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Trinity Rodman is no ordinary teenage phenom

(Tony Quinn / ISI Photos)

Trinity Rodman can still feel the jolt she received from Brooke Hendrix in the first minute of a bruising NWSL game last month.

Rodman, 18 years old at the time and playing in just her second professional game with the Washington Spirit, received a through ball from Ashley Sanchez in full stride toward Louisville’s backline. Looking to slide past Hendrix with her speed, Rodman took a touch and got a shot off just as the seasoned Louisville defender knocked her off balance.

Instead of a breakaway goal, it was a “welcome to the NWSL” moment for Rodman.

“Being so young and being so new to all of this physicality, I was going against her, trying to run behind and she gave me a big bump,” Rodman says, her voice soft and reflective while recalling the play from the May 21 game. “That’s when I realized there’s a lot of strong players in this league and I obviously need to learn to become a bigger body and be able to maneuver out of it.”

Many of those lessons for Rodman have come in real time. Since the Spirit selected her with the second overall pick in January’s draft, making her the youngest player ever drafted into the NWSL, there’s been no easing into the professional game.

Even before Rodman touched an NWSL field, people knew her name. She’s the daughter of five-time NBA champion Dennis Rodman and a teenage phenom who essentially bypassed college for the pros, where the expectations have only intensified. Rodman scored in her debut for the Spirit during the NWSL Challenge Cup and has started four of five games in the regular season. She’s ranked second in the league in shots (16) and fourth in shots on goal (8).

What Rodman has accomplished in just four months in the NWSL doesn’t surprise Spirit coach Richie Burke. Rodman first came onto his radar in 2019 through Laura Harvey, Rodman’s coach with the United States U-20 team.

“She said to me, ‘Look Richie, she’s legit, absolutely legit,’” Burke says. Following that conversation, Burke had one of his assistants pull some clips so he could watch Rodman in action, including at the 2020 U-20 CONCACAF Women’s Championship, where she scored nine goals and made her case to be nominated for the U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year award.

“You can’t teach that innate instinct, that feel for the game, when the ball is going to get to certain places, or you get there a little bit before the ball arrives,” Burke says. “Her football instincts are just fantastic.”

Rodman made her professional debut for the Spirit on April 10 against the North Carolina Courage in the Challenge Cup. Entering the game in the 55th minute, she needed only five minutes to make her mark on the match with a textbook, two-touch finish. She used her pace to slice through the Courage’s backline and her technique to bring the ball down in the air and place it into the near post.

It’s those types of plays that have Rodman not only on NWSL scouting reports but on U.S. women’s national team coach Vlatko Andonovski’s watch list.

“Vlatko and the national team staff have been coming to games. She’s very much on the radar,” Burke says. “I was telling Vlatko when we were in Louisville talking about her a little bit that when you play with her and you’re around her, you realize how quickly she closes you down. She’s unbelievably fast and unbelievably quick across the ground, so when you’re in there playing with her, she changes your mind. You’re like, ‘Bloody hell!’ She’s on you like a flash.”

Running fast, cutting hard, defending until the ball is won and scoring goals have always been hallmarks of Rodman’s game. Even when she was 4 years old, growing up in Newport Beach, Calif. and just getting started in soccer, she couldn’t wrap her head around the kids who wanted to pick flowers and chat with their parents rather than attack the opposing defense.

“I would get so frustrated and try to gather the whole team while the game was going on,” Rodman says. “That’s when I knew soccer was going to be my thing.”

Rodman played for the fabled SoCal Blues soccer club her entire youth career, leading the team to a five-year undefeated streak and four ECNL national championships.

“Being on such a good club team, I got to experience the real competitive side of it,” she says. “When we started winning, my competitiveness started taking over and I was like, yeah, this is the sport I want to play. I feel the most confident and at home when I’m on the field.”

Rodman, the No. 1-ranked forward coming out of high school, intended to play at Washington State last fall. When the season was pushed back to the spring because of COVID-19, Rodman used the downtime to reconsider her priorities, eventually deciding to declare for the NWSL draft.

