Rodman tops list of 21 best women players 21 or under


With the UEFA Women’s Euros coming up this summer, now is the perfect time to assess which young players are making their mark on the game. Borussia Dortmund (and soon to be Manchester City) striker Erling Haaland walked away with the No. 1 spot in ESPN’s list of male players, but who makes the grade as the best female talent aged 21 or under?

Picking the list for its second year is ESPN editor Kathleen McNamee and journalist Sophie Lawson, with a host of other ESPN writers and our resident scout Tor-Kristian Karlsen also contributing to the writeups below.

From an initial list of 30 players, those remaining are the ones who best satisfied our main criteria: appearances at the highest level, consistent performance over the past season and possessing the potential to develop into a top-level footballer.

In general, forwards get more playing time at a younger age than, say, central defenders, who tend to need more time to develop tactical awareness, positioning and understanding of the game.

Notes:
– Players included must be age 21 or under on June 1.

– Positions are: GK (goalkeeper), DEF (defender), MID (midfielder), FW (forward), ST (striker)

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The List

21. Vicki Becho, FW

Club: Lyon (on loan at Stade de Reims)
Country: France
Age: 18

Prolific through the youth levels with France, Becho caught the wider eye in 2019 with an extra-time brace in the U19 European Championship semifinals against Germany, aged just 15. Progressing well at Paris Saint-Germain, Becho opted to move to rivals Lyon in 2020. Starved for playing time, Becho has spent the second half of the season on loan with plucky Stade de Reims, but once again, the tricky attacker has struggled to claim a starting role.

Strengths and areas to improve: A player who regularly demonstrates the depth of her technical ability, Becho already has a keen vision for the game and doesn’t waste many chances in front of goal. With a deft touch and clear room for development, the attacker’s greatest weakness is the competition she faces for minutes at Champions League winners Lyon. Her growth is at risk of being stunted by a lack of chances to play. — Sophie Lawson

20. Paulina Gramaglia

Club: UAI Urquiza (on loan at Houston Dash)
Country: Argentina
Age: 20

Gramaglia needed just one season playing in Argentina’s Primera Division A before teams from abroad started calling. Signed by the Houston Dash on loan in December 2021, she became just the third Argentinian player to move to the NWSL. Previously the captain of Argentina’s U17 side, she already has World Cup glory in her sights. Gramaglia has said that the big moves already in her career — first to Buenos Aires and then to Houston — have helped her mature as a player. With few Argentina internationals in the NWSL, she is keen to increase the visibility of her international teammates while also winning some domestic trophies along the way.

Strengths and areas to improve: Gramaglia scored nine goals in seven appearances while with UAI Urquiza and with her captaincy of Argentina’s U17 side she has already shown her maturity and leadership qualities. She has yet to make her debut for Houston as injury and international duty have kept her out of the squad but when she does appear, she will be hoping she can show that she is the attacking force that the Dash are looking for. With the move to training full time and putting her studies on hold, showing she can hold pace in the athletic NWSL will also be key. — Kathleen McNamee

19. Mia Fishel, FW

Club: Tigres
Country: United States
Age: 21

In January, Fishel shocked the American soccer world when she decided to carve her own unique path in Mexico. Initially selected by the Orlando Pride as the No. 5 pick in the NWSL draft last December, the U.S. youth national team forward from UCLA instead took a chance with Tigres in Liga MX Femenil. “I need to be in control of my career,” Fishel told ESPN about the decision. The choice to establish her own future immediately paid off. In her first year as a professional, Fishel has been a revelation, with eight goals in 14 regular-season appearances. In a subsequent Liga MX Femenil playoff run that recently ended in the semifinals, the 21-year-old had four goals in four Liguilla matches.

