Rising Ballers: Trinity Rodman is the NWSL’s next prodigy

Watching Trinity Rodman score goals is kind of like watching her dad’s famous clip from “The Last Dance” (2020), where he explains how he rebounded so proficiently. It’s just a series of onomatopoeia, but somehow it makes perfect sense. 

“Boom, uh. Click, go back this way. Boom, here, here. Click and go that way.”

Rodman receives the ball in some positions where you would never expect her to score, but she does anyway.

And yes, in case you were still wondering, Trinity Rodman’s father is Dennis Rodman, the five-time NBA champion who became a cult hero for the Chicago Bulls during their second three-peat of the ‘90s. 

The athletic talent clearly passed from father to daughter. Rodman has developed the pure ball-striking prowess and electric dribbling that sometimes just can’t be taught — it’s innate.

Rodman had such prodigious talent that she never even had to play a match in college before the NWSL’s Washington Spirit drafted her with the second overall pick in 2021. Rodman had committed to play for the Washington State Cougars but her freshman season was canceled due to the pandemic.

In her debut season, at just 18 years old, Rodman scored 6 goals and provided 5 assists in 22 matches, helping the Spirit win the NWSL title. She even scored the second goal of their semifinal match against the OL Reign.

After her rookie year, the Spirit were so assured of her talent that they gave her a four-year, $1.1 million contract that reportedly made her the league’s highest-paid player. 

The Spirit struggled to defend their title in 2022, placing second to last in the league. Naturally, Rodman’s numbers dropped off, but her talent isn’t up for debate. Rodman is a dribbling machine who can kickstart attacks all on her own. 

Do yourself a favor and look up some of her highlights. One thing you should immediately notice is how comfortable she looks with the ball at her feet. When Rodman has possession, the defense should be terrified. She has an arsenal of moves, from little flicks and turns to more overt displays of confidence like the Cristiano Ronaldo chop move — where a player looks fully committed to running one way before cutting hard in the opposite direction.

Even though Rodman and the Spirit didn’t play well in 2022, the numbers still back up her dribbling ability. Per FBref, in the last year, she averaged 5.03 progressive carries per 90 minutes. Progressive carries measure the number of times a player receives the ball and dribbles it at least 10 yards closer to the opponent’s goal, as long as the sequence ends in the attacking half. That ranks in the 89th percentile among players in the top eight women’s soccer leagues. She also has 1.92 successful take-ons per 90 minutes, meaning she dribbles past almost two players per game. 

Despite her team struggling offensively in 2022 — the Spirit only scored 26 goals in 22 games — Rodman worked hard defensively. She averaged over 2.5 tackles, 1.5 interceptions and 2.21 blocks per match, all of which ranked in the 93rd percentile or better among players who play a similar position to Rodman. Her commitment to the defensive side of the game shows a team-oriented mentality and a grittiness that her dad would surely appreciate. 

Looking forward to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup and beyond, Rodman will play a huge role in future USWNT squads. Alongside the Portland Thorns FC’s Sophia Smith and the Chicago Red Stars’ Mallory Swanson, the United States Women’s National Team has a trio of dynamic, positionally-flexible young attackers with speed and technique to match it.

Rodman made her USWNT debut at the 2022 SheBelieves Cup and has since made 15 appearances, scoring 2 goals and adding 3 assists for USWNT. She is in the running for a roster spot for the World Cup in New Zealand and Australia and given her age, she could lock down her place for a decade or more. 

Rodman also has admirable off-the-field interests. In partnership with her sponsor Adidas, she authored a children’s book called “Wake Up and Kick It.” Rodman hopes it will encourage kids to be ambitious with their dreams.

“I’m excited for this book to inspire the next generation to go out and achieve their goals and dreams, proving that nothing is out of reach if you are willing to work for it,” Rodman said in an interview with Adidas.

Rodman has the talent and mindset to dominate the NWSL and women’s soccer for years to come.

Jack Hallinan is a sophomore writing about the top wonderkids in men’s and women’s soccer in his column “Rising Ballers.”