NewsApr 12, 2019

Breakout: Memo Rodriguez

With four goals in his first four games of the 2019 season, Memo Rodriguez is finally having the breakout that he has worked so hard for. The 23 year-old midfielder has worked his way up through each level of the Houston Dynamo organization. He signed with the club's Academy at 15 and became the 6th Homegrown Player in Dynamo history in 2014. While his dream of signing a professional contract had come true, the path forward would prove to be a challenging one. 

Over the next two years, Rodriguez would find himself loaned to the USL, and then ultimately waived by the Dynamo. However, even when it seemed out of reach, his goal remained the same: securing his place in the first team. Rodriguez made a choice to capitalize on every opportunity after signing with USL side Rio Grande Valley FC Toros. This caught the attention of his hometown club and former coach Wilmer Cabrera, and he re-signed with the Dynamo in March of 2017. After seeing limited time in his first two seasons, Rodriguez has jumped out of the gate this year, surpassing his career goal total in only four games. 

Rodriguez shared the shift in his mentality that sparked his comeback, and how it feels to finally be seeing results for all of his hard work. 

What was your journey to signing a Homegrown contract like?

I’m from a small town about an hour away from Houston, but I had to play club ball in the Houston area because in my town there was soccer, but it wasn't very competitive. It wasn't realistically going to take me to the next level. My mom was driving me an hour and fifteen minutes each way to training for 12 years. It was a real commitment and big sacrifice that she made for me. I wouldn't be in the position that I’m in today without her.

I joined the Dynamo academy when I was 15. Ever since then, I wanted to become a professional, and I was committed to doing my best and working my hardest to make that happen. Thankfully things worked out and I was blessed to sign with my hometown team where family and friends are close by. It was a dream come true signing my homegrown contract.

How did you stay motivated during your time in the USL?

Obviously everybody’s journey is a little different. When I signed my first contract in 2014, I did preseason and immediately was loaned to the Charleston Battery. I was an 18 year-old kid at the time and that was my first time away from my family and living by myself, so I was a little homesick. It was frustrating too because even there I wasn’t getting a lot of minutes. I was 18 and at that point I didn’t know how to deal with things. I was a little down and really wasn’t motivated to go to training some days because I wasn’t playing a lot. It was tough. 

When the season was over, I went back to the Dynamo again, and you're waiting to see if you get an opportunity. I went through preseason again in 2015, but ended up being waived. 

Being waived was a shock. I was 19, so I was still young and it wasn't a motivating situation. They had it planned out for me to go to the Rio Grande Valley FC Toros. During the meeting that I had with the coaching staff there was a quick switch in my head. Even though I was sad and frustrated I had to switch my mindset, and I decided that I needed to focus and go kill it at RGV and show everyone that I could play for the first team. 

It was with that little spark and some advice from family members who know a lot about things in life not coming easy that I was able to change my mindset.  That year I really took the initiative to become the best player that I could be and earn that first team contract again.

If you would have told me that I would score four goals in my first four games, I don’t think I would have believed you."

Who else mentored you through that situation?

My best friend’s dad, who was one of my coaches before on the Dynamo Academy, he knows a lot about the game and really kept me motivated. My family also played a huge role in helping me stay focused. 

All of the players at RGV wanted to make the first team, so we all knew that we had to be the best players we could be in order to get a chance to get a contract. It was a combination of everything, the team was very motivated. Wilmer (Cabrera) is a tough coach, but he’s a tough coach for a good reason and he made us all better players. He was a great coach at RGV and he’s doing great things here now. He’s been a big part of it as well. 

It's been nice to be with him again on the first team because I know what he likes and his habits. I think it’s important as a player to know that. You can analyze what you need to do and what he likes  so that you can get on the field. You do what you need to do to get minutes. 

How great has it felt to have the breakout you’ve had this season?

If you would have told me that I would score four goals in my first four games, I don’t think I would have believed you. I think the hard work and sacrifice that I have been putting into this game is finally paying off. Everything isn’t perfect of course, but you try to do your best so that you can be close to it. I think it’s also a combination of our team playing good soccer right now and helping each other. If I didn't have teammates then those goals and passes wouldn't happen. It’s a very good start for me and the team and we’re all thankful for that. The team is happy with how we’re playing, and I think that will take us a long way this season.

What advice would you give to a guy who might find themselves in your same situation?

It’s important to stay motivated. It’s easy to say, but hard to do. Obviously as young kid you don’t think about being loaned out or waived, and you don’t want those things to happen. But it can and you have to motivate yourself because you’re working for your job and you want to be the best player you can be. You have to work hard and stay focused. Do things behind the scenes that everybody doesn’t see so you can show your true potential. When you get your opportunity you have to take it because they are going to come and it’s a matter of what you make of them.

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