“I started getting impatient in a way, and I had pushed myself so hard and done so much extra work that I wanted to be at that level that I had been working hard to be at my whole life,” she says.

In her first practices with the Spirit, she realized just how much more work she had to do, starting with her strength and conditioning.

“I don’t think anyone could really be prepared for it being 18 years old,” Rodman says. “Every time at practice I got beat to the ball. I got pushed off the ball. I missed shots. Every single mistake I made, I learned from it, being around such talented and experienced players.”

Rodman has shined for the U.S. U-20 team and caught the attention of Vlatko Andonovski. (Brad Smith / ISI Photos)

Burke recalls one practice early in training camp when Rodman was having a hard time finding her rhythm in a passing square drill. As coaches examined every first touch and players whipped passes around, Rodman heard Burke’s commentary and assumed he was mad at her.

After practice, Spirit forward Ashley Sanchez spoke with Rodman and told her not to take Burke’s words so personally, that they were just his unique way of welcoming her to the team. That became official after a preseason game when Burke made up a song for Rodman, an annual tradition for his first-year players.

Rodman’s humility and constant drive to get better have endeared her to her older teammates. She mentions Andi Sullivan, Kelley O’Hara and Emily Sonnett as her biggest mentors on the team.

“I think that she could have come into preseason so big-headed — didn’t play in college, drafted high. But she’s been so professional in her approach to training and learning more,” Sullivan says. “For someone like her, she’s not just a star — she’s studying, she’s working hard and she’s showing up.”

Watching film has been integral to Rodman’s progress as a rookie. She’s noticed, for example, that her runs in the final third have been too slow and straight, making them predictable and easier for the defense to pick up, and she’s adjusted accordingly.

In the first minute of the Spirit’s game against the Orlando Pride on June 6, Rodman received the ball with her back to goal. She took a touch with the outside of her right foot and chopped it behind her back, spinning out of pressure and finding space down the right wing. She then whipped the ball across the box to Hatch, giving the Spirit their first scoring chance of the game.

“I think the greatest thing for Trinity is that she’s holding her own right now,” Harvey says. “For someone at her age to just be able to hold her own is a huge compliment right now.”

Although she’s improving and growing more comfortable with every training session and game, Rodman still calls her mom, Michelle, many times a day. When she has a practice that’s not up to her standards, she knows her mom will always say the right thing.

“You’re doing the best that you can do,” her mom will tell her. “If in your head you’re working your hardest, that’s all you can do and you just have to take it day by day because there’s nothing you can do about the practice you had an hour ago. Think about the next practice and how you can get better.”

The advice has stuck with Rodman, who turned 19 last month. Only five months have passed since she made history at the NWSL draft, and she feels like a different player now when she takes the field.

“I have already learned so much, and I think being able to see how much progress has happened in a short amount of time gets me excited for what’s in the future,” she says. “Before I was like, ‘Wow, I’m good.’ Now I’m like, ‘Wow I wasn’t that good.’”

Even Rodman can see she is just cracking the surface of her potential. And as her work continues to translate to the field, she’s making a name for herself.

“I’ll play the hardest I can ever play for my team,” she says. “I’ll do anything and put my body on the line so my team can succeed.”

In Hartford, Simone Biles Returned to Form While Familiar Faces Vied for an Olympic Ticket

us gymnasts at core classic in hartford connecticut
Biles appears to be a lock for the Olympic team after last weekend's stunning performance. Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

37-time world and Olympic medalist Simone Biles took first place at the Core Hydration Classic over the weekend, looking every bit the top contender she is. 

Earning an all-around score of 59.500, Biles also earned the highest scores in both the vault and floor exercises. She successfully incorporated the triple-twisting double salto into her floor routine for the first time since the qualifying round at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and picked up the highest score of the night — 15.600 — on vault with a Turchenko double pike.

"I was just happy to be back out there," Biles told NBCNews. "As long as we’re there cheering each other on and hoping for the best and having confidence in each other’s gymnastics, then it’s going to work."

