United States
Trinity Rodman takes over, makes statement in send-off match for USWNT
United States

Trinity Rodman takes over, makes statement in send-off match for USWNT

Updated Jul. 10, 2023 2:18 p.m. ET

SAN JOSE, Calif. — In a quiet moment an hour or so before the United States undertook its final assignment before traveling to the Women’s World Cup, captain Lindsey Horan gently pulled Trinity Rodman to one side and started talking.

What she spoke of wasn’t so much advice but a prediction, one that would soon come true.

"You’re going to get an opportunity," Horan told her younger teammate. "You’re not starting but you’re going to come in and make a difference."

Rodman was indeed the X-factor for the Americans on Sunday, scoring both goals in a 2-0 victory over Wales at PayPal Park on an afternoon that was becoming increasingly annoying for the two-time defending World Cup champs.


Wales was resilient and, without three of its more creative players, necessarily defensive. Rodman, 21 years old and filled with fearless enterprise, turned out to be just what was needed to break open the game after coming on at the half, sliding home a Sophia Smith cross to open scoring on 76 minutes then sealing the contest with a superb effort three minutes before the end — an exquisite strike from the edge of the box.

"That," USA head coach Vlatko Andonovski told me afterward, "was a world-class goal."

The USA is No. 1 in the world for a reason and possesses a squad filled with outstanding athletes and excellent professionals, some of the very best in the business. What all teams, even the great ones, crave at World Cup time is someone who has that special sauce of being able to make telling contributions when it is most needed.

It has been quietly assumed over the past couple of years that Rodman may blossom into that player, and perhaps reach her full potential, in four years when the World Cup rolls around.

On this evidence, the time for her superstar turn is right now, as Australia and New Zealand prepares to host the best women’s teams on the planet for five weeks of battling for ultimate bragging rights.

Rodman knows she has special talents, but there seems to be no mental burden attached to that ability. It is not hard to imagine a world in which the American public falls in love with her over the next month, because the combination of a clutch performer who is personable and interesting is an irresistible combination for soccer obsessives and casual fans alike.

Megan Rapinoe has announced her upcoming retirement and Alex Morgan is approaching her fourth World Cup, meaning it will soon be time for new figureheads to emerge. In the popularity stakes, Rodman is arguably raising her hand the highest.

She is comfortable talking about whatever is on her mind, whether the topic is her love of coloring, her fashion sense, Wales’ defensive press or, at national team media day two weeks ago, her relationship with her father, NBA icon Dennis Rodman.

But she knows what she’s here for — and she embraces it.

"That’s kind of the goal every time I step on the field," she said, when I asked her about the importance of stepping up in pivotal moments. "That’s why the name game-changer comes into play. It doesn’t matter if you start or come on in the 80th minute, you need to make a difference when you come on and I think I did that today."

It is important to keep things in perspective. This wasn’t a contest played out in the cauldron of a World Cup atmosphere, it was a victory against an opponent ranked No. 30. 

That said, Wales was defensively strong and had its heart set on stifling the American attack. For long stretches, it succeeded, before Rodman found a way to break the deadlock.

In some ways, it was the perfect preparation for what comes next. World Cup games are often tight affairs, and we can expect that trend to increase as the overall strength of international women’s soccer continues to develop at a ferocious pace.

None of the USA’s opponents — starting with Vietnam on July 21 at 9 p.m. ET — will need any reminding of the attacking threats that lie within Andonovski’s group. Some level of caution and an emphasis on good, old-fashioned, hard-nosed defending is to be expected from all but a few of the teams the USA will face.

"We were talking about it on the bench before Trinity scored," Morgan said. "That this is actually a perfect opponent. It is almost easier to play a team that plays you straight up. We are going to see teams like that, and we have to have our creativity come out. It was good that this challenged us, frustrated us in a way."

In such situations, grinding an opponent down isn’t always possible. Banging on the door and patiently waiting for it to open doesn’t always have the desired effect.

Rodman offers something different, and it is the kind of thing that is hard to quantify. Sometimes it is having the little bit of luck to find confluence between the right place and the right time. Sometimes it is intuition that the players themselves doesn’t fully understand, to make a certain move, or do something out of the box. Sometimes it is having enough of that fearless belief that when the moment comes, there is no pause for thought, just ice-veined execution.

In truth, by the time Rodman scored, the Americans should probably have already been ahead. Teenager Alyssa Thompson had a clear second-half chance but could not hit the target from six yards out. Soon after, Alana Cook’s powerful header was bravely headed off the line by Wales’ Kayleigh Green.

By then it had started to look like one of those weird soccer afternoons, where the ball just won’t go in, no matter how hard the dominating team tries.

Well, until Rodman stepped forward and changed all that. To fulfill Horan’s prediction, to send off the Americans on a high, and to step further into the spotlight.

Trinity Rodman, as America is quickly discovering, is many things. Could it be that she’s also … inevitable?

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletter.

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