Megan Rapinoe has a different role in this year’s World Cup. It’s something she knows, and something that Vlatko Andonovski has made clear.
“She will probably have a different role than her last two World Cups,” Andonovski said ahead of the World Cup. “She is certainly going to have different types of minutes.”
Three weeks ago, Rapinoe announced that she would retire at the end of the year. And as she’s entered this World Cup, she’s embraced the different role that she’s having.
“It’s been pretty much what I’ve been expecting,” Rapinoe said of her role. “We just have such experience on the bench and such a calm. And that’s our job. That’s our job to use everything I’ve seen over the last however many years and go in the locker room at halftime and be like, ‘This is what we see.’ … Ultimately [it’s about] being ready whenever my number is called up.
“”You can still play at an extremely high level. You can still keep a really high standard. You still have a lot to offer, both on the field and off the field. Maybe you’re not going to be a starter playing 90 minutes or playing the bulk of the games. But you know, sometimes the veteran players, that’s not what you need. You need the 20 minutes in two games that wins the team the tournament, or wins the game and gets to the next round.”
She’s also been enjoying her new role in training, helping to prepare her teammates for the next game up.
“Every day in training, I’m like, ‘I’m gonna try to bust your ass,'” Rapinoe said. “That makes them better. That makes me better. That makes the whole team better, so I think it’s been really rewarding. Sometimes I think this gets lost, but I get to play in another World Cup. I get to be in another situation to compete for a championship and I think as an elite athlete and as an elite soccer player, like that’s the point. You don’t want to play in meaningless games.”
On Wednesday, Rapinoe was one of many players to watch the USWNT play the Netherlands from the bench. Andonovski used just one sub all game – a move that has raised questions. On Sunday, Rapinoe attempted to play it down, noting that the bench could factor in more as the tournament goes on.
“I’m always shocked when I don’t play,” she said jokingly. “All of us on the bench, we think we should be on the field, as much as the players on the field think they should be on the field. … We know at some point during this tournament, the bench will be huge. That’s a huge asset of ours.”
One such asset is Lynn Williams, who sat for the second-straight game and has yet to factor in in this World Cup. It’s a decision that has raised ire for many.
“The conversations I’ve had with Vlatko were, in general: When the time is right and the situation and the game is ready, I’ll be ready,” Rapinoe continued. “I think I could have helped [against the Netherlands], but I think [Lynn Williams] could have helped and [starter Trinity Rodman] was helping and [starter Sophia Smith] was helping. We had chances, and it was right there for us.”
“[Andonovski] knows every single sub wants to go in the game. He explained to [the media] that he felt like we had the momentum. Ultimately, that’s his decision. I feel like the players that were off the field felt like players on field were going to score. If we get called into the game, they feel like we’re going to score, so those decisions are left to him.”