“We saw her play and fell in love with her,” Burns said.
That World Cup remains, for now, Rapinoe’s crowning achievement. She won both the Golden Boot as the tournament’s top scorer and the Golden Ball as its outstanding player. It is also when she cemented her status as a pop culture icon: She scored six goals in the competition even as she publicly battled with President Donald J. Trump.
She remains an outspoken voice, but she is a different player these days. Rapinoe has been hampered by injuries for months, with an ankle injury keeping her out of the start of the National Women’s Soccer League season and a calf injury keeping her out of two national team matches against Ireland in April. Andonovski said following Sunday’s game that Rapinoe was medically cleared to play in the World Cup, but was still working up to game fitness.
In her absence, newer faces — Sophia Smith, Trinity Rodman, Alyssa Thompson — have begun to lay claim to the forward position where Rapinoe was once a clear choice. That new generation, the one that will occupy the space vacated by Rapinoe, was on display again against Wales.
In the 76th minute on Sunday, Rodman, 21, broke through in a scoreless game by scoring easily off a cross from Smith, 22. Rodman struck again in the 88th minute, powering a shot from 20 yards past the hands of Wales goalkeeper Olivia Clark. Rodman became the youngest American player to score two goals in an international match since 2019.“It’s a younger roster this year, but the mix of the experience and the youth has been really good to learn from each other,” Rodman said after the game as chants of “U.S.A.” echoed around the stadium. “Just as much as we can learn from them, they can also learn from us.”
In that regard, Rapinoe still has much to offer. Andonovski has made no secret of how much he values the wisdom and institutional knowledge she brings to a team that now features players like the 18-year-old Thompson, who is fresh out of high school, and Savannah DeMelo, 25, who received her first cap on Sunday, in addition to the dozen other new faces headed to their first World Cup.