The Washington Spirit's Trinity Rodman has been announced as U.S. Soccer's Young Female Player of the Year for 2021 after a successful rookie campaign, while Lindsey Horan took the senior award for U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year. The winners were announced live on Thursday during Futbol Americas on ESPN+.
For Rodman, the award caps off a sensational debut season in which she became the youngest player to be drafted into the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) at age 18, going No. 2 overall.
Rodman, the daughter of NBA great Dennis Rodman, had enrolled in Washington State University but decided to go pro before ever playing a college game. When she joined the Washington Spirit, she found herself at a club marred by dysfunction off the field -- but she thrived regardless, solidifying herself as a go-to starter and leading the Spirit to winning the NWSL Championship.
Rodman made a instant impact, scoring in her debut in the NWSL Challenge Cup and continued her good form. Her combined seven goals and seven assists in all competitions led the league, and she was named NWSL Rookie of the Year.
When she was first drafted, Rodman caught attention for her last name but pushed back against the narratives linking her sporting talent to her father, instead crediting her mother, Michelle Rodman, for her competitiveness while vowing to make a name for herself.
Before her NWSL debut, Rodman had already been known as the speedy direct threat for the under-20 U.S. women's national team, tallying eight goals and six assists in qualifying for the U-20 World Cup, which was later canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. But she vowed before her professional debut to expand her game and be "funky on the ball," a promise she made good on despite a tumultuous first experience at a professional club.
Spirit players had complained that the team's coach, Richie Burke, was verbally abusive but the club's CEO and owner declined to fire him until the NWSL stepped in and banned Burke. A tussle between owners broke out, turning ugly at times, with the players joining the fray and demanding that Steve Baldwin sell his controlling stake to Y. Michele Kang.
A COVID-19 outbreak also forced the Spirit to forfeit two regular season games at one point.
Rodman earned her first call-up to a senior USWNT camp in November for a trip to Australia, who will host the 2023 Women's World Cup with New Zealand, but opted out for reasons undisclosed. Coach Vlatko Andonovski said he expected she would be called in again for the USWNT's January camp.
Rodman earned 48% of the overall vote for Young Female Player of the Year. Coming in second was midfielder Catarina Macario (32%) and third was defender Emily Fox (13%).
For Female Player of the Year, Horan earned 36% of the overall vote, followed by Carli Lloyd (29%) and Rose Lavelle (19%).
This year, for the first time since U.S. Soccer started its year-end awards for the top players, fans were allowed to contribute to the vote. Fans accounted for 15% of the overall tally, with votes from U.S. national team players, coaches, media and other stakeholders counting toward the rest.
For Horan, her award comes after a productive year for both club and country, including a bronze medal-winning performance at the Tokyo Olympics.
The 27-year-old Horan finished the year tied for second in assists (5) and fourth in goals (6) for the USWNT, including a goal and an assist during the Olympics. But she was thrust into more of a defensive midfielder role due to the injury of Julie Ertz, and Horan played in all six games of the tournament, starting five.
In NWSL action, Horan played in just 14 games due to the Olympics, but made the NWSL Best XI Second team and helped the Portland Thorns win the NWSL Shield as the best team during the regular season. She also scored once in the NWSL Challenge Cup pre-preseason tournament, which the Thorns won.
Horan won the U.S. Soccer Young Female of the Year award in 2013.