Trinity Rodman is finding her confidence — and meeting Serena Williams doesn’t hurt

FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida – After Trinity Rodman scored a goal and tallied two assists in the U.S. women’s national team‘s 3-0 win over China on Saturday afternoon, she was told that Serena wanted to meet her.

“I was like, Serena who?” Rodman said. She had just played a full 90 minutes, made her rounds around the stadium taking selfies and signing autographs for fans, and had no idea that Serena Williams was asking for her.

“I was like, oh my god,” said Rodman, who was still in shock while telling the story. The only problem was that Williams asked Rodman for her jersey, but Rodman had already given it to a fan. So she dug through a dirty clothes bag, found one she had worn earlier in the game and gave it to her.

“She was very sweet, very humble, which is refreshing and amazing,” Rodman said. “And obviously we all look up to her, one of the greatest female athletes in the world. So to meet her in person and see how she was incredible.”

Rodman, whose father is NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman, said she was “star-struck.” The USWNT players had no idea that Williams, her husband and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and their daughter Olympia would be in attendance. The family lives nearby, so it wasn’t a trek, plus they are noted soccer fans and are investors in NWSL club Angel City FC. 

So, what did Rodman and Williams talk about?

“She said, good job, I don’t know,” Rodman said, still laughing in disbelief. “It was just a lighthearted conversation. We talked about how we don’t know how she does in this weather. How we die because it’s so hot. But we kind of just complimented her game and she gave it right back. A nice, chill conversation.”

Rodman couldn’t have played any better if she had known ahead of time that Williams would be watching in person. Her early assist to Sophia Smith on the USWNT’s first goal in the eighth minute was impressive. Rodman ran down a long ball from Naomi Girma deep in the left corner and sent a low, strong cross to Smith, who smacked the ball into the back of the net with one touch. 

[Twila Kilgore on USWNT’s offensive display vs. China: ‘That is us’]

Rodman had the assist on the second goal, too, when captain Lindsey Horan received her throw-in and chipped a shot in from beyond the 18-yard-box. Then in the 77th minute, Rodman scored the third and final goal and hit the Milly Rock to celebrate.

Rodman has scored seven goals in 27 caps. Playing for the USWNT has always been her dream, but in the lead up to the World Cup, she was still figuring things out and finding her way. Former U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski often said that he was waiting for Rodman to become more “ruthless.” He knew she had it in her, but Rodman wasn’t totally comfortable in the environment yet.

Andonovski knew all of that would come in time. And it seems that now might be that time. Rodman is more confident on and off the field. She shows off her flair and energizes crowds with her pull-back move. She’s instinctual and intentional. At 21, she’s not the youngest player on the roster anymore, she’s played in a World Cup and is at ease while speaking with reporters. 

“In Trin’s words, she’s got a different level of focus,” interim head coach Twila Kilgore said. “She’s very clear on what she’s identified as areas she wants to work on, areas we’re asking her to work on. She’s been very detail-oriented in her approach to those things. We see that in training, you see that in games, and she’s starting to play more and more with the people around her, as well.”

As a team, the U.S. looked more rejuvenated and loose in Saturday’s win. It had 20 shots, 11 on goal, though only three went in. While Kilgore said the team needs to be more “clinical” in front of the net, players were more calculated when it came to possessing the ball, moving with pace and creating opportunities.

“I think in previous games, we weren’t sending a message with our pass,” Rodman said. “I think it was very passive. And today we were sending messages, we were playing in the pockets, we were communicating very loudly to turn, we were open, too. 

“I think finally we had the freedom and felt that on the field. So it was a really fun game. And it was fun to see our team create and be creative too. I think to see all of those personalities on the field come to light was really cool.”

[At USWNT camp, ‘vibes are high’ around incoming coach Emma Hayes]

While the Emma Hayes era has only just begun – and the new head coach won’t even be with the USWNT fully until after Chelsea’s season ends in May – the U.S. played like a weight had been lifted off their shoulders.

Rodman doesn’t deny that. The playful celebrations – there was a pose under mistletoe after the first goal – mixed with taking chances, being more innovative in the build-up and scoring goals could be a preview of what’s to come.

“I don’t know if it’s like a safe feeling of knowing that [Hayes] is locked in and we are starting something new,” Rodman said ahead of another meeting with China on Tuesday. “I think just knowing that we have a coach, and we are all striving for the same thing, and we have our identity that we want to strive toward and everyone is working toward that gives us a sense of relief and allows us to lean on each other easier.

“In the past, I felt like it was a little bit more tense because it was all over the place. It was chaotic. And yeah, it was chaos. But now, we’re back to square one and we’re working hard and that showed today.”

Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball and soccer for FOX Sports. She previously wrote for Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of “Strong Like a Woman,” published in spring 2022 to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow her on Twitter @LakenLitman.

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