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Megan Rapinoe was perfectly imperfect

© Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

Monday marks the first day of the United States women’s national team without Megan Rapinoe. It remains weird to type that, let alone accept it, perhaps because Rapinoe is not really gone.

In literal terms, the talented forward is still playing – for her club, OL Reign. She has at least a few weeks left in her professional career to chase one of the few things she has not won: a National Women’s Soccer League Championship title. Winning that and paying back a club that shaped so much of her career, would be a perfect way to call time on a career. As Rapinoe has said, however, there are no perfect endings, exemplified by her missed penalty in the shootout with Sweden at the 2023 World Cup.

Rapinoe called time on a 17-year career with the United States on Sunday, ending a career that bridged generations of what was indisputably the best team on earth during her era. Summarizing Rapinoe’s entire career is a futile effort. Rapinoe’s list of on-field accomplishments runs the gambit from two World Cup titles, a Golden Ball, world’s best player, and an Olympic gold medal. Then, there is everything else that Rapinoe stood for away from soccer. Rapinoe is most proud of her off-field accomplishments “by a mile,” she said on Saturday.

Rapinoe was a vocal advocate for equality, gay and trans rights, and racial injustice. She put her career on the line for those things — literally, in 2016, when she knelt during the national anthem in solidarity with former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his protests against racism and police violence. U.S. Soccer soon made a (later retracted) rule requiring all players and staff to stand for the anthem, and Rapinoe went without several call-ups during that period. Even three years later, her decision to take on President Donald Trump — and his loyal supporters — in the public light carried life-changing implications.

None of that deterred Rapinoe from standing for what she felt was just. Ahead of her final game in a U.S. jersey, Rapinoe reminisced about a lesson her mom taught her and twin sister, Rachael, in their early teens as they began finding success in soccer and gaining popularity among their peers.

“I think it’s just kind of my worldview that you have a responsibility to use whatever talent you have or whatever way you can to make the world a better place in some kind of way,” Rapinoe said.

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