Julie Ertz, Megan Rapinoe prepare to say goodbye to USWNT, plus more Spain being Spain
The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, Sept. 18, 2023
(Personal note: Sorry there wasn’t a post last week friends, dealing with a family issue. All good now.)
The U.S. Women’s national team plays a pair of friendlies this week against South Africa, and we’ll be saying goodbye to Julie Ertz and Megan Rapinoe.
The first, on Thursday night at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati, will be Ertz’s final game wearing a U.S. jersey.
Ertz retired from both club and country in late August. At the time, it was unclear whether she’d have a send-off.
“I expected to just walk away after retirement, but to have the opportunity to say goodbye to my teammates and the fans one last time is something special that many players dream of,” Ertz said in a statement last week.
Ertz’s 10-year career included back-to-back Women’s World Cup titles. She hinted at retirement at the World Cup this summer after the United States fell to Sweden that it was likely her final match wearing the team crest.
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It was already uncertain whether Ertz would return to soccer before she was named to this summer’s World Cup team, after playing infrequently since before the Tokyo Olympics. She nursed a knee injury then took time off for the birth of her son last year.
“The future is in absolutely great hands,” Ertz told reporters at the World Cup after the earliest exit ever for the United States. “You know, sometimes you learn the most from your failures, which sucks. But it’s part of my career as well.”
Ertz finishes her national team career with 20 goals in 122 appearances. She played in 17 World Cup matches, starting all of them. She’s got a pair of World Cup titles and an Olympic bronze medal.
Megan Rapinoe will play in her final USWNT match on Sunday at Soldier Field. She announced in July that the World Cup would be her final major tournament, and that she would retire at the end of the season.
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We’re so used to Rapinoe being a fierce advocate for equity and other human rights issues, but she’s been showing a more vulnerable side since her decision to step down. She was teary eyed after the team’s World Cup exit, and again on Saturday night when she played her final club match in Portland. (You can see what she said below.)
At the 2019 World Cup in France, Rapinoe scored six goals, including a penalty in a 2-0 victory over the Netherlands in the final. She also finished with three assists and claimed both the Golden Boot and the Golden Ball for the best overall player. She also won the Ballon d’Or and the Best FIFA Women’s Player awards — the game’s top individual honors — for her play.
In her 202 overall appearances for the United States, she has scored 63 goals. She’ll finish out the season with the Reign, so it’s not over totally. But her departure is the end of an era.
“They’ve helped drive the game forward. But also, off the field, they’ve both contributed to making sure the whole soccer landscape is progressing forward, especially women,” interim U.S. coach Twila Kilgore said.
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FIVE AT THE IX: Megan Rapinoe from Portland
Rapinoe spoke after Saturday’s game in Portland with Lu Barnes. Here’s a bit of what they said:
Rapinoe on the game: Obviously they do a really good job of overloading the midfield they have a ton of quality in the midfield. Just felt like we were sort of chasing it. You know, they had quite a few good chances but still, not conceding goal on open play and just coming from set pieces, just can’t happen. So that’s tough.
Barnes: Probably the best counter attack team we’ve played in a long time. It was fast today.
Rapinoe: It’s obviously sad. You know, I’ve been trying to impress people in Portland since I was 18. So, to play college here and have so many amazing memories, even the rivalry. These are always the very best games. So, even when you’re on the losing end, like tonight, it really sucks but it’s always really special playing here, obviously. You know, a packed crowd. I don’t think it was like all for me, but I mean, probably mostly. Basically mostly. To have it be another meaningful game in a city that I love so much and that has meant so much to me. And just such an important soccer city for our sport as well. I have so much love and respect for the fans here and how they show up for their team. And obviously, I have a lot of good friends on the other team. So yeah, emotional.
Question: Did you see the sign about Rachael?
Rapinoe: I did, “Bye Rachael’s sister.” Oh my god, it was so cute. I was literally cracking up. Well done Portland. Well done.”
Rapinoe: It always feels like home here. I actually broke into my sister’s house because she wasn;t there this morning so I could go spend time with her dog and she came a little bit later. I didn’t know she wasn’t going to be home, I was there too early. But yeah, I saw one of my best friends Marian in the crowd. Rachael had 30 people here, one of my cousins is up here and another cousin came in from Santa Barbara. Just have family and obviously a lot of people that you I’ve known literally forever and ever and ever since my time here. I’m sure there were so many people that I didn’t even know were here in the stands. So, again, it’s always so meaningful in so many different ways to play here. It’s always really special, whether we win or lose this is always my favorite game to play.
|By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
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