Megan Rapinoe

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USWNT’s Rapinoe named SI sportsperson of the Year

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In 2019, Megan Rapinoe won a World Cup title, Golden Ball, Golden Boot, FIFA World Cup MVP, and the Ballon d’Or. Now, she can add her name to another distinguished list.

Sports Illustrated on Monday revealed that Rapinoe had been named SI’s 2019 Sportsperson of the Year. She’s the first individual soccer player from any gender to win the award, and she follows the 1999 U.S. Women’s National Team as the second USWNT-related athlete to garner the award.

[READ: Rapinoe wins 2019 Ballon d’Or]

Other notable winners of this award are Serena Williams, LeBron James, the Golden State Warriors, Michael Jordan, and Muhammad Ali.

“Even in a year with many great candidates, choosing Megan as the Sportsperson of the Year was an easy decision,” Steve Cannella, co-editor-in-chief of Sports Illustrated said in a statement released by the magazine. “She is a force of nature on and off the field, a trailblazing soccer player who also proves every day how large and loud a voice a socially conscious athlete can have in 2019.”

Rapinoe has had about as good of a year as a player can have, and she did it under enormous pressure. She withstood verbal and online taunts from the U.S. president for her noted opposition against his political decisions, as well as dealt with injuries during the tournament. Even if she wasn’t always at her best on the field, she found a way to score key goals at important moments.

Every Women’s World Cup seems to raise the profile of the USWNT and soccer in this country, but beyond her work on the field, Rapinoe’s hair, media savvy and ultimately, her performance won over any critic she could have. What she’s done for soccer in this country is immeasurable, and hopefully there are people that have a desire to keep watching the beautiful game after the World Cup, thanks in some part to Rapinoe.

Rapinoe will grace the cover of Sports Illustrated for the Dec. 16 issue.

USWNT’s Rapinoe wins 2019 Women’s Ballon d’Or

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Megan Rapinoe topped off an iconic calendar year with France Football’s biggest prize, the Women’s Ballon d’Or award.

Rapinoe scored six goals to go with three assists as she led the U.S. Women’s National Team to another FIFA Women’s World Cup title. She scored the decisive goals against France in the quarterfinals and the Netherlands in the final, but it was her place as the heart and soul of the USWNT that led her and the national team to win. The 34-year-old absorbed all the pressure on her and her team and still produced on both sides of the ball.

Rapinoe had nine goals and seven assists across the calendar year for the USWNT. In addition to winning the World Cup, she won the Golden Ball and the FIFA award for the best women’s soccer player of the year. She’s also in the running and is now surely the front runner for the 2019 U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year.

England right back Lucy Bronze and Rapinoe’s USWNT teammate Alex Morgan finished in second and third place, respectively.

U.S. Soccer announces Player of Year nominees

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The United States men’s national team and women’s national team will each have a star elected Player of the Year, but the similarities end there.

The USWNT won the World Cup and choosing its top performer for 2019 is an improbably difficult task. The USMNT spent much of the calendar driving its supporters crazy.

Women’s nominees
Julie Ertz
Rose Lavelle
Megan Rapinoe
Alex Morgan
Alyssa Naeher
Carli Lloyd

It’s hard to find too much fault with the half-dozen World Cup winners chosen as finalists, though arguments for Kelley O’Hara and Tobin Heath would be well heard by the writer of this post.

It seems likely Rapinoe will claim the award, considering she’s yet to win it and was probably the most visible athlete in the world this summer.

Ertz, Morgan and Lloyd have all won the honor.

Men’s nominees
Christian Pulisic
Jordan Morris
Weston McKennie
Aaron Long
Tim Ream
Gyasi Zardes

As for the men, is there a scenario in which Christian Pulisic doesn’t win the honor? Reasonably? Yes.

Some will argue that Weston McKennie might get a look over Pulisic on the balance of their seasons, but there’s a strong argument to be made for Morris given his incredible comeback from injury and standout seasons for both Seattle and the USMNT.

Pulisic had three goals and three assists at the Gold Cup, and added goals against Chile and Cuba.

Morris bagged five goals and seven assists, including four and four in the CONCACAF Nations League group stage.

Three of the six men’s finalists ply their trade in MLS, while one is in the Premier League, another in the Football League Championship, and a sixth in the Bundesliga.

