In soccer, heartbreak and anguish are usually delivered in the form of dramatic late goals, controversial red cards or nail-biting penalty shootouts.
But for Patty Rodriguez, the Beautiful Game turned ugly when it took her boyfriend Michael Munoz – then of Chivas USA – 400 miles north to San Francisco and strained their relationship.
Munoz spent this season with California Victory of the United Soccer Leagues (USL) after Chivas released him following an ankle injury. For Rodriguez, an assistant producer with the "On Air With Ryan Seacrest" morning radio program in Los Angeles, that meant months of long-distance telephone calls, fleeting visits to the Bay Area and countless tears.
After an emotional phone call last week, Rodriguez decided to take drastic action to get her man back to Southern California. She took the remarkable step of starting an online petition aimed at convincing Chivas brass to allow Munoz to revitalize his Major League Soccer career.
She has already convinced over 800 well-wishers to sign up and although she admits to being a "hopeless romantic," she is determined to prove she isn't pursuing a hopeless cause.
"It has been such an emotional time," Rodriguez told Yahoo! Sports. "Playing soccer is what Mike loves doing more than anything and I believe in him and want him to be happy.
"I miss him so much when he is not here, but I know he can't come back unless it is for soccer. I started thinking whether there was anything I could do to get him back here and the idea of a petition suddenly struck me.
"If Mike could come back to Chivas, it would be the best thing in the world for me. He could pursue his dream of playing in MLS and we could be together."
Munoz – who enjoyed a successful college career at Cal and was selected by Chivas in the third round of the 2005 MLS supplemental draft – met Rodriguez that year at a Chivas promotional event, He got a negative response when he cheekily asked if she wanted his autograph, but he got a more favorable reaction when he asked her out on a date following a match a few days later. The pair of 24-year-olds have been an item ever since.
But after Munoz spent time on the Mexican-owned club's developmental roster and made an MLS start, his chances of a contract for this season were dashed by an ankle injury that required surgery last year. After switching to the Victory, Munoz performed well during the course of the USL season, but the campaign was overshadowed by the club's dismal form and severe financial problems.
During the offseason, Munoz works as an assistant coach at Cal, and he is hoping to get picked up by an MLS team for the start of next season. Chivas, which he has spent time training even since leaving the club and enjoys a good relationship with coach Preki, would be his ideal destination, and 2008 expansion club San Jose Earthquakes are another possibility.
Munoz is unsure how effective his girlfriend's petition will prove to be, but he appreciates the gesture despite the ribbing he will surely receive from friends and teammates.
"When I heard what Patty was doing I could barely believe it," he said. "I mean, who does petitions for soccer?
A "nightmare" season with the Victory won't deter Munoz from pursuing his ultimate goal – a return to MLS. He believes his game has matured thanks to his time with Chivas.
"I am sure some people will have heard about the petition and have some fun with it," he said. "But it's cool. It is totally her thing and I told her that if she wanted to do it, then I didn't have a problem with it. She doesn't need to worry about embarrassing me."
Seacrest, the host of "American Idol," has been helping publicize Rodriguez's campaign by mentioning it on his radio show. Those interested in helping her can sign the petition here.
Rodriguez has been delighted with the level of interest and plans to take her petition to Chivas chiefs at the end of the current MLS season.
"Mike is a very good player and was a popular guy when he was here," Chivas director of communications Keegan Pierce said. "He was unlucky with some injuries and did not make the roster for this season.
"We have heard about his girlfriend hoping he can come back here – but that decision will be entirely (up) to the coach."
- Michael Munoz
- Chivas USA