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Trinity Rodman looks ready to fill big shoes with the USWNT

Trinity Rodman celebrates her goal in Megan Rapinoe’s USWNT retirement game on Sept. 24. (Michael Miller/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

In September, the U.S. women’s national team said farewell to two legends and also kicked off their post-World Cup era with two strong wins over South Africa. While attention was duly paid to Julie Ertz and Megan Rapinoe as they head into retirement, the breakout performance of the month came from 21-year-old Trinity Rodman.

Rodman scored in each match, finishing definitive strikes that helped assuage fears the USWNT might never get its confidence back. She showcased her collaborative instincts, working well with Alex Morgan in particular, and a newfound confidence on the international stage.

In the wake of Rapinoe’s exit, the rise of yet another explosive winger talent gives the U.S. not only another weapon, but also the next link across generations of players.

Tackling responsibility

Rodman has 24 caps with the U.S. senior team, with 14 of those appearances coming in 2023. Of her 10 U.S. starts, eight of them have also come in this calendar year. Former head coach Vlatko Andonovski brought her into the fold slowly, even as she excelled at the NWSL level from a very young age.

This year, Rodman was asked to take a huge leap forward in minutes played during the World Cup due to injuries that Andonovski couldn’t have anticipated. At one point in the lead-up to the tournament, he intended to play a front three of Mallory Swanson, Catarina Macario and Sophia Smith, with Macario assuming a false No. 9 role to create space for the wingers.

Ultimately, Swanson and Macario had to miss the World Cup due to injuries. Andonovski shifted Smith to the left wing, inserted Alex Morgan at center forward and brought Rodman in on the right. Based on the players he had available, the move was the right call, but Rodman had to learn on the job on the biggest international stage. And when the team struggled to score, outside pressure on players working within a rigid system continued to grow.

“It was tough for the younger players, having that be their first experience,” Megan Rapinoe said before her farewell match. “Having the narrative around the team in a lot of ways be so, so negative was really hard, like this was their dream come true [being criticized].

“I feel like the way that the other players handled it, how they handled themselves and how they approached preparation for the games and their professionalism was amazing,” she continued. “And I think the World Cup will be a great learning lesson for them moving forward.”

As Rapinoe pointed out, it’s sometimes easier to be excited about a new generation of players when everything is working right away. But Rodman’s ability to grow through adversity will surely prepare her for the Olympics and her future with the national team.

Playing with freedom

In Megan Rapinoe’s final press conference as a member of the USWNT, she imparted a few words of wisdom to the next generation.

“It’s up to you, like this is your career,” she said. “This is your special talent. So like, really lean into that and take ownership of that.”

The U.S. players didn’t always look like they were enjoying themselves on the field in 2023, with a conservative game plan and outside pressure turning the former World No. 1 team into a more suppressed version of itself.

“It’s not worth hiding any part of yourself or playing it safe,” Rapinoe said. “It drives me nuts whenever I hear ‘Well, the coach wants me to’ — Well is it working? If it’s not, you’re the one playing, you’re the one that’s going to be benched if it doesn’t work.”

Earlier this year, those words might have felt more like a warning, but they’re also a responsibility a player like Rodman is clearly taking to heart on the pitch. She lined up on the right side of the attack in both September friendlies, and she clearly felt comfortable tracking back to defend and slipping in centrally to fill space every time Morgan shifted to pull defenders wide.

That freedom of movement paid dividends, allowing her to meet the moment and score a goal in each game. It was no secret that the USWNT’s younger players desperately wanted to send their friends and idols out with a goal, and Rodman was the first player to try to find Ertz and then Rapinoe in South Africa’s penalty area.

Rodman clearly has the technical ability to succeed at a high level, but she’s also showing she has the intangibles at the core of the USWNT’s identity from generation to generation.

A little bit of iconography

The moment that Rodman’s shot hit the back of the net in the USWNT’s second game against South Africa in Chicago felt like something of a full circle moment. Rodman’s last name still carries a lot of weight in the Windy City, where her father Dennis won three NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls from 1995-98. The young star has said those family ties can at times get in the way of her becoming her own player.

But Rodman is building her own profile as part of one of the most iconic women’s sports teams in the U.S. She’s known for staying after matches to sign autographs for fans, even after difficult results at the World Cup, and she has helped keep her NWSL club, the Washington Spirit, in the playoff race in a year full of transition.

“Before I was on a team, nobody knew about me, they only knew about Abby [Wambach] and Mia [Hamm] and the rest of them,” said Rapinoe. “So I think just that you’ve got to make your own way.”

With a new U.S. coach arriving in December, Rodman will again have to prove herself at the highest level. Based on her performances in September, she looks like a player ready to make her stamp on the USWNT by building on the legacies of those who came before.

Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.

