To say that roster situation going into Friday night’s matchup between KC NWSL and the North Carolina Courage was strange would be an understatement.
Amy Rodriguez and Kristen Hamilton each started at the top of their formations, but against their former teams.
Less than 36 hours before kickoff, the trade between teams was announced: Hamilton, Hailie Mace and Katelyn Rowland to Kansas City for KC’s captain, Rodriguez.
Mace subbed on in the 63rd minute, making her debut in the 0-0 draw.
The dissonance of seeing Rodriguez without the bold, red home kits of KC NWSL while playing on Legends Field was one that left an impression.
“It was very jarring, and it wasn’t right,” KC NWSL coach Huw Williams said. “Nobody can have more respect for Amy Rodriguez than I do. I respect her as a friend, I respect her as a person, I respect her as a mother and I very much respect her as a soccer player.
“FC Kansas City won two championships, and Amy was an integral part of that, scoring all the goals. So yeah, Amy not playing for us was very difficult for us, but as we shared it was a very difficult decision for us. But a decision we all make thinking that we need to help this organization have success now and in the future.”
Rodriguez, who has not yet been to North Carolina, called it a tough week for both teams, though she is excited to play for a “really great franchise.”
Her first appearance against her former team wasn’t without a few tense moments, though, and she was given a yellow card in the second half for shoving Kristen Edmonds to the ground in the box, and Edmonds ended up on top of a diving Carly Nelson.
“Honestly, it’s always tough playing against your former teammates,” Rodriguez said. “It doesn’t feel good to go up against your friends, but that’s how I honor the game by giving it everything I have. And I walk away feeling proud knowing that I’m competitor out there and put business first and be the most professional I can be.
Hamilton was effective as her replacement on the frontline for KC, creating several chances. Both Hamilton and Mace nearly netted their first goals for KC, though they were denied by their former goalkeeper, Casey Murphy. The movement of the forwards was solid, especially for Hamilton’s first start after flying to Kansas City just the day before.
“As fluid as we’ve been tonight, or since we’ve been around, OK — dynamic, determined, love the attitude, love the leadership from her,” Williams said of Hamilton.
It was emotional for the former Courage forward, though, and it was overall a bittersweet night to be playing her team not even two days later.
“It’s awkward, we love each other so much,“ Hamilton said. “That team is so close, and for us to kind of get pulled apart like that — I think it emotionally affected everybody. So it was sad seeing everybody after the game, it was tough, it was a lot of emotions, some tears shed. But we go forward and we move on, (it’s the) nature of the game, but at the same time, it was unexpected circumstances.”
Hamilton, who comes from a 5-4-2 NC Courage at the top third of NWSL, said that Courage head coach Paul Riley has done a great job of instilling a winning culture, and it’s an attitude she’s bringing to Kansas City, who is still in search of its first win as a team.
“I’ve played under him for so long, I feel like I’ve learned so much from him, just the mentality that it takes to win in this league,” Hamilton said.
“So for me, it’s important to come here and try to help in any way I can really, without stepping on toes, I think that they have, we have a really good system here ... I think that it’s a very talented squad many and looking forward to the rest of the season.”