Dave Hannigan: The world will hear a lot more about Trinity Rodman

The 19-year-old is lighting up US women’s soccer with shots, crosses and cameos of brilliance

Trinity Rodman of Washington Spirit dribbling between Chicago Red Stars players during a NWSL Championship match in Louisville, Kentucky. Photograph: Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

When you type Trinity Rodman's name into YouTube to scan the highlight reel of her nascent professional career, the search throws up some interesting results.

Here, she is winning NWSL assist of the year curling a visionary ball into the path of Ashley Hatch. There, she is lighting up the league's championship game with shots, crosses, and general cameos of brilliance.

Then you scroll down a little and discover a clip of her confessing to falling asleep during the Michael Jordan documentary The Last Dance. And you realise no matter how much she might represent the future of American soccer, she's forever linked to basketball's illustrious past.

"My dad doesn't play a big role in my life at all, and most people don't know that," wrote Rodman of her relationship with her father, Dennis, who won five NBA titles and a whole lot of notoriety with the Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls.


A litany of accolades that don't quite do justice to the flair and excitement she brought nearly every time she touched the ball.

“We don’t see eye to eye on many things. I go months, if not years, without his presence or communication. Being in spotlights has been hard for us, him and me. We don’t have the best relationship, but at the end of the day he’s human, I’m human . . . he’s my dad, and I’m his little girl, that will never change. I will improve and look forward everyday as I hope he does.”

Rodman wrote that on Instagram the day after her Hall of Famer father, six foot seven of tattoos, nose rings, and salacious tabloid headlines, surprised her by turning up to watch the Washington Spirit defeat North Carolina Courage in a play-off game last November.

Cameras captured the moment the pair hugged but she quickly took to social media to clarify it was the first time he’d been to one of her games in many years. His loss.

College soccer

How much she achieved in the interim can be summed up by the fact the 19-year-old arrived at her first US women’s national team training camp in Austin, Texas, this week as the country’s most exciting prospect in years.

Twelve months ago, at 18, she declared herself eligible for the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) draft despite never having played a minute of college soccer. Not the traditional route taken in the distaff game here, but the Spirit made her the youngest ever selection with the second pick, gambling that a callow teen could move 3,000 miles from her home in California, adapt and flourish.

She repaid their hunch by becoming the league’s youngest ever scorer, winning Rookie of the Year, making the Team of the Year and contributing hugely to the club winning its first NWSL title last November.

A litany of accolades that don’t quite do justice to the flair and excitement she brought nearly every time she touched the ball. Two-footed, as likely to maraud down the left wing as the right, she’s a pacey 5’10’’, shoots on sight, creates chances for others with pinpoint passes, and torments defenders with all manner of trickery.

Given the sheer number of girls playing the game in this country (around 2 million at last count), Rodman represents the type of creative individual that America has never produced enough of during decades dominating at international level.

"Now, we don't want to rush anything," said Vlatko Andonovski, coach of the national team, of his decision to call her up. "We obviously have to be patient. She's still a young player, but we do want to expose her to the environment where she can get her feet wet a little bit."

Staid USA

For all his cautious coach-speak, Andonovski and his squad badly need the spark she brings with the ball at her feet. In recent years the rest of the world, playing a more technical game, caught up with and overtook the rather staid USA, a situation exacerbated by allowing a once-in-a-generation group of icons like Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd to grow old together.

With the team often appearing depressingly predictable on the world stage of late, the arrival of a fearless youth with the ability to turn defenders inside out with footwork or to barrel past them at speed couldn’t be better timed.

If she is box office like her father, Rodman has been very careful to remind non-sports media perhaps drawn to her story by a surname lately as bizarrely associated with North Korea's Kim Jong Un as it once was with Jordan, Carmen Electra and Madonna, that her mother, Michelle Moyer, deserves all the credit for her success.

Rodman’s third wife divorced the greatest rebounder of the modern era in 2004 when Trinity was two, and raised her and her brother DJ (who plays college basketball with Washington State University) on her own, far from the klieg lights of the celebrity lifestyle. As a child her daughter hooped, played tackle grid-iron briefly but discovered one sport where her talent was obvious from an early age.

Eleven years ago the late Kobe Bryant popped along to watch his daughter Natalia playing a soccer match in Los Angeles. Having spent so much of his childhood in Italy, he knew and loved the sport. At the finish he went over to congratulate one of his kid's team-mates who had utterly dominated proceedings. "You're a stud!" Bryant told the little girl. Rodman was eight years old that day.

But Mamba knew the potential of what he had just witnessed. The rest of the world will find out soon enough.