The Late Sub Podcast: Can the USWNT Medal?

The USWNT takes a silly face photo during their team Olympic photo shoot
The USWNT will begin their 2024 Olympic medal hunt on Thursday. (Brad Smith/ISI/Getty Images).

This week, JWS podcast host Claire Watkins discusses WNBA All-Star Weekend, which felt both like a celebration of the league's explosive growth over the past year and a way to set Team USA up for a particularly competitive Summer Olympics.

Later, Watkins previews the field for the upcoming Olympic soccer tournament, nominating her personal "Group of Death" and discussing whether or not the new-era USWNT could still reach medal contention despite their current rebuild under new head coach Emma Hayes.

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Team USA, Germany Play Pre-Olympic Exhibition Game in London

Team USA's 5x5 Basketball Team stands for the National Anthem before Saturday's WNBA All-Star Game
Team USA looks to rebound from Saturday's WNBA All-Star Game loss in an exhibition against Germany today. (Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

USA Basketball's 5x5 team will tip off in an exhibition against Germany in London this afternoon, getting in one last tune-up before the Summer Olympics begin.

The US is hunting an eighth-straight gold medal this year, with group stage play starting on July 29th.

Team USA's Kahleah Copper, Alyssa Thomas, Kelsey Plum, and Sabrina Ionescu gear up to face Germany in pre-Olympic exhibition.
Team USA's Kahleah Copper, Alyssa Thomas, Kelsey Plum, and Sabrina Ionescu gear up to take on Germany in London. (Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images)

US to use All-Star loss as fuel

Coming off the weekend's All-Star Game loss, the Olympians are ready to repeat history: They earned their Tokyo gold medal immediately after losing the first Team USA vs. Team WNBA All-Star Game back in 2021.

Breanna Stewart, who led Team USA with a 31-point, 10-rebound double-double on Saturday, said that the defeat "is going to help us tremendously. We don’t get that many game opportunities, [and now] we can go back and watch the film and focus on how we can continue to be better."

Today’s tilt against Germany will see the US work to lock in their defense, particularly in the paint. They'll also lean into their positional versatility before heading to Paris.

WNBA pro Satou Sabally leads Team Germany in today's pre-Olympic exhibition game against Team USA.
WNBA pro Satou Sabally helped Germany to their first-ever Olympic berth. (Axel Heimken/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Olympic debutants Germany enter first US clash

The exhibition marks the first-ever US-Germany linkup. The German team will make their Olympic debut in Paris after decades of failing to qualify for major international competitions. Their sixth-place 2023 EuroBasket finish sent them into February’s FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, where they punched their ticket to the 2024 Games.

Leading Germany's run was two-time WNBA All-Star Satou Sabally, who put up career-high averages in points, rebounds, assists, and steals with Dallas last season. Her 20-point, 11-rebound double-double was the difference-maker in Germany's must-win 73-71 Olympic qualifying victory over Brazil.

Other German players to watch include 2022 NY Liberty draft-pick — and Sabally's sister — Nyara Sabally, along with Liberty sharpshooter Leonie Fiebich.

Where to watch the Team USA vs. Germany game

Today’s exhibition tips off at 3 PM ET with live coverage on FS1.

1v1 With Kelley O’Hara: USWNT Star Jaedyn Shaw Is Expecting “Dubs All Around”

retired uswnt star kelley o'hara interviewing san diego wave and uswnt forward jaedyn shaw
'1v1' is back with Jaedyn Shaw joining Kelley O'Hara for a conversation about the upcoming Paris Olympics. (Just Women's Sports)

In the latest episode of Just Women's Sports' 1v1 With Kelley O'Hara, San Diego Wave and USWNT star Jaedyn Shaw joins two-time World Cup champion and Olympic gold medalist Kelley O'Hara for a one-on-one conversation about the upcoming Paris Olympics.

We hear from the 19-year-old Wave FC phenom about her first impressions of new USWNT coach Emma Hayes, her experience with international competition at this point in her young career, and how she's preparing to take on the 2024 Summer Games.

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The 91st: Complete USWNT & Olympic Soccer Preview Featuring Jess McDonald

Logo for JWS USWNT Olympic show The 91st
The latest season of JWS' awarding-winning Olympics show 'The 91st' premieres today. (Just Women's Sports)

We're back! Hosts Jordan Angeli, Duda Pavao, and retired USWNT forward Jess McDonald deliver a full preview of this year's Olympic soccer tournament in Paris.

Watch for full analysis of USWNT manager Emma Hayes's coaching style, this team's shifting identity in this new USWNT era, and a projected starting XI for the team's group stage opener against Zambia. The 91st hosts also break down all three Olympic groups — including top players and teams to track throughout the tournament — plus give their predictions for the medal rounds and individual awards.

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