Strengths and areas to improve: There’s more to Fishel than scoring. The forward often is active in build-up plays and pressuring opposition. In the 18-yard box, the Tigres star has a knack for being in the right place at the right time for a close-range finish. If she can improve her ball control and add more assists in the final third — and if her scoring rate continues to increase — she will become the best in Liga MX Femenil in an incredibly short amount of time. — Cesar Hernandez

18. Maya Le Tissier, DEF

Club: Brighton & Hove Albion
Country: England
Age: 20

Born in Guernsey, Le Tissier played with boys on the island and, early in her career, picked up sponsorship to fly over to England to attend trials in the hope of winning a professional contract. She made her senior debut for Brighton at 16 in the Conti Cup against Chelsea’s iconic Ji So-yun — quite the baptism by fire — and has gone from strength to strength ever since. Under former England boss Hope Powell she has cemented her place and set a league record this season for most WSL appearances as a teenager. She has attracted interest from bigger clubs, but for now is happy at Brighton under the tutelage of Powell, who has put a lot of faith in her. Le Tissier has been named the club’s women’s Young Player of the Season for the last two years in a row.

Strengths and areas to improve: One of Le Tissier’s biggest strengths is her sheer consistency and she has played every minute for Brighton over the past two seasons. Her development hasn’t been a straight line, but while she started out in more attacking roles she has now slipped perfectly into the right full-back position. An aggressive and fast defender, sometimes the former quality can lead to her being beaten in one-on-one situations. — Kathleen McNamee

17. Jordyn Huitema, FW

Club: Paris Saint-Germain
Country: Canada
Age: 21

Huitema has gone from being a promising player to a recognised force in the world game over recent years. The stylistic comparisons with Canada’s all-time record scorer Christine Sinclair are inevitable, but Huitema is comfortable in her own shoes and is a brilliant player in her own right. She made her full international debut aged 15, swept all the Canadian age-grade awards and won an Olympic gold medal in 2021, so it’s been a rapid rise. This season has seen her play less than usual in Division 1 Feminine, with Marie-Antoinette Katoto and Kadidiatou Diani in exceptional form, which explains her drop from No. 4 on last year’s ESPN list. She initially found it a culture shock adapting to the PSG way of life, but has grown in confidence and her performances are improving with age.

Strengths and areas to improve: Huitema is brilliant in the air, scoring three-headed goals in the Champions League this season, but is also a lethal finisher in the box, primarily with her right foot, with 1.86 goals per 90 minutes. Though she has been used a little more sparingly by PSG this term, she’s still regarded as one of the best strikers in France. Her link-up play is outstanding and she can cover the right flank as well as playing through the middle. She can improve her consistency in front of goal though. — Tom Hamilton

16. Diana Ordonez, FW

Club: North Carolina Courage
Country: Mexico
Age: 20

There seems to be no stopping Ordonez, who is quickly accumulating milestones in her young career. After starring for the Virginia Cavaliers as a junior in college in late 2021, she joined the North Carolina Courage and saw the club lift the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup. Having been called to a USWNT U23 camp, she also scored twice on her debut with the Mexico senior national team after choosing her international status in April. The 20-year-old should have a chance to boost her stock on the international stage this summer in the CONCACAF W Championship in July, when she likely will be involved in Mexico’s attempt to qualify for the 2023 World Cup.

Strengths and areas to improve: Standing 5-foot-11, Ordonez is fantastic at holding the ball up and her decision-making can create opportunities in attack. She shows plenty of confidence on the pitch but, while she was a proven goal scorer at the collegiate level, only time will tell if she’ll be able to consistently find the net with North Carolina and Mexico. — Cesar Hernandez

15. Haley Bugeja, FW

Club: US Sassuolo
Country: Malta
Age: 18

At 16, Bugeja signed for Sassuolo, but the then-unknown forward stamped her authority on her debut Serie A game against Napoli, scoring twice — including a dizzying solo effort in which she wormed her way around four defenders before unleashing a shot with her weaker foot. Far from just a flash in the pan, the young Maltese attacker went on to notch 12 goals in her first season, establishing herself as a crucial part of the Sassuolo team that finished the season a whisker outside of a Champions League berth.

