Megan Rapinoe is adjusting to her new role on the U.S. women’s national team.
While the 38-year-old forward has played in three previous World Cup tournaments she knows this one will present a different challenge than the others, she told Bleacher Report’s Taylor Rooks.
“I’ve been used to being a starter, one of the kind of obvious names on the team sheet every game,” she said. “And that’s going to look really different.”
When the 23-player World Cup roster was announced, USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski noted Rapinoe’s transition, which includes taking less minutes but also stepping up as a leader (or, as Rapinoe has called herself, the “fun grandma”).
“She will probably have a different role than her last two World Cups,” he said. “She is certainly going to have different types of minutes.”
That doesn’t mean that Rapinoe can’t make an impact. In the 2019 World Cup final, she scored her 50th international goal — a goal which made Rapinoe, 34 years old at the time, the oldest woman to score in a World Cup final. She also earned the Golden Boot as the top scorer of the tournament with six goals.
Still, Rapinoe’s position as a substitute is not the only change from 2019 for the USWNT, which will bring 14 new players to the World Cup. Injuries and new faces mean the lineup is not set in stone, and Rapinoe expects to see that play out at the tournament.
“I think in general our game-to-game roster could be very different,” she said. “I think we’re going to have to be really nimble. I think we’re going to have to really be finger on the pulse during the games…
“Like, if we’re up 2-0, I’m not going into the game. I’m not going to be playing in those games. But if we’re tied or we’re down or we need a different kind of spark, that’s what it’s going to look like. I don’t really know, and and to be honest I don’t think Vlatko really knows, and I think we’re we’re cool with that.”
Heading into Sunday’s World Cup send-off match against Wales, she’s focused on “whatever impact” she can have, whenever she is called upon. And she’ll draw on her previous experience to help the younger players gain some perspective.
“Everybody wants to play all the time, obviously, it’s not that I don’t want to play all the minutes,” she said. “But I’m confident and (Vlatko and I) have such a great relationship and such open communication. Like if I get used, it’s because I’m the best person to be used in that moment. If I don’t get used, then my impact will be the same.”
Even players who do not get significant minutes are still important to the “overall vibe” of the team, she noted.
“Emotional, mental and physical health of the team, it’s really important that those players keep everyone together,” she said. “Because it is hard and it doesn’t go individually the way that everyone would like. Eleven players start and we get five subs. Not everybody is going to play, not everybody is going to play every minute, not everybody is going to score every goal.
“People have different roles and, to be honest, I feel like if I can accept my role I don’t want to hear nothing about anybody else accepting any kind of role.”
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