Updated: Jul 9, 2019
There has been a major firestorm around Megan Rapinoe this week but if there’s one thing we’ve learned about the U.S. star, it’s that she thrives under the spotlight.
Rapinoe showed that in her press conference on Thursday before the USWNT’s quarterfinal clash against France and then, more importantly, she showed it again Friday during the match at Parc des Princes.
With the eyes of the world on her, Rapinoe produced a two-goal performance to see the U.S. past the host nation 2-1 and into the World Cup semifinal, continuing the USWNT’s streak of reaching the last four in every World Cup since the inaugural edition in 1991.
Rapinoe has found herself in a feud with none other Donald Trump, after an old video of her saying she won’t go to the White House surfaced, prompting the U.S. President into a trademark tweetstorm.
The U.S. star, coincidentally, was scheduled for the pre-match press conference and gave a masterful performance, calmly reiterating her stance against Trump while using her trademark style of candidness and humor.
If there were plenty of eyes on Rapinoe’s press conference performance, though, there were infinitely more on the showdown with France the following day. Just like she did the day before, Rapinoe delivered.
After a match-winning two-goal performance, though, Rapinoe denied that she was given any extra motivation by Trump's fury.
"I don't really get energized by haters or all that," Rapinoe said. "I feel like there are so many more people that love me so I'm like, 'Yay, keep loving me, this is great!'"
Rapinoe opened the scoring in just the fifth minute when she sent a low free kick through the box that evaded everyone and nestled into the back of the net.
From there the U.S. struggled to keep hold of the game. U.S. manager Jill Ellis’s controversial decision to bench Lindsey Horan meant the USWNT conceded much of the possession to the French, who threw everything they had at the U.S. back line.
But the USWNT defense held up and as the French began to step up the pressure midway through the second half, Rapinoe came through again.
This time, she got on the end of Tobin Heath’s clever low cross and finished low to give her side a two-goal advantage. France’s Wendie Renard scored off a late set piece to make for a nervy finish, but it wasn’t enough for the host nation.
Though Rapinoe denied she was extra motivated by her feud with Trump, her manager believes that the media firestorm saw her take her game to a new level.
"It's almost like it just feeds her," Ellis said of the controversy. "She's a big personality both on and off the pitch and I think she honestly thrives in these moments."
In the big moments for the U.S in this World Cup, Rapinoe has come through. She's scored all four of her team's goals in the knockout phase thus far.
Just as she did in the USWNT’s last-16 win against Spain, Rapinoe delivered her side’s only two goals in a match-winning performance. Unlike Spain though, neither of Rapinoe’s goals against France came from the penalty spot.
And this time, she did it with even more pressure on her. And maybe even with a certain someone watching on from the White House.
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