Strengths and areas to improve: With a 2021-22 season that has been hampered by injury, Bugeja has managed to find the back of the net only three times. However, when fit, she has greatly improved her assist rate and has displayed excellent dribbling abilities with both feet. The emergence of Bugeja has revitalised the diminutive European nation of Malta (ranked No. 94 in the world) and with her help, they have managed to show a more competitive edge in international competition. — Sophie Lawson

14. Julie Blakstad, MID

Club: Manchester City
Country: Norway
Age: 20

Blakstad joined Manchester City in January, having spent her entire professional career in her home country of Norway. She has represented Norway’s national side in multiple positions at youth level and made her senior debut in 2020 — the same year she joined Rosenborg and amassed 17 goals in 35 appearances for the club. With idols such as international teammates Caroline Graham Hansen and Ada Hegerberg, she announced herself at City with a stunning first strike against Leicester City in April. She has yet to cement a starting position in the City squad but with a few established names possibly moving on this summer, she will be pushing for more starts.

Strengths and areas to improve: It wasn’t easy for such a young player to join a team and a league as competitive as Manchester City in the WSL halfway through the season, but she has handed manager Gareth Taylor a selection headache when given the opportunity to shine. In her own words, she is a “creative and brave” player, which she demonstrated with her stunning strike in April. She will be looking to put her stamp on games more and make her presence felt so she moves from a player who comes off a bench to a starting City figure. — Kathleen McNamee

13. Ebony Salmon, FW

Club: Racing Louisville
Country: England
Age: 21

Regarded as one of England’s brightest talents, Salmon is now lighting up the NWSL with Racing Louisville. She began her career at Aston Villa and spent 2018-19 at Man United before being released, but found her feet at Bristol City and attracted plenty of interest from WSL sides when her contract expired in 2021. Choosing instead to try her luck in the NWSL, she scored just 74 seconds into her debut against the Houston Dash and has impressed ever since. Her old boss at Bristol City, Matt Beard, summed up her game perfectly when he said: “She’s strong, she’s quick, she’s good in tight spaces, and speaking as an Englishman, what a player England have got for the future.”

Strengths and areas to improve: Needing plenty of mental strength to recover from her failure to break through at United, she would have enjoyed netting the winner for Bristol City against her old side the following year. That goal was typical Salmon, as she combined her pace and precision to turn United’s defence inside out, before finishing past Mary Earps. Playing as lone striker at City would have been tough as the club were on the wrong end of hammerings week-in-week-out, but she never let her head drop and was a frequent threat. She has developed well as a versatile inside forward and is working on her composure, finishing and consistency in front of goal. — Tom Hamilton

12. Melvine Malard, FW

Club: Lyon
Country: France
Age: 21

Earmarked as a talent for the future, Malard was snapped up by Lyon when she was just 14, the forward earning her stripes in the youth setup before signing her first professional contract in 2017. Since then it has been about the slow growth for Malard, including a loan spell at Fleury over the 2019-20 season for some vital playing time. Returning to Lyon more determined than ever, Malard has continued to develop, becoming a regular starter for the all-conquering Lyon team.

Strengths and areas to improve: Asked to transition from a centre-forward role to a wide one under coach Sonia Bompastor, Malard has been able to utilise her ability to run at players more and more, as her off the ball movement and positional understanding has improved. Although her decision-making has also seen improvements, it remains one of the weaker aspects of her overall game. — Sophie Lawson

11. Naomi Girma, DEF

Club: San Diego Wave
Country: United States
Age: 21

Girma established herself as a player to watch during college, when she captained the Stanford Cardinal team that won the 2019 Women’s College Cup. The left-sided centre-back also captained the U.S. U20 national team and was named U.S. Soccer’s Young Female Player of the Year in 2020. In the 2022 NWSL college draft, she was selected at No. 1 overall by new expansion team, San Diego Wave FC, a surprising choice given that attacking players tend to be more highly rated. But the Wave’s decision to select Girma before the likes of midfielder Jaelin Howell speaks to how much is expected of her.

