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What makes Trinity Rodman so good? Let NWSL players explain

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From Trinity Rodman’s first preseason practice with the Washington Spirit in February, her teammates noticed there was something different about the forward from Newport Beach, Calif. The youngest player ever drafted into the professional soccer league at 18 years old, Rodman garnered their attention for reasons other than the reputation that preceded her NWSL debut.

“When we drafted Trinity, I’d heard that she was an insane athlete, but thought she’d be more of a pick for the future,” Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe said. “When I saw her play during preseason, she was even faster than expected, but her strength was what amazed me.”

“I still remember the first practice that week that I had with her back in preseason and I just remember being like, ‘This girl is really good,’” said defender Kelley O’Hara. “Like I just got that feeling from her.”

It wasn’t until the Spirit started their Challenge Cup schedule and were playing against other opponents on a full field that the rookie’s talent crystallized for her teammates.

“It was, like, next-level Trinity,” said Spirit co-captain Tori Huster.

Just minutes into her NWSL debut on April 10, in the second half against the North Carolina Courage, Rodman expertly controlled a long ball at the top of the box and slid it past the keeper for her first professional goal. The league, and U.S. women’s national team coach Vlatko Andonovski, took notice.

Before that goal, Rodman was perhaps best known in the public sphere as being the daughter of NBA legend Dennis Rodman. After it, she began to forge her own path, confounding some of the best defenders in the world with her speed, playmaking and finishing ability and producing arguably the greatest rookie season in NWSL history.

“We have many great athletes in this league, but what separates Trinity is not only her athleticism but her technical ability,” said Courage defender Carson Pickett, who was playing left fullback for Rodman’s first goal. “She’s dangerous with and without the ball and is efficient with her chances.”

Finishing the season with seven goals and six assists, Rodman led all rookies in scoring despite trailing them in both age and college soccer experience. The 19-year-old was committed to play soccer at Washington State in 2020, but opted to turn pro out of high school when COVID-19 pushed the season back to the spring.

At the beginning of the Spirit’s season, Rodman mentioned O’Hara as one of her biggest mentors on the team. It was fitting, then, that Rodman assisted on O’Hara’s game-winning goal in the NWSL championship game to close out the Spirit’s 2-1 win over the Chicago Red Stars and bring home the first title in franchise history.

After the game, the two stars sat side-by-side at the podium to speak with the media.

“The more I got to play with [Trinity] and just see — she says amateur, but she is so mature for her age — the player that she is impressed me all season,” O’Hara said as Rodman looked on.

“She does have that killer instinct, that never-say-die attitude, and the fact that I know she’s in front of me and I get to play with her gives me a lot of confidence on the field. She’s obviously done amazing this season, and it being a rookie season, I couldn’t be more proud. And I know that she has a lot ahead of her and I’m excited to watch her shine.”

The final against the Red Stars encompassed everything that made Rodman the 2021 Rookie of the Year. She set the bar for the Spirit’s energy in the second half, leading by example when Washington needed to step up its game. In the 61st minute, she carried the ball out of pressure in the midfield, found space just outside of Chicago’s box and shook the goalpost with the best shot the Spirit had taken up to that point in the game.

“That’s actually where they came into the game,” former Red Stars coach Rory Dames said after the final. “I don’t think they were ever really in the game prior to that where I felt they were dangerous, but that kind of rattled the group and they got us on the back foot.”

From then on, Rodman didn’t let up. She stole more balls in the midfield, fired shots on target and set up scoring opportunities. Even Chicago’s experienced backline, led by Sarah Gorden and Tierna Davidson, couldn’t figure out how to stop her.

“Trin has picked up the speed of play so quickly and to her advantage,” Huster said. “Her technical abilities really showcase during games as well as her ability to use her athleticism to her advantage in defending. Her willingness to press, sometimes all on her own, are an incredible asset to have. I think her decision-making at this level continues to improve and has certainly been a reason for her success this season.”

The Spirit found out early in Rodman’s rookie season that she has the motor to run endline to endline without hesitation. Interim head coach Kris Ward consciously planned formations to encourage her to stay in the attacking third and not spend entire games running around.

As the season progressed, Rodman became a smarter playmaker who could speed up and slow down the play, recognize open spaces and combine with teammates.

“She’s so good at relieving the pressure on us by herself sometimes, with her ability to break out into the other team’s half and hold up possession and then just gives all the rest of our players in it [time] to join but also to take a breath while they’re joining,” Ward said.

Bledsoe cited Rodman’s perfect through-ball to Ashley Hatch for the game-winning goal in the Spirit’s 1-0 win over Racing Louisville FC in October as evidence that she’s more than a scorer.

“Rookies don’t do that, but Trinity does,” Bledsoe said.

The combination of Rodman’s technical, defensive and playmaking skills have landed her high on Andonovski’s watch list for the USWNT. After she represented her country with the U17 and U20 squads, Andonovski called the 2020 U.S. Young Female Soccer Player of the Year into camp for the senior team’s November friendlies in Australia. Rodman declined for undisclosed reasons, but she’ll likely remain in consideration for the 2023 World Cup roster.

Whatever her future on the national team holds, Rodman has all the tools to write her own script.

Jessa Braun is an editorial intern for Just Women’s Sports. She is also the Head of North American Content for the Women’s Sports Alliance. You can find her on Twitter @jessabraun.

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

One former player contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

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