Megan Rapinoe scored in her final game for the US on Sunday, setting up a goal with a corner kick in a 2-0 victory over South Africa.
The renowned 38-year-old striker, known for her off-field advocacy as well as her on-field accomplishments, completed her historic US career with 63 goals in 203 caps over more than 17 years in the 54th minute at Chicago’s Soldier Field.
“It makes me really proud to know we’ve been as successful on the field as we have, but also that we’ve helped make the world a little bit better of a place,” Rapinoe said after the victory.
Rapinoe not only led the United States to victories in the 2015 and 2019 Women’s World Cups, as well as gold at the 2012 London Olympics, but she was also a social activist.
Rapinoe, a passionate advocate for LGBTQ rights who has supported a variety of US social justice concerns, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Joe Biden in 2002.
Rapinoe, FIFA’s 2019 Women’s Player of the Year, was also a key figure in the US women’s team’s successful battle with US Soccer for equal pay and conditions with the men’s team.
“She has affected so many people’s lives in a positive way. She has changed this sport forever,” US forward Trinity Rodman said of Rapinoe.
“I’m so grateful I’m able to play on the same field with her as well as learn from her so she’s a legend.”
Rodman scored in the 18th minute on a right-footed volley off an assist from Alex Morgan for the Americans, who also defeated South Africa 3-0 on Thursday in Cincinnati.
Rapinoe, the 14th player in US women’s history to reach 200 career appearances, struck gold four minutes into the second half.
In the 49th minute, US midfielder Emily Sonnett scored on a header off a deflection of a Rapinoe corner kick, heading the ball over a defender and barely under the crossbar for a 2-0 US lead.
Players flocked around Rapinoe to celebrate, who struck a pose after encouragement from teammates.
Rapinoe was replaced by Margaret Purce in the 54th minute and departed to a standing ovation, teammates coming over to share a hug before she stepped off the pitch for the last time in a USA uniform.
“So overwhelming. It has been amazing,” Rapinoe said of the day. “It has been really wonderful, to hear all the nice things, to have a closure moment, to play in front of a big crowd again.
“I’ll miss it forever. I don’t think I’ll ever be at a moment where it will feel perfect but this is pretty close.”
“Trailblazer. Icon. Inspiration,” the US women’s team posted on social media after Rapinoe’s exit. “You’ve made this sport, this country and this world a better place. Thank you.”
Morgan, in a video tribute, told Rapinoe, “Your legacy is so much bigger than what you did on the field…. you’ve literally done it all. I’m just so proud of how you get to go out on your own terms.”
‘I feel So At Peace’
Rapinoe thanked fans worldwide and her teammates in speaking to the crowd after the match, saying, “I feel like I’ve been able to grow up in front of all of you.”
“It has been such an honor to be able to wear this shirt and play with all these amazing players and to just live out my childhood dream, casually, just like in front of the world,” she said.
“We fought so hard off the field to continue to create more space for ourselves to be who we are but hopefully in turn more space for you guys to be who you are.”
Rapinoe told fans: “I’m not going to go away forever. Don’t worry. I’m one of you guys now.”
Rapinoe looks forward to time off after a few final matches with her club side, OL Reign of the National Women’s Soccer League.
“I feel like I got the most out of my career,” Rapinoe said. “I did my absolute best and maximized my talent… I think that’s probably why I feel so at peace.”