Strengths and areas to improve: Her one-on-one defending skills are excellent, her positioning is that of a seasoned veteran, and she reliably makes an impact in any game she starts. Although the NWSL regular season is barely underway, Girma led the Wave in recoveries during the 2022 Challenge Cup, a preseason tournament. It’s hard to ask a rookie defender for more, but if there’s an area to improve, her forward passing accuracy from deep positions isn’t on the level of, for instance, her centre-back teammate Abby Dahlkemper. But she’s in a good spot to learn and develop. — Caitlin Murray

10. Mary Fowler, FW

Club: Montpellier
Country: Australia
Age: 19

A super-sub for Montpellier and a game-changer for Australia, Fowler’s star continues to rise. From the beaches of Far North Queensland, where she played on the sand with her siblings, the forward has now made a World Cup squad (2019) and scored at the Olympics (2021). Making her national team debut at the age of 15, Fowler has long been on the radar of Australian fans, and with each passing game she has proved that they were right to believe the hype. With four goals off the bench for her club this season and seven in 26 appearances for Australia, she continues to impress across attacking roles but with an undeniable striker’s instinct.

Strengths and areas to improve: Australia striker Sam Kerr — a woman who knows a thing or two about finishing — has described the 19-year-old as the best finisher on the team on both feet. Aside from her finishing (55% conversation rate this season), Fowler also possesses fearlessness and intelligence in her play, whether that be shooting from distance or breaking the lines in attack. While she is obviously talented enough to be a starting national team player, the teenager needs to make more of an impact on games, something that should come with time and experience. — Marissa Lordanic

Technical analysis: In addition to her strong work ethic, her sudden burst of pace makes a difference when attempting to regain possession and Fowler rarely takes unnecessary touches while mapping out the goal prior to delivering a decisive shot. Despite often being tightly marked, she is able to evade challenges through excellent one-on-one abilities and dribbling. — Tor-Kristian Karlsen

9. Melchie Dumornay, MID

Club: Stade de Reims
Country: Haiti
Age: 18

A starlet at the youth levels for Haiti, Dumornay caught the eye lighting up CONCACAF tournaments from her early teens, from playing a key role in Haiti’s under-20 World Cup showing when she was just 14 to the 14 goals she netted over the U20 CONCACAF Championships in 2020. Making waves on the international stage, Dumornay caught the eye of scouts fast from all around the world at AS Tigresses in the Haitian women’s football championship and impressed over several trials with Lyon, her age keeping her from signing a pro deal.

With a clear focus on where she wants her career to go, it was no surprise to see the teen sign with a Division 1 Feminine side in France when she was old enough. Yet instead of Lyon or PSG, the Haitian wunderkind penned her first professional contract with the up-and-coming Stade de Reims. Needing little time to acclimate to the youthful team in Northern France, Dumornay has continued to show her worth.

Strengths and areas to improve: Adept at drawing fouls with her quick feet, Dumornay is happy to take the resulting free kick, her ability to lay the ball into the box or directly at goal with precision a highlight of her game. Strong but not overly physically imposing, the midfielder could yet stand to work on her aerial and heading ability to round out her game. — Sophie Lawson

Technical analysis: A generational talent who can dominate games like few others. She can pick out runs with brilliant 30 to 35 meter passes, plus equally precise switch balls. She has excellent dribbling skills, a very precise long-range shot (she likes testing and surprising the opposing goalkeeper from distance) and tremendous balance. — Tor-Kristian Karlsen

8. Claudia Pina, FW

Club: Barcelona
Country: Spain
Age: 20

Pina has enjoyed a breakout year at Barcelona, making it hard for coach Jonatan Giraldez to leave her out of the side. A local girl who came through the academy, she made her debut as a 16-year-old in 2018 but it’s only this season, following a year on loan at Sevilla, that she started to fulfil her potential. With competition fierce for places, Pina’s appearances have mainly come when players have been injured, against inferior opposition or off the bench, but she has taken every opportunity. She ended the league campaign with 15 goals from 24 appearances and scored in each leg of the Champions League quarterfinal win over Real Madrid. The next step is to cement her place in the starting XI.

