Utah Royals begin voluntary individual training sessions

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Royals FC forward Amy Rodriguez (8) takes a shot on goal as Utah Royals FC hosts the Houston Dash at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday May 11, 2019.

Amy Rodriguez hadn’t yet stepped on the field for her individual training session Friday. But the anticipation of doing so just a few short hours radiated from her face.

“At the end of the day, I do have a smile on my face because I’m so exited to step back on the field and just kind of get my toe in a little bit to a sense of normalcy and normal training, which I haven’t gotten to have in the last two months,” Rodriguez said Friday during a Zoom call with media. “I’m really exited to start back up again, even if it is in such small capacity.”

The Utah Royals FC started voluntary individual workouts Friday, along with the Orlando Pride. The National Women’s Soccer League has allowed individual workouts since Wednesday.

Rodriguez, forward and captain of the Royals, returned to Utah on Sunday after being allowed to drive to California and spend time with her family once news of the COVID-19 pandemic hit. She was home for seven weeks.

The Royals will have several sessions Friday at America First Field, where the team holds most of its practices. Because there’s only one field and it’s split into four quadrants, only four players can train at a time. Real Salt Lake, however, has multiple fields available at its facility in Herriman, which allows more players to train in one day.

The NWSL, like Major League Soccer, does not have a limit on how many sessions teams can conduct.

Rodriguez said coach involvement during the sessions is currently not allowed. That’s in contrast to how RSL conducted its first individual training session Thursday, where there was one coach per four players on each field.

It’s likely that the limited space at AFF doesn’t allow for coaches to be present.

“It is going to be a little bit weird to be practicing without my coach there,” Rodriguez said. “But that’s just the regulations we have to follow at this time.”

Rodriguez said some Royals players are “much more conservative than others” about participating in the voluntary workouts. One player told The Salt Lake Tribune after the league’s announcement that she was personally excited to get back on the field to train.

“During this time we really just have to respect other people’s wishes,” Rodriguez said. “I just don’t think we can compromise anyone’s safety in this matter.”

The NWSL still has a training moratorium for group training sessions through May 15. A return date for the league to restart its season that’s been floated is around June 27. Rodriguez said the pathway to getting the league started again “seems quite long.”

But regardless of when the season starts again and in what form, Rodriguez is just itching for the time she gets to put on her Royals jersey again.

“I can’t wait to represent my team, I can’t wait to give the fans something to cheer about, bring joy to people or motivate people,” Rodriguez said. “That’s really what I’m missing right now.

When I envision getting back together, those are the things that I see when I close my eyes. I really want the love of the sport to come back because I know we’re all missing it.”