Rarely does the final turn out to be a great game. When it comes down to a game, teams don’t prioritize any mistakes over being truly brave and wait for their chance. Obviously, the nerves also play their own role, as the spots become impossible to ignore.
Before the NWSL finals began, the feeling was that it could be the same. Considering their injury list and the way and style of getting to the finals, the Chicago Red Stars are always trying and gripping things, and the hope was that Mallory Pug and Rachel Hill could create something on the counter that only needs one. Joy Washington Spirit was deeply aware of this and while they carried most of the game, they were also wary of resisting in the first half.
Even rarer than a great game we get a signature performance from a player who simply grabs the game by the ankle, hangs it upside down, and shakes it until the necessary lunch money falls. And Haller-Comet-Rare happens when that player is a Rocky. Magic Johnson’s name comes to mind, right? You can now add Trinity Rodman to that list.
The Red Stars’ main plan over the last few weeks has been to defend the medium defensively through Morgan Gottratt and Sarah Waldmore in front of their defense, forcing the teams to launch massive attacks and providing an alternative to those wide players. That’s how they beat the league’s best team, the Portland Thorns. So in some ways, Rodman was given the platform by the Red Star strategy, but that makes it less impressive. Chicago’s plan was to hand him the ball and then build walls around it. Rodman consistently took a destructive ball to them.
Rodman was a saint in both respects. Dribbling through two or three players at once, either terrifying the fullback with his speed just threatening to overtake them, and while the spirit was receding, shooting from all over and setting up teammates. Maybe it got a touch hero-ball to the point, but all the spirits were allowed by the Red Stars. And if you have someone who can do hero-ball work …
Rodman pulled the spirit from a goal against a complete bunker-in opponent in the second half. He sets up a penalty that is equal, chases the ball after losing the initial header and threads the ball into the box to McQueen, who was then fouled.
It was after Rodman almost equated himself when he turned Tatum Milazo so rude that it left a tire mark and then revealed this ICBMT near which the post would stay awake in cold sweat for years:
Rodman then assisted the winner for Kelly O’Hara in extra time, with a cross so surgical that it should be seen by the med students of an operating theater.
It would not be fair to downplay Rodman’s performance just to contribute to his goal. Especially in the second half, every time Rodman touched the ball, everyone in Louisville held their breath, especially the Red Stars. It was a legend-making thing, and almost certainly what Rodman goes on to achieve will be referred to as the starting point. And it looks like it will be MVP and Ballon d’Ors in the very distant future.
Rodman finished the game with eight shots, three goals, five chances created, five dribbles successful (which seemed short), and four key passes, all of which led the game. He’s also just 19 years old, which is another obscene act, dominating the league’s biggest game as a teenager.
Rodman is clearly the future of USWNT, and it’s a shame we won’t see him in Australia’s upcoming friendly because Vlatko Andonovsky has begun the process of passing the team on to the next generation. What’s even more frustrating is that Rodman’s immunizations are the result. But they are just as friendly, and yet the day may come when COVID is not with us or still a big part of our lives. The most important thing in football is the summer of 2023. Rodman has the guts on Tobin Heath’s ball, just at high speed. While it’s probably on the opposite side of Heath that Rodman’s immediate future lies, Megan Rapino is starting to leave the scene or retire completely.
Those debates can wait. Maybe being young enough to be 19 just because you can’t win a championship game on your own or shouldn’t be brave enough to know you can. If Rodman started from here, no destination would be out of reach.