Strengths and areas to improve: Pina grew up at Barca so she is familiar with the club’s style of play. However, it’s neither her passing nor her pressing which makes her stand out, but her eye for goals. If you give her half a yard in the final third, there is a chance the ball ends up in the net. Her early shots often catch goalkeepers off guard. Perhaps counting against her at the moment is her lack of a defined position. She has played wide on the left, as a central midfielder and as a No. 10, although it’s the latter role where she feels she excels. — Sam Marsden

Technical analysis: Pina always seems to gain the crucial meter on the opponent without much effort. While her fine touch and vision allow her to provide clever assists, she’s also an excellent header of the ball. Her chipped goal against Real Madrid in El Clasico, executed with her weaker left foot, was nothing short of spectacular. — Tor-Kristian Karlsen

7. Jule Brand, FW

Club: Hoffenheim
Country: Germany
Age: 19

When a player comes on and scores a goal and assists another within five minutes of their senior international debut, you know they are going to offer something special. This is exactly what Brand did in April and she has gone on to impress so much with Hoffenheim that Wolfsburg moved to snap her up this summer. Less than a year before her international debut, Brand had been playing in the second tier of German football and was largely an unknown figure outside her home country. Now, however, she is in the running for a spot in a competitive Germany side and is attracting interest from clubs across the world. When asked whose career she would like to replicate, she pointed to USWNT star Alex Morgan with the Champions League and World Cup in her sights.

Strengths and areas to improve: When Brand signed with Wolfsburg, sporting director Ralf Kellerman pointed to her “speed and individual attacking qualities” as two of her greatest assets. She has shown how these can trouble defences, particularly in Hoffenheim’s Champions League win over Arsenal. She will look to finesse these qualities in the coming years, developing more tactical knowledge and awareness. She has admitted herself that sometimes she just “runs and runs and runs” but her work rate can’t be denied. — Kathleen McNamee

Technical analysis: She is a strong running winger whose persistent movement causes problems for the opposition. To go with her first-class interpretation of the game and creativity (1.50 key passes per game), Brand is also remarkably quick and averages six dribbles per game. Busy, positive, direct in her play and diligent in her defensive work too, she has all the prerequisites to develop into an elite player. — Tor-Kristian Karlsen

6. Giovana Queiroz, ST

Club: Barcelona (loan to Levante)
Country: Brazil
Age: 18

It has been a difficult year on many levels for Queiroz, who was forced to leave Barca for Levante on loan and later alleged she had been the subject of “abusive behaviour” while at the Catalan club, who have denied her claims. Despite all that, she has still managed to score seven goals for a Levante side that ended the season sixth in the Primera Division. Already a full international with Brazil at the age of 18, a bigger club may now take a chance on Queiroz as she continues to show why Barca plucked her from Madrid CFF two years ago.

Strengths and areas to improve: Queiroz has a high ceiling. She is from a generation of Brazilian attackers that don’t stay in a fixed position, which gives her the necessary freedom to move around the pitch. She does that very well and is as much a creator as she is a scorer. In fact, it is the scoring element of her game that she needs to improve. With a little bit more confidence and belief in her finishing, she would have hit double figures in Spain this season. — Sam Marsden

Technical analysis: Whether fielded wide on the right or up front, Queiroz is almost an attack on her own. Her change of pace and her brilliant ball-carrying abilities are particularly dangerous weapons on counterattacks, but the Brazilian also possesses an incredible determination which helps her bounce off most challenges. A technically gifted, creative player, she is already making a huge impact. — Tor-Kristian Karlsen

