Megan Rapinoe started her long farewell with the feeling of coming home.
A decade and a half into professional football, Rapinoe has played for football clubs on two continents, qualified for the Olympic Games on three continents and soon qualified for his fourth World Cup. The day after he surprised his team and fans by publicly revealing his plans to retire at the end of the year, Rapinoe found himself on the bench of the US Women’s National Team hundreds of miles from his hometown on Sunday.
Rapinoe, 38, grew up in Redding, Calif., about 400 miles north of San Jose’s PayPal Park where Sunday’s game is played. About 40 of her family and friends travel south to watch the United States beat Wales 2-0 in the final game on the mainland, ahead of the Women’s World Cup, which kicks off in Australia and New Jersey later this month. she assumed. Zealand.
“This is the closest I’ve played to Reading in my career,” Rapinoe said Saturday. “It feels very special. It feels perfect.”
At a press conference announcing his retirement plans on Saturday, Rapinoe said he was comfortable with his decision to leave football. Now she is enjoying the opportunity to say a proper goodbye to the sport that has made her an international star and spokesperson for equal rights, equal pay and social justice issues close to her. I was just there.
Rapinoe has played for the national team since 2006. A three-time Olympian and two-time World Cup winner, she has scored 63 goals for the United States and is one of only seven players with at least 50 goals and 50 assists. USA national team career.
Her role is different these days, evolving from a regular in the lineup to a late-game backup. But she is still rated by coach Vlatko Andonovski. He added her to his World Cup roster because he appreciates her leadership, experience and ability to shape key moments.
No matter when or how she plays, she will remain a crowd favourite. Corina Barnes, one of the fans wearing the number 15 T-shirt with “Rapino” on her back, drove from Southern California with her three daughters to watch Sunday’s game. said he came. It wasn’t the first time her family had gone to a national team game. Four years ago, when Rapinoe was one of the most valuable players in America’s victory at the 2019 World Cup, her family was visiting France.
“We watched her play and fell in love with her,” Barnes said.
So far, that World Cup remains Rapinoe’s crowning achievement. She won both the Golden Boot Award for top scorer of the tournament and the Golden Ball Award for Outstanding Player. It was also when she cemented her status as a pop culture icon. She scored six goals in the competition despite having a feud with President Donald J. Trump in her public appearance.
She’s still outspoken, but these days she’s a different player. Rapinoe has been plagued with injuries in recent months, with an ankle injury missing the start of the National Women’s Soccer League season and a calf injury missing the two international games against Ireland in April. Andonovski said after Sunday’s game that although Rapinoe was medically cleared for the World Cup, she was still preparing for the game.
In her absence, newcomers such as Sophia Smith, Trinity Rodman and Alyssa Thompson have begun to claim the forward position where Rapinoe was once a sure bet. The new generation, who would fill the space Rapinoe had vacated, was back in action against Wales.
In the 76th minute on Sunday, the 21-year-old Rodman scored easily from a cross from the 22-year-old Smith to break through a scoreless game. Rodman scored again in the 88th minute with a powerful shot from 20 yards past the hands of Welsh goalkeeper Olivia Clarke. . Rodman became the youngest American player to score two goals in an international game since 2019.
“This year’s squad is young, but the mix of experience and youth has been really good for us to learn from each other,” said Rodman as “USA” chants filled the stadium after the game. “They can learn from us as much as we can learn from them.”
In that regard, Rapinoe still has a lot to offer. Andonovsky appreciates the wisdom and organizational knowledge she brings to a team with players like Thompson, 18, fresh out of high school, and Savannah DeMelo, 25, who recruited her. I don’t hide who I am. She earned her first cap on Sunday, with a dozen more rookies heading to her first World Cup.
The United States’ struggle to break through a daring Welsh team that missed out on a World Cup spot until Rodman scored twice from the bench means Rapinoe could still play an important role before he leaves the team for good. It could be a hopeful sign.
Rapinoe didn’t warm up and Andonovski didn’t call her out. This was another sign that her times may have already changed, although Rapinoe said her time was up.