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Megan Rapinoe: USWNT critics were ‘waiting for this team to stumble’

Megan Rapinoe crosses the ball during the Sweden game at the 2023 World Cup. (Richard Callis/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

In the wake of the U.S. women’s national team’s shootout loss to Sweden in the World Cup Round of 16, critics jumped to celebrate the defeat, including disgraced former President Donald Trump, who has been indicted four times since leaving office.

Trump particularly delighted in Megan Rapinoe’s missed penalty kick on his Truth Social platform, which is ranked among the least downloaded social media apps. For Rapinoe, Trump’s glee provided just another example of a trend she has seen forming for some time.

“Everybody on the right—and everybody who was using hateful language and these tropes—it’s like they have just been waiting since, I don’t know, 2016? 2019?,” Rapinoe said in an interview with The Atlantic. “They’ve been waiting for this team to stumble. But when we are perfect, then we are accused of thinking that we’re perfect.”

Fox Sports commentator Alexi Lalas also chimed in after the USWNT’s loss.

“Politics, causes, stances, & behavior have made this team unlikeable to a portion of America,” Lalas wrote on X. “This team has built its brand and has derived its power from being the best/winning. If that goes away they risk becoming irrelevant.”

Rapinoe said a “huge backlash” against women is happening in the country.

“I think we see that with the overturning of Roe v. Wade. We’re seeing that with the trans argument in sports,” Rapinoe said. “Does Alexi know exactly what he’s saying? If I was saying stuff that anchors on Fox News are also saying … I would be worried about the cosign.”

The 38-year-old forward is set to retire at the end of the 2023 NWSL season. Yet while her final World Cup did not end the way she would have wanted, she’s proud of the legacy she’s leaving behind.

“We’ve understood for a long time that being one of the best teams, and being one of the teams that [has] been invested in the most—[although] not enough—it is our responsibility to continue to push the game forward,” she said. “And I take a lot of pride in the World Cup being what it is today versus even four years or eight years ago.”