Ifeoma Onumonu. That’s it, that’s the entire list of players who matched Washington Spirit attacker Trinity Rodman’s direct goal contributions (goals + assists) in this NWSL season. Onumonu, finished the season with eight goals and four assists in a season that has garnered MVP discussion. Rodman, meanwhile, scored six, assisted six and just might win Rookie of the Year by unanimous vote.
Just after the final whistle of Sunday’s win over the Dash in which Rodman scored the match-winning goal, the young phenom spoke with media postgame and reflected on her mindset coming into the season.
“Honestly before I started, I didn’t know what to expect,” said Rodman. “I didn’t know it was gonna be this hard, I didn’t know I was gonna have to push myself to these limits, but overall it’s been amazing. I’ve improved every single game.”
That improvement has been noticeable. If you’re able to force yourself to consider it normal that a teenager has the skill, speed, technique and balance that Rodman has, how she’s grown her game over the course of the season still amazes. The Spirit rely on a very defensively active attacking line to make sure the opposition is never able to rest in any third of the pitch. As a unit they’ve been excellent at it.
All usual starters on that line (Rodman, Ashley Hatch, Ashley Sanchez, and Tara McKeown) have engaged in over 100 duels according to stats measured by NWSLsoccer.com, with no one’s success rate below 42%. Sanchez has engaged in 236 duels, which would seem the high mark as she’s frequently tasked with dropping deeper into the middle of the pitch. Instead, Rodman finished the season with 334, and boasted the highest success rate (46.7%) at that.
This willingness to engage also creates a number of opportunities to intercept the ball, which Ashley Hatch has done six times, McKeown five and Sanchez thirteen. Rodman? THIRTY-THREE.
It’s absurd that a player so young, and in her first ever professional season, managed to add to and sharpen her skills in a way that turned her into one of the most dangerous players in the league on both sides of the ball. Rodman, however, gives credit to her teammates.
“I would have never imagined having such a good team to support me and make me a better player every single practice, every single game,” explained Rodman. “Biggest thing is just like improvement from my first game to getting into the playoffs – it’s been awesome. It’s been hard but having a team like mine made it easier.”
Of course, Rodman’s rookie season isn’t over, as her and the team’s efforts were good enough to finish third in the league and host a playoff game. The Spirit will have to outduel North Carolina’s multiple trophy-winning attacking trio of Debinha, Lynn Williams and Jessica McDonald. It’s a testament to this group of players and how they push one another that 2020 Future Legend award recipient Ashley Sanchez, Golden Boot-winner Ashely Hatch and (we have to assume) soon-to-be Rookie of the Year Trinity Rodman, will be a more than formidable challenge to the former champions.