The 38-year-old, two-time World Cup winner with the U.S., who ends her tenure on the national team with 63 goals, 73 assists and 203 caps, was honored before the game and then took to the pitch at Soldier Field in Chicago and helped her squad to a second friendly win in less than a week over South Africa.
– Carlisle: Why Rapinoe’s USWNT legacy will endure
“It has been such an honor to be able to wear this shirt, play with all these players and live out my childhood dream,” said Rapinoe, who won the Golden Boot, Golden Ball, and Ballon d’Or for her role in the U.S. 2019 World Cup campaign, at the end of the game.
“I know that I am a liked player,” she added. “And I know that I mean a lot to the game. But to have this night come and to actually feel it and see it — from my teammates, from our staff and certainly from the fans, who have been such a huge part of our success on and off the field, really — it was very special.”
Rising star Trinity Rodman opened the scoring for the U.S. in the first half with a nice finish and was quickly greeted by the veteran Rapinoe to help celebrate.
Rapinoe curved in a trademark corner kick ahead of the second goal of the night for the U.S., with Emily Sonnett heading past South Africa keeper Andile Dlamini after she had punched the ball away from the goal.
With the U.S. leading 2-0 and 40 minutes left in the match, it was then full-time for Rapinoe, who was replaced by Midge Purce and treated to boisterous applause from the crowd and hugs from her teammates and coaches as she left the field.
“It’s really hard for me because I’m losing, just, an idol,” teammate Lindsey Horan said after the match. “It’s hard. That’s what you’ve looked up to. It’s another reason why you fall in love with the game, those kinds of players that you watch on TV do those things. And you come in and now you’re training with them everyday? It’s freakin’ wild.”
With Julie Ertz playing her last game Wednesday and now Rapinoe calling it a career with the national team, the U.S. is phasing into a new era for the program. Earlier on Sunday, U.S. Soccer’s sporting director promised that the federation would announce a new head coach to lead the team — which has interim manager Twila Kilgore currently at the helm — by the end of the year.
Rapinoe’s final match came 17 years and 63 days after making her international debut on July 23, 2006. Only three players have had a longer USWNT career: Kristine Lilly (23 years, 94 days), Christie Pearce (18 years, 204 days) and Mia Hamm (17 years, 127 days).
During her career, Rapinoe has been an advocate for social issues including LGBTQI+ rights, racial equality and equal pay for women’s national team players.
“It’s a really beautiful thing to look out and see little Black girls and little trans kids and boys with our jerseys on,” Rapinoe said. “I think that’s something that all of us are really proud of and all of us — especially in our generation — know the impact that we’ve made. And we know that it’s a lot different now than when we started.”
Although it was her last game with the national team, Rapinoe will still finish the season with her NWSL side OL Reign, which sits in fifth place in the table and is on track to make the playoffs with three matches left.
Information from Reuters was used in this story.