CHICAGO (AP) — Megan Rapinoe got a triumphant send-off, and the United States beat South Africa 2-0 on Sunday.
Trinity Rodman and Emily Sonnett scored, and the U.S. sent its captain toward retirement with one final victory as a member of the national team.
The 38-year-old Rapinoe was presented a framed jersey representing her 203 games with the United States prior to the win, and she raised her arms as the crowd roared.
Rodman gave the U.S. more to celebrate when she drilled the ball into the net off a cross from Alex Morgan in the 18th minute. Rapinoe was the first to hug her.
Sonnett made it 2-0 with a header in the 49th minute and then jumped into Rapinoe’s arms. Rapinoe came close to scoring, but missed just high on a free kick. She exited the international stage for one final time to a standing ovation in the 54th minute, kissing and hugging her teammates and blowing a kiss to the crowd and bowing.
Rapinoe announced in July that she was retiring after an illustrious career that included a pair of World Cup championships as well as gold and bronze medals in the Olympics and countless victory poses with her feet together and arms raised wide as she grinned ear to ear. She used her platform make an impact beyond the pitch, fighting for equal pay and social justice.
In recent weeks, she’s been showing her emotions.
Rapinoe let them flow following the U.S. loss to Sweden at this summer’s Women’s World Cup, knowing it would be her last tournament with the national team. She did it again last weekend, when she played her final rivalry match between her NWSL team, OL Reign, and the Portland Thorns.
Rapinoe still has a few more regular-season games for the Reign, including a send-off match for local fans in Seattle on Oct. 6, before her career comes to an end. And what a remarkable career it has been.
She entered her final match for the United States with 63 goals, including two directly from corner kicks at the Olympics. At the 2019 World Cup in France, she scored six goals and took home the Golden Ball as top player.
Besides establishing herself as one of the best to play the game, she led the long fight for equal pay with the men’s national team.
Rapinoe, who came out publicly in 2012 and got engaged to basketball star Sue Bird in 2020, is outspoken about LGBTQ issues, including transgender rights. In 2022, President Joe Biden made her the first soccer player awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
She showed solidarity with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the fight for racial equity by kneeling during the national anthem. U.S. Soccer responded by implementing a rule that players must stand for anthems that was rescinded in 2021.
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