June 8, 2015
By Michael Lewis
Megan Rapinoe shows she is quite on, on an off night for USA
WINNIPEG, Canada -- Only minutes after the United States defeated Australia in its Women's World Cup opener Monday night, midfielder Megan Rapinoe stood with a framed certificate honoring her as player of the match.
"It's amazing," she said of the honor and the fact officials managed to get the award done so quickly.
Then again, the same thing could be said about Rapinoe's performance in the Group D encounter.
She was simply astounding when it counted at Investors Group Field, scoring twice and setting up what proved to be the game-winner by Christen Press in the 61st minute in the 3-2 win.
"Megan thrives in these big games, big moments," USA coach Jill Ellis said. "She has ice running in her veins, but a lot of passion inside of her. She's a game-changer and that's what makes her special."
Indeed, the 29-year-old Rapinoe has a history of stepping up and then some in big competitions.
At the 2012 London Olympics for the gold-medal winning Americans, she was the team's dominant midfielder throughout the tournament, scoring key goals and creating others for her teammates.
If it wasn't for Rapinoe and goalkeeper Hope Solo Monday night, the USA might not have been all smiles leaving their locker room, venturing through the mixed zone walking to their bus.
"I don't think we played that well today," Rapinoe said. "We can be better in possession.
"A little bit of a shaky game for us, especially for the first 30.
"Three points, that's the most important, especially in this group that is shaping up a little weird."
Rapinoe was referring to the surprising 3-3 tie between underdog Nigeria and Sweden in the opening match of the doubleheader.
The Australians were trying to make it another stunning result in the nightcap, but she and Solo made sure that was not going to happen. Solo made five saves, including three spectacular stops to keep the Americans in the match.
"She made three saves not anyone else in the world would make," Rapinoe said.
Then again, Rapinoe also came through when it counted.
Actually, she scored against the run of play in the 12th minute. Central defender Julie Johnston booted a long ball down that captain Abby Wambach flicked to Rapinoe atop the penalty area. Rapinoe turned around Van Egmond with a move before firing a right-footed shot that deflected off defender Laura Alleway and past goalkeeper Melissa Barbieri into the goal.
Solo began the sequence for the USA’s second goal in the 61st minute with a long, booming free kick to the left side. Rapinoe brought it down and fed the streaking Sydney Leroux on the left wing. Leroux sent a sliding pass to the open Press, who drilled a 12-yard shot into the lower right corner for a 2-1 advantage.
Rapinoe tacked on an insurance goal after taking a pass from Carli Lloyd and motoring down the left side and into the box, where she struck a shot inside the far post for a 3-1 lead in the 78th minute.
“Yeah, I was doing my best Messi impression,” Rapinoe said. "A much slower version of it."
But certainly good enough for the Americans on an off night in which Megan Rapinoe was quite on.