Megan Rapinoe contemplated retirement, then found “renewed joy and passion” in new USWNT role

There were times when Megan Rapinoe wondered if it was over. There were days when rehab was daunting, the rewards seemed remote, and the scary thoughts were frightening. “Do I even want to do this?” wondered Rapinoe as she struggled with a string of nagging injuries last spring.

“Do I even want to play anymore?”

She’s been playing for three decades, from the boundless stadiums in Palo Cedro, California, to the sport’s biggest stages. She trained daily and performed regularly, enjoying the “brutal” Happened along the way. she Won the World Cup And the Olympic medals Shields of the Women’s National Football League. She pushed and pushed, to unprecedented heights, almost habitually, during her 36th birthday–and then, last year, she asked herself: why?

“Because I don’t need to To play,” she told Yahoo Sports, explaining the process of introspection she dealt with. “I could do other things. I have plenty of other opportunities. he is [playing soccer] Something I really want to choose? Or am I kind of riding the hamster wheel and don’t want to get off? “

So, over the past year, it’s slowed down and slowed down.

And there, in the space she made for herself, she found answers – but health was complicating her. She strained the peroneal tendon in her ankle during pre-season in the NWSL. A frustrating recovery process sidelined her for more than two months. A day after she was finally occupied, she dragged her calf. Then spasm of repeated back injury, and “F***,” Rapinoe thought, “are you kidding me?”

Injuries have forced Megan Rapinoe to question her career. Now she is feeling reborn and playing good football again. (Photo by Era L. Black – Corbis / Getty Images)

Along the way, I started asking broader questions, like: “Is my body telling me something?”

“Is that even what I want in my life?”

She had already told herself: “It’s okay if you’re done.”

I decided, though, that it wasn’t. The past three months have confirmed the reason. After overcoming injuries, and re-acquainting with competitive football, I felt a “renewed joy and passion” for the game. At 37, she is feeling “a new life” and is eager to learn and train with her club team, OL Reign. recorded The winner in injury time Late last month, it was her fourth goal in three games. She celebrated by removing her shirt and, with a beaming smile, tossed it in the air.

She also appears to be on her way to the 2023 Women’s World Cup, her fourth – but here, with the US national team, her story is different. She knows this is a “very new chapter in my career.” Three years later Embraces the Golden Boot and the Golden Ball at the 2019 World CupI only started one USWNT game in 2022.

However, she is OK with that. Of course, she says she wants to “play for as many minutes as possible”. Feel energized, inspired and expressive as you roam the fields. But do you want the playoffs to start next summer in Australia and New Zealand?

“No,” she said in a phone interview last week. “If I’m being really honest, like, should I be the best person to start those games? No definitely not.”

Inside Rapinoe’s Decision to Accept a USWNT Reserve Role

I realized how Rapinoe says it after Tokyoeven after Scored twice in the Olympic bronze medal victory, that her role in the USWNT was about to change. “I knew things wouldn’t be the same, they couldn’t be the same, and I didn’t want them to be the same,” she says. When asked why, she said, “I mean, I can’t play for several minutes. I don’t think I can have the kind of impact and output that I did so early in my career.”

What she didn’t know was exactly what her new role would entail; Or whether there was a role that benefited her and her team.

She began working through these questions last fall, on a series of calls with USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovsky, who has a “really good, honest relationship” going back to his days with Covenant.

In their first call, Andonovsky described the process he was about to engineer. He had a new generation of players, under a few titles in Rapinoe’s site, he wanted to upgrade and reside so he could aging USWNT can evolve. To incorporate these players, he would need to exclude veterans like Rapinoe from some training camps. Rapinoe got it—and honestly, she says, she didn’t even want to go To Australia in the first of those camps last November.

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Her questions were about the next stage of this development. Rapinoe, who will turn 38 next summer, told Andonovsky what she still feels she can contribute to the USWNT, and asked him: Is this something you want? Andonovsky designated a backup role and asked Rapinoe: Is this a thing You are Wants?

Rapinoe, who “felt I still had a lot to offer, and could still play at a very high level,” had to ask herself: “Are you okay off the bench? Are you okay to play 30 minutes? Are you okay not to play minutes?”