5. Sydney Lohmann, MID

Club: Bayern Munich
Country: Germany
Age: 21

After a hip injury kept her out for six months, Lohmann marked her comeback for Bayern Munich with an impressive performance in the UWCL against Paris Saint-Germain in March and put herself back in the picture for selection for Germany at the Euros this summer. Lohmann joined Bayern Munich’s academy as a teenager and made her debut for the first team at just 17. She debuted for the national side the same year and has continued to showcase both her attacking and defensive qualities. New arrivals at Bayern Munich and her injury have meant she hasn’t seen the same amount of playing time as the year before, but she remains an important part of the squad.

Strengths and areas to improve: Lohmann likes being on the ball and dribbling at defences. She has one of the highest attacking stats for a midfielder in the Frauen Bundesliga but her eagerness to get forward can sometimes see her lose the ball or overhit her passes. However, her movement both on and off the ball is impressive. Her ability to react quickly has made her valuable to Bayern in both attack — during set pieces in particular — and in defence due to the sheer area of ground she is happy to cover. — Kathleen McNamee

Technical analysis: Lohmann’s calm, focused approach to the game is most striking. Equally capable of playing as a No. 6, No. 8 or even No. 10 in midfield, she brings order, organisation and structure to the game. Her decision-making, combined with the precision in her passing, allow the game to flow through her and she plays with a maturity well beyond her years. — Tor-Kristian Karlsen

4. Sophia Smith, FW

Club: Portland Thorns FC
Country: United States
Age: 21

Another to have made waves at youth national team level, Smith earned her first look for the senior USWNT when she was 16 but wouldn’t become a regular for the world champions until last year. A clear talent, Smith became the first teenager to be picked in an NWSL draft when the Portland Thorns claimed her as the No. 1 pick in 2020. However, disruptions to the league due to the COVID-19 pandemic stopped the attacker from repaying that confidence straight away.

With nine goals in 22 appearances for the Thorns last season, Smith spent a sizable chunk of the year drifting in-and-out of form, but has been undeniable in domestic competition so far this season. Flourishing in NWSL as well as on the international stage, the forward has played herself into contention for regular call-ups for the national team and looks to have the faith of manager Vlatko Andonovski — even in an overflowing talent pool.

Strengths and areas to improve: Her consistency has been the biggest area for concern, as she has a tendency to drift out of games. But she has already shown marked progress on that this season, as well as with her shooting ability. With a clean first touch and cool head in front of goal, Smith oozes natural attacking prowess and plays off the shoulder of the last defender well, while she knows when to shoot or make an attacking run. — Sophie Lawson

Technical analysis: Smith can play anywhere across the front and is equally dangerous when attacking wide or through the middle. Her excellent technique, ambidexterity and quick footwork make her an exquisite finisher. She averages six dribbles per game and her excellent off-the-ball movement helps her take up good positions. — Tor-Kristian Karlsen

3. Lena Oberdorf, MID

Club: Wolfsburg
Country: Germany
Age: 20

Such is the talent of Oberdorf, this is the second year in a row she has found herself in the top three of ESPN’s U21 list and the Germany international has once again had a stellar season.

The 20-year-old was part of the Germany team who won the U17 European Championship in 2017 and many will be looking forward to seeing her ply her trade in the tournament in England this summer if she can stay fit. She made her name as the country’s youngest senior international and she will be hoping she can build on this legacy as Germany looks to regain some of their European dominance.

