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After standout rookie season, Spirit signs Trinity Rodman to four-year, $1.1 million deal

Washington Spirit forward Trinity Rodman, 19, was NWSL's rookie of the year in 2021. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Just over a year ago, when she turned pro without any college soccer experience, Trinity Rodman was a genuine curiosity.

Was she for real, a player destined to take the National Women’s Soccer League by storm? Or because of her age and famous father, was she a marketing ploy to bolster the emergent circuit?

Over the course of the year — one in which the 19-year-old forward was named rookie of the year, won the league championship and received U.S. Soccer’s young player of the year award and an invitation to the revered national team — any lingering skepticism was smashed.

And this week, recognizing Rodman’s importance to the team and league, the Washington Spirit tore up her contract and signed her to a four-year deal. It’s worth more than $1.1 million, the richest package in NWSL history, people close to the matter said.

Spirit’s Trinity Rodman named NWSL’s top rookie; Aubrey Bledsoe wins second straight goalkeeping award

The Spirit, NWSL and her agent, Mike Senkowski, said they did not want to comment on contract details.

When Rodman joined the league, she signed a three-year contract that averaged $42,000 in base salary, plus housing and bonuses — similar to what others in the NWSL were receiving.

The NWSL maximum this season is $75,000, a 43 percent increase following this week’s ratification of the league’s first collective bargaining agreement. Teams, however, are able to use allocation money, provided by the league, to boost some individual salaries.

In an interview this week, Rodman said having “such a supportive team” helped with her decision to sign a long-term deal.

She cited the bond forged by the Spirit amid last year’s turmoil, which included allegations against the former coach and a team executive, an ownership battle and two forfeits for violations of pandemic protocols.

“The biggest test was what we had gone through and knowing this team had my back through everything,” Rodman said. “We got through it. We built a sisterhood. We’re just going to keep building.”

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Since the Spirit selected her second in the 2021 draft, Rodman has given few interviews — the club tried shielding her during her rookie season.

The Southern California native said she wasn’t sure what to expect when she moved across the country.

“I had never been to D.C.,” she said. “I have fallen in love with where I live. D.C. is awesome.”

Although more opportunities are opening for female players in Europe, led by FC Barcelona, Manchester City and Olympique Lyonnais, Rodman said she was not looking to move overseas.

“I have grown up pretty fast, but I am young,” she said. “This first year was so good and ended so well, I hadn’t really thought about [European options]. Where I am now, I am extremely happy.”

Her 2021 performance included seven goals and seven assists. She made electrifying runs on the wings and scored on difficult shots. She was fast and unpredictable. She played with passion. Her exquisite cross in extra time of the Nov. 20 final against the Chicago Red Stars led to Kelley O’Hara’s game-winning header.

“There was a lot of stress [off the field], and just being able to wrap up the season like that, a lot of us took a very deep breath and were like: ‘Wow, we did that. We achieved that. And we didn’t fall apart,’ ” Rodman said. “There was a little bit of a relief. We had so much fun playing, but it definitely was a weight off our shoulders to know we made it to the end.”

She credited interim coach Kris Ward, who has since been given the permanent job, for providing the players with the freedom to express themselves on and off the field. “He doesn’t ever want to change who we are as players,” she said, “because he knows how good we are, and we proved that.”

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Rodman was stricken by back spasms several times during the season, something she blamed on playing more games than she had been accustomed to and on alternating home matches between grass (Audi Field) and artificial turf (Segra Field). The Spirit will play in both venues again this year.

“All of that change in surface — and how much I run and cut and sprint and jump — had a lot to do with it,” she said. “I’m working on it, getting used to it, getting stronger.”

At a playoff game, her father, Dennis, the Basketball Hall of Famer, surprised her by attending. She was raised by her mother and is not close with him.

“It was a shock, and I was grateful to even have him there because he hadn’t been to a lot of my games in the past,” Trinity said. “For him to show up for a game like that was pretty awesome.”

By the end of the season, she said she had made a name for herself.

“People are always going to — especially people who don’t know me and are new to the soccer world — see Dennis Rodman’s daughter. It comes with the name, but I definitely achieved what I wanted and [put out] the message I wanted, being so young, being a woman, being in the soccer world.”

A standout at the youth national team level, Rodman earned her first senior call-up for a trip to Australia after the NWSL final. She opted out. Two months later, though, she accepted an invitation and was the youngest player at a 10-day camp in Austin that ended Friday.

“I can’t even believe it happened,” Rodman said. “That camp really showed me what the next level really is.”

Veteran players, she said, welcomed her. “They didn’t want to make me feel like I was a new kid coming to the new school.”

Next for the U.S. team is the seventh annual SheBelieves Cup from Feb. 17 to Feb. 23, with two matches in Carson, Calif., and one in Frisco, Tex. The roster will be announced this week.

Rodman is also looking ahead to her second NWSL campaign, which will kick off March 19 with the Challenge Cup, followed by a 22-game regular season.

“Not being new to everything will help me be a little more comfortable,” she said. “My confidence is the same as last year. My expectations are just as high. Now I know it’s more possible to achieve everything.”

The offseason, Rodman said, has been a drag.

“I am so ready to start playing again. I loved it so much. I miss playing games,” she said. “Even the first week of offseason, I was like, ‘All right, I am ready to go back.’ ”

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Steve Baldwin agreed to sell his controlling stake in the Washington Spirit to Y. Michele Kang, ending a long and contentious fight over who would own the National Women’s Soccer League champions.

After standout rookie season, Washington signed Trinity Rodman to four-year, $1.1 million deal.

The Post spoke to eight women who work or have worked for the Spirit, as well as three current and former players, who said they had been subjected to a workplace culture that was toxic for women and, many said, for women of color.

Kris Ward, who as interim coach guided the Washington Spirit through turbulent times and to the National Women’s Soccer League championship, was given the permanent job.