Andonovsky said they walked out of the conversation with a common understanding: “If she’s healthy, if she’s fit to get minutes, she’ll be on the list.”

Her comeback, in June for CONCACAF W Championship, which served as World Cup and Olympic Games qualifiers, aroused widespread public suspicion. Rapinoe, at the time of the announcement, had not started any competitive soccer game of any kind in 2022. Andonovsky responded to the skepticism by praising Rapino’s “experience” and “winning mentality”, and saying that “her knowledge and understanding is of great value to the group.”

Andonovsky wants to make it clear, though: “Meghan isn’t here just because she’s a good leader [and] Good for our environment. Megan, first and foremost, is here because she’s such a good player. …Since she came back from injury, the rules of the game have changed.” He said those words last week, after a month in which Rapinoe scored or assisted seven goals in four NFL games. He said he would feel “very comfortable” using them in situations where he It requires a lot of leverage.

But he also noted that Mallory Pugh and Sophia Smith, two stars of the early twenties of the Premier League, have been boosted as key wingers. Rapinoe will push them, but if she wants the starting points, “there will only be tension; I will probably always be miserable,” says Rapinoe, “because that’s not a) what I can do anymore, and (b) what Flatko wants. “

KANSAS CITY, KS - SEPTEMBER 3: Megan Rapinoe #15 of the United States shoots the ball toward goal during the second half of an international friendly against Nigeria at Children's Mercy Park on September 3, 2022 in Kansas City, Kansas.  (Photo by Ed Zorga/Getty Images)

Megan Rapinoe tops the ball during an international friendly match against Nigeria at Mercy Park Children’s on September 3, 2022 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Ed Zorga/Getty Images)

So no, she says, you don’t want to start next summer, even on stage being uniquely eligible for grace. She repeats: “I think if I started all these games, something would have gone horribly wrong, honestly.” Like, the money for those games should start, and Soph should start those games, and [Trinity Rodman] He has to come off the bench and have that kind of energy.

“Do I still have much to offer? Yes,” “But first of all, physically, I can’t start all games and play all games. … [And] I don’t think that would be better for the team. I don’t think that would really give us the best chance of winning the World Cup.”

Rapino finds what she’s been looking for

Altruism sounded great in theory. Rapinoe has learned that the ‘real test’ will arrive in June, when she rejoins A team in transition for the W Championship and discover: “What is this [role] Actually it would look like? Will you feel good about everyone? Will it be worth it on both sides? “

But before she arrived, injuries occurred, and all sorts of other questions flew in.

Rapinoe never seriously considered retirement. After the 2019 World Cup, with her star on the rise, there were stages of frustration when football kept her away from her Many things from the World Cup (While arguing with the president) allows the person to explore. But there were also times when I felt the opposite; When fame and other interests are distracted from football.

She finally wants to follow these other emotions. Life without football, she says, “would be like this amazing. She has ‘cool people’ around her, and ‘a whole work structure set up, when I’m ready to finish, then I can put more effort into it.’

But she also knows: “There will never be anything like winning the World Cup, or playing in front of 50,000 spectators.” Nothing will ever repeat the rush I felt At the Parc de Princes in 2019Or she could feel it next summer. Why don’t you keep chasing her?

I felt the interest and activity of the new role that Andonovsky set. The “annoying, blinking, cascading” injuries caused her to veer off course, into a place where, “honestly, some days, I didn’t want to do anything,” she says. But as she began to recover, she returned to thinking rationally, rediscovering the positivity that fueled so much of her career.

Then she flew to Colorado in June, for her first camp in eight months, and for the first paragraph of this new chapter. “Immediately, it felt so natural, and I felt really good,” she says. She didn’t start a single match in the W Championship, and she didn’t come off the bench in the final, but she “felt very much appreciated, and excited to continue to improve.”

This is what she was looking for in the end. To feel appreciated and energized. No longer “only in river and stream,” she let the rhythms of a traditional career path guide and carry her wherever she was. She is here because she wants to be.

“I have nothing to prove,” she says, recalling Quote from Stephen Curry This sums up her current outlook. “But everything to get it done.”