BY Jim Caple 06:00AM 06/17/2019

World Cup warrior Rapinoe plots the party

The U.S. didn’t need to use Seattle Reign star Megan Rapinoe Sunday in a 3-0 win over Chile at the World Cup. But the heart of the party rages on.

Megan Rapinoe celebrates with Alex Morgan in an April friendly against Australia. / Michael Cialgo, teamUSA.org

PARIS — After scoring the second goal of a match against Colombia during the 2011 World Cup in Germany, Megan Rapinoe rushed to the sideline, grabbed a microphone in the corner and quickly sang a short line from Bruce Springsteen’s hit song “Born in the USA,’’ which got her a lot of attention.

“That was something that (2011 U.S. midfielder) Lori Lindsey and I had drummed up at the time,’’ Rapinoe said Sunday. “We always talk about it. This is the stage that everyone wants to be on, so you might as well perform on it while you can.’’

Now playing in her third World Cup, she scored a goal in the first U.S. match in Reims last week and wildly celebrated by spinning around several times, then sliding along the sideline and kicking up her right leg several times.  It was fun to watch, though she did not sing a Springsteen song.

“Yeah, Pinoe always comes up with these crazy celebrations,’’ longtime U.S. teammate Carli Lloyd said. “All the team celebrations are fun and it gets everyone going on the bench, which is special as well.’’

That is the way Rapinoe is. In addition to her soccer, she is entertaining and funny.

“When you’re around her, it’s constant comedy,’’ her partner, Seattle Storm star Sue Bird, told me once. “She’s very funny. She’s a goofball. Every kind of description you can give somebody who bring a lightness to a conversation to a group, to a party, to anything. Megan brings it. She’s really fun to be around.’’

Rapinoe, 34, also is a dynamic player who has had an incredible career. This is her third World Cup after 2011 and 2015, the latter of which she helped the U.S. win in Vancouver, B.C.

“It’s great. I want to be in like 10 World Cups if I can,’’ Rapinoe said. “I love playing in the World Cup. This is the best and biggest stage that you can possibly play on. It’s just an incredible moment for me.’’

Not only that, Rapinoe played in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, winning a gold medal in the London Games. She also played in college for the University of Portland, which she led to a national championship. And she is the star player for Reign FC, which now plays in Tacoma’s Cheney Stadium rather than Seattle, helping the team to first-place seasons.

In addition, she is an inspiration, on the field and off.

“I think she believes in me so much, and we love playing together,’’ World Cup and FC Reign teammate Allie Long said. “She is someone that I reach out to and ask her anything about anything you can think of. We’re always laughing and joking.

“She is just such a close person to me. I’m thankful for her friendship and her mentorship as well.’’

Lloyd agrees.

“I’ve played with Megan for a long time now. She is probably one of the best players that I‘ve played with,’’ Lloyd said. “She is super, super savvy. She makes big plays with her service ability and being able to whip in corners and crosses, free kicks – really, anything.

“And now in these last couple years we’ve really seen her elevate her game a lot. It’s great to see. She’s having fun. She’s being her. And it’s just great to have someone like her. I enjoy that, and playing with her all these years.’’

Rapinoe also is popular with fans. While I was riding on the metro to the U.S. Sunday match against Chile, there was a teenage girl wearing a Rapinoe jersey.

Aside from soccer, Rapinoe also is vocal and determined about social issues, such as gay rights, racial equality and better pay for women athletes. After former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started taking a knee during the national anthem, Rapinoe did so as well. Sometimes she did not go onto the field during the anthem.

“As a human, being able to be in someone else’s shoes or empathize or sympathize with how other people live, gives you a broader perspective and a much more compassionate perspective in the rest of your life,’’ she told me back then.

Playing in Group F, the U.S. won its first match of the World Cup against Thailand by an amazing score of 13-0. A second win came Sunday here in Paris against Chile, 3-0, though neither Rapinoe nor Alex Morgan played, in part to get everyone on the team playing time.

The U.S. hasn’t allowed a goal yet, but plays a very good Sweden team Thursday in Le Havre.

This World Cup championship game will be played in Lyon, where Rapinoe played professionally for a year. The U.S. is in pursuit of its fourth title after wins in 1991, 1999 and 2015.

If the U.S. makes it, wins and Rapinoe scores, perhaps she will come up with another celebration, perhaps Springsteen’s “Glory Days.’’

“Sometimes they’re planned. Sometimes you just have them in the back wheelhouse,’’ she said of her celebrations. “I think as the game gets more important, as the bigger the goal comes, those are just on pure emotion — unless you have another one.

“Sometimes if we feel like we have a good chance to score in the game then we’ll (plan a celebration). We have so much time (between games), we have to figure out something.”

Rapinoe will. Because she has so much talent and always does.


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YourThoughts

  • DaveinSeattle

    Avidly following the WWC from my current post, living here in Costa Rica — and Rapinoe is my favorite women’s player. Love her play, love her personality, love her stands on the social and political issues of the time. Just an incredible person and athlete — so glad she plays her club soccer in my hometown and reps it. Go Megan! Go USA!

    • art thiel

      Thanks for writing, Dave. Costa Rica might be my fave travel rave.