dreamed she'd step foot in.
UCF head coach Amanda Cromwell didn't think twice about granting her permission to represent the Portugal national team once again.
"Anytime she's going to represent her country in a game, I'll let her go, and it's not a hard decision at all because I've been in those shoes and I know how that is," Cromwell said.
A consistent starter for Portugal, Rodrigues left Wednesday for Denmark to compete against the Group 7 favorite on Sept. 19 in the final game of qualifying play for the UEFA Women's EURO 2013. The St. Petersburg, Fla., native has already traveled abroad several times this year to compete for the team and has scored four goals in four appearances.
Rodrigues holds passports in three countries - U.S., Brazil and Portugal - and as a teenager, originally played on the U-17 and U-20 Brazilian national teams. In the summer of 2010, the Portuguese national team came calling and asked if she'd like to suit up for them instead.
"The opportunity that Portugal gave me, I was not able to resist that. I had the opportunity to jump into the starting lineup. I love it there. Brazil is such a successful program, but I'm hoping to grow with the Portuguese national team. We're continuing to get better each year," Rodrigues said. "It's a lot of fun. I've been to countries that I'd never thought I'd end up in. We are lucky enough that they let us see the city and travel a little bit. I have seen Austria. I have seen Finland. I love it. In December we are going to play in Brazil."
Cromwell, who represented the United States as a player in the 1995 World Cup and as an alternate on the 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist team, views Rodrigues' double-life as a Division I student-athlete and a national team player as a tremendous opportunity.
"She definitely feels a sense of pride in what she's doing, and I appreciate that because it's an amazing experience to represent your country in a game," Cromwell said. "We've talked about the importance of that, and I also like for her to do this because she gets even more confident. Playing for your national team is like an automatic confidence builder. It will help her when she comes back here. She'll play even better, I guarantee it."
Rodrigues will need that extra boost due to her travel schedule. After playing against Denmark, she will travel all day Sept. 20, hopping planes from Denmark to Frankfurt, Germany, to Chicago to Memphis, where she will meet the Knights before they open conference play against the Tigers on Sept. 21.
Considering the time crunch, Rodrigues said she weighed the decision heavily to agree to travel abroad, but ultimately the lure of competing against such a prominent contender won out.
"It was kind of hard just because Memphis is such an important game - it's probably one of the most important games of conference. To be honest, I cannot let jetlag affect me," she said. "But going to play in Denmark against one of the top teams, to possibly win and have the chance to say that I beat that player down the line, that was the motivating factor."
As for the Knights' 5 p.m. game on Friday against North Florida, Cromwell is not concerned that Rodrigues' absence will leave an unfillable hole in the starting lineup.
"The great thing about this team is we're so deep. We've change the starting lineup a couple times this season," Cromwell said. "There are certain aspects that she brings to the field, but there are a lot of players that want to knock down that door to get in the game."