Cementing her place as the nation’s second-best all-around gymnast was Shilese Jones, who finished the competition second in the all-around and won the uneven bars with a final score of 15.250.

Reigning all-around Olympic champion Suni Lee won the balance beam event. While she didn’t compete on uneven bars, Lee is aiming to compete in all four events at the 2024 Xfinity US Gymnastics Championships, which kicks off May 30th in Fort Worth.

"I think I’m starting to build a lot more confidence on beam," Lee told reporters after the meet. "I think it’s super important that we start feeling the nerves now because it’s only gonna get harder."

In a surprising turn, three-time Olympic gold medalist and 2012 all-around champion Gabby Douglas wound up withdrawing from the Core Hydration Classic after a rough start on the uneven bars. 

Douglas's first return to competition since the 2016 Olympics in Rio came three weeks ago at the American Classic in Katy, Texas. While she finished 10th in the all-around, she scored high enough in the vault and balance beam events to qualify for the US Championships.

"I have to give myself a little bit of grace," Douglas said after her American Classic appearance. "It ended rough for me in 2016, so I didn’t want to end on that note. I want to make sure I end on love and joy instead of hating something that I love."

While Biles's recent performance made her looked like a shoo-in for this summer's Olympics Games, four additional team members and two alternates are yet to be determined. 

Of course, there are some familiar faces still in the mix: Jade Carey, who was on Team USA in 2020, placed fourth overall at the Core Classic while medaling in individual events. Fellow 2020 Olympian Jordan Chiles placed third in the all-around. 

The US Olympic gymnastics roster will be determined at the Olympic Trials in late June, with athletes qualifying to compete at the Trials at the US Championships.

Chelsea, Arsenal Planning U.S. Tour of NWSL Friendlies

Mayra Ramirez of Chelsea battles with Lotte Wubben-Moy of Arsenal during the 2023/24 FA Women's Continental Tyres League Cup Final
The last time Chelsea and Arsenal met, the Gunners walked away with the FA Women's League Cup. (Copa/Getty Images)

Two of the WSL's biggest teams will cross the pond this summer, set to battle both each other and select NWSL teams in a series of Stateside club friendlies.

On Monday, the Blues confirmed their matchup against NJ/NY Gotham FC on August 19th, setting up a showdown between two league champions. It’ll be the first time that the English title-winners square off with the NWSL champs. 

Longtime Chelsea goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger recently joined Gotham FC, setting up an extra layer of intrigue ahead of the August 19th championship scuffle. 

It’s not Chelsea’s first time playing in the States. Back in August 2022, the Blues traveled to Portland to compete in that year's Women’s International Champions Cup.

ESPN reported on Saturday that fellow WSL contender Arsenal is scheduled to face the Washington Spirit in the same timeframe. To cap off their joint US tour, Arsenal will then take on the UK table-toppers at Audi Field in Washington DC.

Making things even more interesting, two of the teams featured in the club friendly series will have recently undergone coaching changes. The preseason matches could be a first look for Sonia Bompastor at Chelsea, as reports indicate that the Lyon manager will take over for incoming UWSNT coach Emma Hayes next season. (Chelsea is waiting until the conclusion of Champions League to make a formal announcement.) In the US, the Washington Spirit will be welcoming Jonatan Giráldez from Barcelona once he finishes his tenure with the Spanish club next month. 

This Saturday, Bompastor's Olympique Lyonnais Féminin will go up against Giráldez's FC Barcelona Femení in the 2024 UEFA Women's Champions League Final.

Chelsea Wins WSL Title, Sends Emma Hayes Off to USWNT in Style

chelsea fc celebrating their wsl title win
The Blues lifted the WSL trophy once again after beating Man United on Saturday. (Naomi Baker - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

Emma Hayes is bowing out of the WSL in style, with Chelsea winning its fifth consecutive WSL title on Saturday.

The Blues needed a win over Manchester United on Saturday and they got one in true Chelsea fashion, beating United 6-0 to take the WSL crown. While the team tied Manchester City in points at 55 apiece, they beat City on goal differential, outscoring their northern opponents 53 to 46.

