Amid goodbyes, the USWNT eyes the future
The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, Sept. 25, 2023
The U.S. women’s national team returned this past week with a pair of matches against South Africa. The most important thing about these matches was of course the send-offs of Julie Ertz and Megan Rapinoe.
The United States was supposed to be on a victory tour this fall. But after crashing out of the World Cup, these matches don’t tell us too much about the current state of the team — except that Rapinoe and Ertz won’t be around going forward.
The best way to describe the USWNT right now is `in flux.’ Interim Twila Kilgore wasn’t going to do too much in these matches because the new coach will make those decisions. And while it was nice to see a few players get a look in these matches — like M.A. Vignola — the next 10 months are going to be interesting as the roster is whittled down for the Olympics. (World Cup rosters are 23 players, Olympics are 18).
I’ve got to say, I was teary watching Rapinoe’s last match yesterday. That kiss she gave to Sue Bird in the pre-match ceremony (Sue was wearing a T-shirt that said Saint)! I was sorry I couldn’t go, but the Oregon Ducks were hosting Colorado and the Deion Sanders show, so I had to hand over Rapinoe’s final match to our AP sports writer in Chicago, Andy Seligman.
I first covered Rapinoe back in 2005, when the Portland Pilots won the NCAA College Cup. She has always been a joy to cover as a journalist: She’s interesting, well-spoken and absolutely fearless. And as a fan of the game, she’s been damn fun to watch.
To all of the right-wing pundits who disingenuously attacked her in recent years, the joke is on you. We all saw through the misogyny and homophobia behind your attacks. In the end, Rapinoe won. She changed the game with her creative play. She won the highest honors of the sport: a pair of World Cups, an Olympic gold medal, the FIFA Best Player award and the Ballon d’Or. She helped fight for – and win – equal pay with the men’s national team, something that will benefit future generations. She showed the world “You can’t win a championship without gays. That’s just science.” Basically, she’s been out there living her best life while her most vocal critics — I’m looking at you Megyn Kelly — sit behind a desk on YouTube and complain.
Oh and then there’s this magic:
Here’s a bit of what Rapinoe said to the crowd in Chicago after the match:
“When I think about what it means to me to represent not only this team, but our country, it’s just that. We’re just a little snapshot of all of you.
I think this team has always taken so much pride in that fact, in showing up as our full selves. I know how important that is to me, I know how important that is to the entire team.
We have fought so hard on the field, had so much fun, been so successful. Doing it all underneath all of your guy’s cheers. We fought so hard too. We’ve fought so hard off the field to continue to create more space for ourselves to be who we are, but hopefully, in turn, more space for you guys to be who you are.
It was such an honor to be able to wear this shirt and play with all these amazing players, and to just live out my childhood dream, casually just like in front of the world (smiles). Thank you so much for always loving on us and supporting on us, chanting all of the things that we say, just chanting them much louder and always supporting us and all of the things we care about.
I’m not going to go away forever, don’t worry. I’m one of you guys now. (I’ll) be the biggest fan of this team.”
Man, after 17 years, I’m gonna miss her.
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Here are the press conferences for Julie Ertz and Megan Rapinoe ahead of their final matches. Love that Rapinoe wore pearls with a puffy vest.