DECINES-CHARPIEU, France — American co-captain Megan Rapinoe spent Tuesday’s Women’s World Cup semifinal on the bench, the latest dramatic development surrounding one of the tournament’s most dynamic and provocative players.
Rapinoe said after the 2-1 victory over England that she has a minor hamstring injury and should be ready for Sunday’s final against Sweden or the Netherlands.
“Megan’s got a slight strain to her hamstring so wasn’t available today,” U.S. Coach Jill Ellis told reporters at the postmatch news conference. “So obviously I feel we have a really good, deep bench and called upon other players and I think they did a fantastic job.”
Rapinoe, who began the day tied for the tournament lead with five goals, was replaced in the lineup by 30-year-old striker Christen Press, who opened the scoring.
U.S. Soccer Federation officials said they could not share any details and referred questions to U.S. Coach Jill Ellis after the match. They did say, though, it was not a disciplinary issue.
Ellis told reporters she did not disclose the injury before the match because “there was an outside chance” that Rapinoe could have been inserted as a late substitution in case the match appeared headed for penalty kicks.
Ellis added: “I think every coach wants to keep their cards as close to their chest as possible.”
Rapinoe had absorbed several hard challenges in the team’s quarterfinal win over France, though she ended up playing 87 minutes and was named the player of the match after her second straight two-goal performance.
In the 10th minute on Tuesday, Press, her replacement, headed a long cross from Kelley O’Hara past the outstretched arms of English goalkeeper Carly Telford and into the top left corner of the net to give the Americans a 1-0 lead. The teams later traded scores, and the U.S. held on for a 2-1 win to advance to a third straight final. Rapinoe did not play.
The Americans will face Sweden or the Netherlands in Sunday’s final.
Press had subbed in for Rapinoe late in the Americans’ 2-1 quarterfinal win over France.
The 33-year-old Rapinoe, who stood on the team sideline during warm-ups, had her right leg taped in the days leading to Tuesday’s semifinal. The Fox broadcasters were among many speculating about a possible injury.
Rapinoe scored all of the U.S. goals in consecutive 2-1 knockout-round wins over France and Spain. But the 14-year veteran of the U.S. national team, who is playing in her third World Cup, attracted broader interest this summer after a profane comment she made months ago about not wanting to visit “the f------ White House” went viral and triggered a backlash from President Trump.
The comment, uttered during a January photo shoot with the soccer publication Eight by Eight, was released online last week by the magazine. Trump responded on Twitter, writing that “Megan should WIN first before she TALKS! Finish the job!” and adding that he is “inviting the TEAM, win or lose” to the White House after the World Cup. That prompted intense media attention on Rapinoe, who addressed the issue at a news conference the day after Trump’s tweets.
“I stand by the comments I made about not wanting to go to the White House, with the exception of the expletive — my mom will be very upset about that,” Rapinoe said a day before her team’s quarterfinal win over France. “I think obviously [I was] answering with a lot of passion, considering how much time and effort and pride we take in the platform that we have and using it for good, and for leaving the game in a better place and hopefully the world in a better place. I don’t think that I would want to go [to the White House], and I would encourage my teammates to think hard about lending that platform or having that co-opted by an administration that doesn’t feel the same way and doesn’t fight for the same things that we fight for.”
The next day, Rapinoe — who has long been outspoken on issues of politics, race and gender equality — scored twice against France, on a free kick in the fifth minute and on a shot from short distance in the 65th.
“It’s almost like it feeds her,” Ellis said of the grand stage. “She loves and lives for those moments. She is a big-time player, and the bigger the stage, the more she is going to respond.”