SheBelieves Cup: Trinity Rodman among USWNT’s fresh faces

SheBelieves Cup: Trinity Rodman among USWNT’s fresh faces

Updated Mar. 13, 2022 7:15 p.m. ET

By Laken Litman
FOX Sports Soccer Writer

Don’t worry: U.S. Women’s National Team stars Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe aren’t going anywhere yet.

Coach Vlatko Andonovski called up a squad of predominantly fresh faces for the SheBelieves Cup, which runs from Feb. 17-23 in Carson, California, and Frisco, Texas. And while some big-name players didn’t make the roster this time, that doesn’t matter right now.

The U.S. will face the Czech Republic on Feb. 17, New Zealand on Feb. 20 and Iceland on Feb. 23 in the Americans’ first games of 2022 as they prepare for World Cup qualifying later this year. The next Women’s World Cup will take place in New Zealand and Australia in the summer of 2023.


Andonovski’s thinking in not including so many high-profile players from the previous World Cup and Olympic rosters stems from wanting to give some up-and-coming players a chance to prove themselves.

"All these players are very good players — we know that," he said of the veterans during a recent Zoom call with reporters. "They’ve done so much for this team. They’ve won everything possible, right? 

"But right now, in these camps, I felt like I wanted to give a chance to players like Sophia Smith, Mallory Pugh and Catarina Macario, players that have earned their spot or will earn their spot back on the national team. I want to give them maximum minutes so we can evaluate every aspect of their game, whether it’s in a training environment or a game setting. Then after that, we can make decisions for the upcoming camps for the qualifiers."

In addition to Morgan and Rapinoe, this roster does not include Tobin Heath, Christen Press, Julie Ertz or Crystal Dunn. Samantha Mewis is coming off an injury, and Lindsey Horan, who was initially on the roster, was ruled out due to "knee irritation." Andonovski made it clear that veterans don’t have guaranteed spots and will eventually also have to prove themselves and be fit to make a roster down the road.

"It doesn’t mean that all of these players who have done well in the past can come back in the next camp because they’ve done well a year ago or two years ago," he said. "There’s a reason why Mia Hamm isn’t in camp. We’re not calling Mia Hamm or Julie Foudy into camp. The same goes here. They need to perform, play well in their [NWSL] markets and show that they can still contribute and be valuable for the national team."

Captain Becky Sauerbrunn, 36, is the most capped player on this roster, with 199 appearances; in her next game, she will become the 12th player to get 200 national team caps. Kelley O’Hara, 33, has the second-most, with 148. Other recognizable names on this squad are midfielder Rose Lavelle and goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who could play in her first game since she injured her knee in the Tokyo Olympics last year.

These veterans will lead a team of newbies: 12 of the 23 players have 12 caps or fewer.

Unfamiliar names to keep an eye on begin with 19-year-old Trinity Rodman, who made it to her first camp in January. She was initially listed as a training player but recently cracked the full roster with defender Abby Dahlkemper out due to injury. Rodman is the youngest player on the squad and has never appeared in a senior national team match.

Rodman, whose father is former NBA star Dennis Rodman, had seven goals and seven assists for the Washington Spirit in the 2021 NWSL season and helped the club win its first championship. She was named rookie of the year and recently signed a historic, four-year contract extension worth a reported $1.1 million that will make her the highest-paid player in league history. According to ESPN, her annual base salary of $281,000 is more than Morgan's and Rapinoe’s of $250,000.

"I’m excited for Trinity. I’m excited for her future," Andonovski said. "The first thing I want to say is she did well in camp. She was very competitive. Her mindset fits well [with the team]. 

"She’s doing really good in the [NWSL], but the national team is a completely different animal. We don’t want to burn her out. We want to give her a chance to adjust to the system and the structure, to absorb information slowly, step by step, instead of throwing her out there. That’s why when we have a chance to have her in camp, where she can train and be around [the team] and adjust to it, we’re going to use that opportunity to do so."

Other players to watch include Smith, who plays for the Portland Thorns and has 10 caps for the national team. The 21-year-old was part of the USWNT’s January camp and traveled with the team to Australia for two friendly matches in November but didn’t play due to injury.

Jaelin Howell, 22, who has just two caps, made her debut against the Netherlands in November 2020 and played one game in last year’s SheBelieves cup. Howell was the second overall pick in the 2022 NWSL draft, was a two-time winner of the MAC Hermann Trophy (given to college soccer’s best player) and helped lead Florida State to an NCAA title last year.

Ashley Hatch, 26, has four caps and scored her first pair of international goals in the November friendlies against Australia. She plays for the Washington Spirit and won the Golden Boot for most goals last season, with 10.

Macario, who plays for Olympique Lyonnais in France, was on the USWNT roster for the Tokyo Games and helped lead Stanford to two NCAA titles. The 22-year-old missed the January camp to stay and play with Lyon, but Andonovski believes she will slide into the lineup easily. He describes her as "a super-intelligent player" and "super soccer-savvy."

While it might seem strange to watch a U.S. team without so many major players on the field, this tournament represents an important opportunity for Andonovski to evaluate the next generation in an intense and competitive setting.

Andonovski said all three SheBelieves opponents are quality teams that are organized defensively and "super-tough to break down, and I think it will take another level of sophistication to do that." 

In other words, it's a chance for several young players to show why they deserve to be on this team.

Laken Litman covers college football and soccer for FOX Sports. She previously covered college football, college basketball, the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team and the Olympics at Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. Her first book, written in partnership with Rizzoli and Sports Illustrated and titled "Strong Like a Woman," will be published this spring marking the 50th anniversary of Title IX.


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