Lights FC assistant coach Auggie Rodriguez is grateful.
His is an underdog story. Rodriguez has overcome,as he chooses to describe it, significant “life circumstances.”
The first-year assistant spent his youth and teenage years homeless in Pomona, California, struggling to survive.
Everything changed when an Argentine family came to his rescue.
“I was pretty much living out of my car or living in people’s houses or friend’s houses,” said Rodriguez. “I was literally on the streets.”
The family helped him transition and he would go on to graduate from Chino High School in Southern California.
“I’m very grateful they took me in,” Rodriguez said.
He was then given a full athletic scholarship to play soccer for California Baptist University in 2004, earning a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies, with an emphasis in kinesiology and a minor in Spanish.
Rodriguez, a center attacking midfielder, played soccer at a high level until he was 26 years old, just shy of making it to Major League Soccer. He went to the combines and had a few callbacks, but the money wasn’t enough. In 2005, that would be his last try out.
Although, Rodriguez, 40, had the coaching bug in him since he was 18 years old.
He began at Corona United in Corona, California, conducting personal training sessions and coaching at soccer camps and clinics.
Rodriguez became technical coach for the LA Galaxy U14-U20 squads and was elevated to assistant coach for the United Premier Soccer League’s L.A. Wolves. Then, he returned to his alma mater, and in 2011, joined the United Soccer League’s L.A. Blues.
Rodriguez’s work ethic finally paid off. He achieved his chance to head-coach the Blues (formerly Premier Development League) and later took over UPSL’s Cal United, when Lights coach Eric Wynalda ran for the U.S. soccer presidency.
He decided to change roles and returned to being an assistant, but with the Lights when Wynalda accepted the position as head coach.
“Because I love working with Eric,” Rodriguez said of the decision, despite a financial setback he declined to detail.
He later added, “Eric’s one of those guys that every time something is going good for him, he’ll pick up the phone and go ‘Do you want to be part of it?’ ”
Wynalda and Rodriguez have known each other for about 20 years. They’ve worked together with soccer teams Cal FC, the Wolves and Cal United. The Lights mark their fourth collaboration.
Wynalda described Rodriguez as pure enthusiasm, has a love for the game, and enjoys helping others.
“He’s a guy that wears a lot of hats,” said Wynalda. “He just brings an energy to the group every day that is necessary for us to address our work appropriately and to learn.”
Wynalda continued, “He’s not always going to be your best friend because he tells you the stuff you don’t want to hear.”
Those messages translated.
Recently, the duo won the California State Cup on the UPSL side with the Wolves and the league championship three consecutive years with the. Wolves/California United.
Lights defender Kevin Garcia Lopez said that was his best memory with Rodriguez. Furthermore, Lights midfielder Jesus Gonzalez, who also played for Rodriguez, called him “a great guy” and later said “soccer-wise, he’s a genius.”
Wynalda went in-depth in praising his longtime assistant.
“He gets more joy out of the success that his players get than anything that he could do personally or privately,” he said. “So, that’s one of the attributes that I think makes him such an amazing coach.”
Rodriguez — beat all odds — he is married and has a 12-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son. He is constantly busy with work but realizes how to release the stress.
“When the going gets tough, I think about my wife and kids and it makes it a little bit easier,” said Rodriguez.
He has a unique relationship with Wynalda, having never played at the pro level.
“This relationship obviously transfers from the field. We’re pretty good friends. We have a good time when we’re together,” said Rodriguez.
“I’ll always be grateful for the opportunities (he provided).”
Rodriguez is a fan of the underdog stories and his is one of success.
Jonathan Eskin covers the Lights for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com