Pulisic won in 2017, while Zack Steffen nabbed the award in 2018. The other four nominees have not claimed one.

USWNT star Rapinoe, boxer Shields win sportswomen of year

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Soccer star Megan Rapinoe and boxer Claressa Shields have been honored as Sportswomen of the Year by the Women’s Sports Foundation.

They won in the team and individual categories, the awards coming at the foundation’s 40th annual Salute to Women in Sports.

Rapinoe led the U.S. to victory at the World Cup in France and earned the FIFA Player of the Year award. Shields is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and middleweight champion.

Sheila Johnson, part-owner of the Washington Wizards, Capitals and recent WNBA champion Mystics, won the Billie Jean King Leadership Award. Marta Vieira da Silva, star of the Brazilian national soccer team, won the Wilma Rudolph Courage Award.

Rapinoe thanked her teammates Wednesday night and lauded Marta, a six-time FIFA Player of the Year, calling the Brazilian the greatest of all time and an “absolute hero in our sport.”

John Burke, president of the Trek Bicycle company, received the inaugural Champion for Equality Award.

U.S. women’s soccer coach Jill Ellis preps for last game

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CHICAGO — Retiring U.S. Soccer women’s national team coach Jill Ellis already knows she’ll be emotional on Sunday at Soldier Field.

The two-time FIFA women’s coach of the year will lead the World Cup champions in the final game of their six-game victory tour when the U.S. team faces South Korea.

“We built the best team in the world,” Ellis said Saturday. “We were incredibly successful over the years. People have been drawn to this team because of the personality and the success.”

The 2-0 victory against South Korea on Thursday was Ellis’ record 106th, passing former coach Tony DiCicco for the most team wins before an announced crowd of 30,071 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

It will be a bittersweet leave-taking after five years at the helm for Ellis and the players.

“We always have a quick meeting before our pregame meal, and that’s going to be hard to get through,” Ellis said. “They know I’m already getting emotional.”

Star forward Megan Rapinoe said Ellis adapted to a changing game and players over the years.

“Constantly trying to keep up with that, keep above it, with personnel and the way we’re been trying to play, she’s been pretty adaptable in that way,” Rapinoe said. “It would nice to send her out with a win after back-to-back World Cups.”

Forward Carli Lloyd said Ellis leaves the team’s legacy in a strong place.

“It’s been a fantastic journey to be a part of,” Lloyd said. “It’s finding a way. It took all 23 players, like it always does. Every major tournament, the story line is different. And it’s only going to get harder and harder. Winning is great, but without the journey, there would be no end bit.”

Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher calls it a fitting celebration after their victory in France.

“This team has been something special,” Naeher said. “Coming off this summer … to celebrate Jill and what she’s done for U.S. soccer and this team.”

Ellis said she decided in December this would be her last year in charge, win or lose.

“If you’re blessed to do a back-to-back World Cup, it’s pretty unusual,” Ellis said. “There’s a shelf life to this job, I believe, and I think that’s healthy. It allows the ability to have change and perspective. It’s not like a college job, where there’s an incoming class.”

Ellis added she’s looking forward to attending more birthdays with her daughter, Lily.

“There’s a personal peace to that decision,” Ellis said. “I feel good. I feel complete.”

A new coach will be hired after U.S. Soccer selects a new general manager for the team (18-1-2). With assistant coach Tony Gustavsson also retiring after eight years, the coaching search is wide open heading into the Tokyo Olympics.

“The game has changed significantly,” Ellis said. “To the person who comes after me, I’d say this is not 1991 or 1999. There’s a lot more teams playing with a lot more investment. The margins are pretty fine. I had the benefit of being an assistant prior to taking the job, so I knew the players.”

The British-born Ellis announced her retirement in July. She played college soccer at William & Mary and was head coach at Illinois and UCLA before joining the U.S. national ranks as an under-21 coach in 2000.

Ellis became the U.S. team head coach in 2014 and led it to eight overall tournament titles, including the 2015 and 2019 World Cup titles. The U.S. lost just seven matches during her tenure.

The 53-year-old Ellis said the new coach will have a “good sense of our players,” and “it’s just getting up to speed in the depth of the squad.”