Megan Rapinoe

USWNT Best XI of the decade (2010s)
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USWNT Best XI of the decade (2010s)

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Back-to-back World Cup winners don’t grow on trees, but how many of the 2015 and 2019 champs should comprise the USWNT’s Best XI of the 2010s?

Choosing a men’s Best XI was difficult enough. Claiming the women’s top team is darn near impossible.

That won’t stop us from trying, especially given there are more hours in the year than there are posts to write in earnest.

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The challenge in putting together an XI given this decade’s accolades is how many shiny attacking toys produced by this fine country.

Start rattling off the big names and you’ll see the struggle: Wambach, Morgan, Lloyd, Heath, Rapinoe, O’Reilly.

Shoot: Amy Rodriguez and Christen Press would be the best attackers of the decade if their nationality was any of about 125 other options (FIFA only ranks 141 women’s teams).

So we are going to cheat a little bit.

Our Best XI will play three at the back despite the fact that the Yanks rarely if ever operated that way. The reason is the Yanks have one no-doubter fullback who played left back in one World Cup win and right back in another.

[ MORE: Best USMNT, USWNT moments of the 2010s ]

Ali Krieger is a fit enough choice for right back, but can the newlywed star justify her place over one of the attacking heroes we’d like to swing into the fold? Meh.

Plus Julie Ertz at center mid gives us a bonus center back, and we’re willing to bet that either Becky Sauerbrunn or she would make for one heck of a full back in a pinch.

Lauren Holiday slides into the midfield alongside Ertz. The superstar retired near the peak of her powers to start a family with NBA husband Jrue Holiday, and we can hope that she wins the soccer or hoop debate if her children are sport-inclined.

That all brings us to the attackers.

Tobin Heath may be the flashiest and most fun attackers in the world, but she’s just missing out. It was either her or Abby Wambach, and the latter is the current (though not for long) leading scorer in the history of the game.

Solo

O’Hara — Rampone — Sauerbrunn

Ertz — Holiday

 Rapinoe — Lloyd — O’Reilly

Wambach — Morgan

Best USMNT and USWNT moments of the 2010s

Top USMNT USWNT moments of decade
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The United States men’s national team had some dynamite moments in a dreary decade.

The USWNT had just a few dreary ones in a dynamite one.

But what were the best moments of the 2010s for the top teams of U.S. Soccer? And what’s a bigger challenge: deciding what moment is No. 3 or choosing between Nos. 1 an 2.

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Isn’t it wonderful that the USWNT  makes it so we have to choose which World Cup title is most delightful and impactful?

5. USWNT, Canada in seven-goal Olympic festival of soccer and officiating ridiculousness

Maybe it’s myopic and biased to call this the peak of the USWNT-Canada rivalry, but holy cow was this one a beauty. A guaranteed medal and a spot in the 2012 Olympic final was on the line when the U.S. fell behind not once, not twice, but three times at Old Trafford.

Christine Sinclair, arguably the greatest scorer in women’s history, had a giant-killing, nation-lifting day in attack, scoring in the 22nd, 67th, and 73rd minutes. The Yanks only equalized the third time because of a controversial handball penalty which was given after an indirect free kick was awarded for time-wasting.

An indirect free kick awarded for time-wasting. Abby Wambach was possibly given a second gold medal for intimidating the referee.

4. “And Donovan has scored. Oh can you believe this? Go, go, USA!”

The 1990s and 2000s each had their gateway moment for new fans of the U.S. men’s national team, the 90s being a whole tournament in the United States. Eight years later, it was beating rivals Mexico in the group stage.

The 2010s? Look no further than the current manager of San Diego Loyal FC.

3. Tim Howard goes Spiderman in memorable loss to Belgium

The Yanks have a decent history of putting up fine shows in World Cup knockout round exits, Ghana excluded. There was 1-0 to Brazil on home soil. Then, the 1-0 handball-aided loss to Germany in Korea.

But this was something else. The American goalkeeping position had always been a strength, but Tim Howard took it to the next level with a performance which inspired comparisons to Marvel Superheroes and Neo from the Matrix.

The U.S. lineup was good, but Belgium’s XI went like this: Courtois, Kompany, Van Buyten, Vertonghen, Alderweireld, Witsel, Fellaini, De Bruyne, Hazard, Mertens, and Origi. The guys who came into the game? Lukaku, Mirallas, Chadli. Mousa Dembele couldn’t get on the pitch.

It was a performance big enough to earn this from Kompany after the game:

And Howard followed it up with an incredibly emotional post-match press conference. A U.S. Soccer icon.


[ MORE: USMNT Best XI of the 2010s ]


2. Megan Rapinoe caps World Cup title defense in iconic fashion

Megan Rapinoe was everywhere as the USWNT allowed just three goals in seven matches, ruffling plenty of feathers by scoring a ton of goals and celebrating them with vigor.

No recency bias here: A World Cup crown is a World Cup crown, but you’re nuts if you think this finale was as fun as our No. 1. The parade, however, looked on the level.

1. Carli Lloyd goes off in 2015 World Cup Final

Believe it or not, there was a three-tournament run where the Yanks missed two World Cup finals and lost a third.

So the relief of watching Jill Ellis lead the Yanks to a 5-2 rout against Japan was delicious

Carli Lloyd cashed in a midfield goal to cap a hat trick in the 16th minute, and… well… yeah. She had a rarefied day and year.

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.