The title is the team's fifth in a row and seventh under Hayes, who now departs Chelsea after 12 years as manager.

"I can't say it's my most enjoyable but it's definitely been the toughest, without doubt, and for that reason probably the sweetest," she told Sky Sports. "I'm just so relieved it's over. The hardest thing to do is five in a row because people take their eye off the ball. My legacy is winning while building a team for the future."

Midfielder Erin Cuthbert called the title the "hardest one yet" for Chelsea, but also the sweetest. A month ago, the team was virtually all but out of the title race, with Hayes conceding as much. Chelsea went on to right the ship, however, putting on a stunning eight goal performance against Bristol City to insert themselves back into the conversation.

"In the moments that really matter, we find a way," Cuthbert told BBC Sport. "We've never really backed down from a challenge. The fans have been with us from the start, they've been incredible this year.

"There have been a few rough moments, this title has taken about 10 years off my life if I'm being deadly honest. The hardest one yet, the sweetest one yet, so I'm going to enjoy tonight."

Hayes will now leave to manage the USWNT, telling BBC Sport on Saturday that the team and its fans will always in be in her heart.

"I don't think I have the words really. I am full with a ton of different emotions," she said. "I am ready, I have given everything I've got. [I am] ready for my next adventure."

Las Vegas Investigated for Aces Sponsorship, Per Reports

aces logo on basketball court
It's not the first time the Aces have found themselves in hot water over CBA violations. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

A first-of-its-kind sponsorship has hit the WNBA, with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) announcing on Friday it would be supporting all 12 players of the two-time WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces.

The deal grants each player $100,000 dollars in exchange for representing the city in 2024 and 2025.

"The offer's really simple: We want you to just play, we want you to keep repping Las Vegas, and if you do a three-peat, that'd be icing on the cake," LVCVA president and CEO Steve Hill told the team in a video released Friday.

The news comes as WNBA salaries and team caps continue to be a point of contention in the league. With many players making less than $100,000 a year, outside sponsors have long helped bridge the financial gap for players. 

On Saturday, Aces coach Becky Hammon said that the local tourism bureau had reached out to all of the players individually via their agents, leaving the Aces organization out of the conversation entirely. The goal was to avoid breaking cap circumvention rules established by the league’s CBA.

"I'm going to put it to you real simple like this: Most of sponsorship people go after the top two people," Hammon said. "[A'ja Wilson] is taken care of — she's got plenty of stuff going on. [Kelsey Plum] has plenty of stuff. In this situation, from what I understand, is they wanted the whole team. So they went and called individuals, agents. I don't know the details. 

"I have nothing to do with it; the Aces don't have anything to do with it. It's just odd, but that's basically what happened."

Despite the apparent separation, the WNBA has launched an investigation into the legality of the sponsorship, according to multiple sources

While the sponsorship does not directly violate the league-wide salary cap because the LVCVA did not orchestrate the sponsorship with the club, other teams are likely to raise questions about its fairness and whether or not it violates the spirit of the cap rules. The deal could potentially upend the balance of what teams are able to offer players in the free agency market.

"We have 100 influencers we pay to represent Las Vegas," Hill told the Associated Press. "This isn’t any different then that. All of these ladies are completely eligible to have sponsorships. We are just asking them to represent Vegas."

It’s not the first time the league has investigated the Aces for cap circumnavigation. Just last year, the team faced consequences — Hammon was suspended for two games while the team lost its 2025 first-round draft pick — for crossing league rules regarding impermissible player benefits and workplace policies.

"We get [things] from our agents all the time; they wanted it to be a big moment because it's something that's never happened before," Aces star forward A'ja Wilson said about the LVCVA's offer. "I don't understand the investigation; I haven't dived into it yet. I just looked at my phone [after the game] and was like, 'Oh, wow, just another day in the life of the Aces.' We can't ever start just normal, it's always going to be something, and that's okay."

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