SportMegan Rapinoe not starting World Cup semifinal in stunning change for US women
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LYON, France — Megan Rapinoe's hot streak is coming to an end.
Rapinoe, who has scored all four U.S. goals in the knockout rounds and has five in the tournament, is not starting in Tuesday night's semifinal against England. Christen Press is starting in her place.
U.S. Soccer did not provide a reason for the surprise move, other than to say it was not for disciplinary reasons. Rapinoe took the field with the rest of the U.S. team for warm-ups but was last out and spent part of the time on the sidelines, watching her teammates.
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Much was made ahead of the game of the matchup between Rapinoe and England's Lucy Bronze and Nikita Parris, quite possibly the world's best defensive tandem on the right side. Press might have more speed than Rapinoe, especially after starting just one game and playing sparse minutes as a substitute.
Rapinoe is listed as a substitute, meaning she could be brought on later in the game.
Still it's a big gamble for the U.S., which hasn't gotten a goal from anyone but Rapinoe since the final group stage game against Sweden on June 20.
Rapinoe, already popular before the tournament began, emerged as the face of this butt-kicking, name-taking group of Americans. She scored all four U.S. goals in the first two knockout games – the second two after President Donald Trump directed his (latest) Twitter rage at her.
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Trump was unhappy over a months-old video in which Rapinoe said she wouldn’t go to the White House if the U.S. women won, and her even older stance on the national anthem.
But while some “patriotic” Americans sided with Trump and said they would no longer root for her or the U.S. women, Rapinoe made far more new fans. Her pose after her first goal against France – arms outstretched, defiant smile on her face – has been turned into endless memes.
BODYARMOR, a sports drink, unveiled an ad Monday night celebrating what Rapinoe has done on the field and off.
“Nothing like a 30-something, purple-haired, outspoken, goal-scoring, relentless competitor that stands for all that is beautiful, all that is good, all that is us,” the caption read. “Now that’s America. Thanks, Megan.”
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Rapinoe explained what it was like to watch from the bench when many expected her to be on the pitch. "It's just energy and confidence," Rapinoe said. "I feel like when we're on the bench that's all it is. You need to just be hyped for the team and where you can give those little tidbits but really give that energy. It's not all the time they're coming over but there's VAR decisions and you know breaks in the game and just giving that energy and getting those vibes out there." Rapinoe gave the U.S.
Three-time WNBA champion Sue Bird, Rapinoe’s girlfriend, penned an op-ed in The Players’ Tribune with the headline, “So the President (Expletive) Hates my Girlfriend.” Within four hours, the original Tweet of the article had been retweeted more than 6,000 times and liked 16,000 times.
The U.S. women made one other change to their lineup, with Lindsey Horan starting instead of Samantha Mewis.
England had a surprise of its own, replacing goalkeeper Karen Bardsley, who reportedly has a hamstring injury, with Carly Telford. Bardsley has given up just one goal in the tournament, and it was in the first group-stage game.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY:
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