The 2018 National Women’s Soccer League season will be Cari Roccaro’s third in the league and third with the Houston Dash. Her first two years in southeastern Texas have been a roller coaster ride as injuries and diminished playing time combined to challenge the East Islip native.
But now healthy and with renewed energy, Roccaro recently signed a new contract with Houston and heads into the 2018 season ready for the next step in her career.
Drafted by Houston out of the University of Notre Dame with the fifth overall selection in the 2016 NWSL College Draft, Roccaro has appeared in 33 games. Prior to her professional career, she was a member of the United States U-20 team that won the 2012 U-20 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Just after the completion of the 2017 season, Roccaro spoke with SleterFC.com about the health issues that had her contemplating leaving soccer, her recovery and her time in the nation’s top professional women’s soccer league.
SLETERFC: With two years in professional soccer with Houston behind you where does your career stand?
CARI ROCCARO: I think I feel better than I have since my sophomore or junior year in college. I am having lots of fun, I’m hungry and feeling great with my surgery behind me.
SFC: You mentioned surgery. What type of injuries were you dealing with?
CR: I had a labral hip tear, a sports hernia and bone spur all on the right side. I played with the tears for a while but knew that eventually, I would need surgery. Just after my senior season in college I was on the bus to the airport and made an appointment to meet with a specialist in Philadelphia. I had the surgery in January and was with the Dash in March.
SFC: You played with these injuries for a while. How were you able to cope and play through? Was it just a testament of will?
CR: I would sit out training sessions in college and had to really manage my time. But I would rest and then I would feel fine. But when I got to my senior year I knew I did something different and it was more difficult to play without the use of painkillers. The fans never really knew what I was going through and I would ride the arm bike to help me keep in shape.
SFC: Given the timing of your surgery were you surprised that you were selected so high in the draft?
CR: Randy Waldrum was the head coach in Houston at the time of the draft, and he was my coach when I was at Notre Dame. I told him about my surgery and didn’t think I would get drafted, but went fifth overall. However, I didn’t attend the draft as I was in a wheelchair. It would have been a bad visual.
SFC: At what point did you know you were fully back and recovered from your injuries?
CR: When I came into the (2017) season I was stressed out about how I was going to perform. I started the first eight games but then we had a coaching change and then I didn’t play for eight games. I wasn’t happy but I wanted to be a good, supportive teammate. I put my head down and kept working hard and grinding and worked my way back into the lineup. I also asked for a position change to midfield and played the final five games of the season. If I was an older player I may have just kicked the can. But I overcame some big obstacles and knew I was not done yet.
SFC: What has it been like to play professionally and with and against some of the top talent from around the world?
CR: I had Carli Lloyd’s poster on my wall and she was my idol. To play with her and see what she does and says, I just wanted to soak it all in. (Lloyd was traded in the offseason from Houston to Sky Blue FC.) She once said something to me that has always stuck with me. She told me to give them no reason not to play you. It’s also been wonderful to play against players like Marta. There is a photo of me defending Marta. It’s great to be able to step on the same field with her.
SFC: You spent a lot of time in the national team program at age groups below the senior team? Do you see yourself getting back with the national team?
CR: It’s difficult because I could not have gotten hurt at a worse time. And realistically when you don’t play for eight games, you’re not going to be chosen for the team. But you never know what will happen and I continue to stay in touch with the national team. I have a lot of friends on the team and continue pay attention to what they are doing.