Strengths and areas to improve: During her youth career, Oberdorf played multiple positions across the pitch, giving her a strong sense of positional awareness in her senior career. She is a great reader of the game and always seems to be a step ahead of those she is facing. She is also known for what Germany boss Martina Voss Tecklenburg described as her “physical presence” and isn’t afraid to muscle her way through a situation. She is so involved in the buildup play, it would be good to see more individual moments from her in front of goal. — Kathleen McNamee

Technical analysis: Oberdorf’s ability to play across the middle in defence or midfield is a testament to her exceptional all-round qualities. Predominantly recognised for her measured, intelligent passing, impeccable decision-making and mental aptitude, the midfielder sets the pace and the rhythm of the game. She is also strong on the defensive side of things — covering space, blocking, tackling, protecting the centre-backs and being aggressive in her recovery duties. — Tor-Kristian Karlsen

2. Lauren Hemp, FW

Club: Manchester City
Country: England
Age: 21

Arguably the best player in the England setup, Hemp’s rise was far from an overnight one. Impressing in her debut WSL season with Bristol City, the tricky winger was quickly snapped up by Man City in 2018 where she has grown in stature to become one of the first names on the team sheet for both City and England. Hemp’s “lightbulb moment” for many was when she dazzled at the 2020 She Believes Cup, looking as if she’d been playing the highest level of senior international football for years, rather than five months.

A left winger, Hemp’s partnership with Chloe Kelly (deployed on the right) was a clear highlight throughout the 2020-21 season and even with Kelly out for the majority of the 2021-22 campaign with an ACL injury, Hemp has continued to shine as an individual in the City and England attacks, as her ever-growing list of accolades would suggest.

Strengths and areas to improve: Super fast, there are few things defenders can do when Hemp is running at them with or without the ball. Her pace and determination routinely see her set up a teammate or win a foul. With a smart left foot and strong close control, the winger is in her element when taking defenders out wide or cutting into the box, her precise crossing ability is an ever-growing asset. Not the best natural finisher herself, Hemp still needs to develop a ruthless side to shooting and goal scoring, rather than always being the one to tee her teammates up. — Sophie Lawson

Technical analysis: Hemp’s speed, creativity (1.84 key passes), quality crossing, clever runs behind the full-backs and successful take-ons (an average of seven dribbles per game at a 69% success rate) are all impressive. In addition to her bright, exciting, energy-consuming style of play, she’s also happy to do her fair share of defending. — Tor-Kristian Karlsen

1. Trinity Rodman, FW

Club: Washington Spirit
Country: United States

Age: 20

She came in at No. 10 on last year’s list, and Rodman has shot to the top this year after a sensational rookie season in the NWSL. The Washington Spirit forward arrived to the league with high expectations due to her record-setting draft selection as the youngest player to ever go through the process and due to her famous father, NBA great Dennis Rodman — but as huge as the hype was, she backed it up.

Trinity Rodman ready to make her own name in soccer

Rodman was named NWSL Rookie of the Year for 2021 and led the Spirit to an NWSL Championship in November. She seems to have a long and bright future ahead of her, and her club clearly agrees. Ahead of the 2022 season, the Spirit signed her to a $1.1 million, four-year contract that her agency says made her the highest-paid player in the NWSL. She followed that by earning her first cap for the U.S. women’s national team in February. Her father’s famous last name may still follow her, but she says she learned her competitiveness from her mom and she is making a name of her own.

Strengths and areas to improve: She’s got everything you’d expect out of a goal scorer: speed, power and tenacity. But the underrated part of her game may be her ability to set up her teammates — last season she led the NWSL in assists, making good on her league-leading expected assists. She’s also versatile, attacking mostly down the right but often flipping left or floating centrally. She has said she wants to be unpredictable and crafty with the ball at her feet, and she’s grown in that regard but can still get even better on the ball. When the ball isn’t finding her, it does limit her impact, but with improved off-the-ball movement, she’ll become even more of a threat. In other words: As good as Rodman is, she doesn’t appear to be close to her ceiling. — Caitlin Murray

Technical analysis: Rodman has a knack of picking the right spaces to get behind opponents and she’s added calmness to her finishing too. Technically, her touch appears more refined and she seems more confident with her weaker left foot. She is also a brilliant team player who works tirelessly defensively (an average of 5.5 defensive challenges / 3.2 tackles per game). — Tor-Kristian Karlsen





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