Every week at The Center Circle, we are highlighting a different player in a feature we call “On the Spot”. We’ll take a look at superstars, underrated gems, aging veterans, and young unknowns who should be known. We’ll peruse their club and international careers, taking note of their teams, statistics, and highlight reels. We’ll illuminate their strengths and weaknesses and comment on their personalities and reputations. It will be some fun. If there is anyone you want to see “On the Spot”, feel free to comment below.
After growing up in Redding, California, and playing three years with Elk Grove United of the WPSL, Megan Rapinoe began her college career with the Portland Pilots. In her freshman year (2005), the young winger appeared and started in all 25 of the team’s games, and finished second in points behind future Canadian legend Christine Sinclair. At the conclusion of the 2005 campaign, Rapinoe managed to score 15 times, and assist another 13 goals which added up to an astonishing 43 points. These impressive statistics were enough to help push the Pilots to the NCAA Division I Women’s Championship.
Rapinoe’s promising college career took a major detour during her sophomore campaign, however, when an ACL tear sidelined her for the majority of the season. Even with the knee injury, Rapinoe was still able to finish fifth on the team in points after racking up ten goals and two assists in just 11 games. Another ACL tear during her junior year limited the winger to just two appearances without a single point to her name.
After fully recovering from the previous season’s knee injury, Rapinoe was able to start the Pilot’s final 22 games of the season. This was the most playing time that the 23-year-old had seen since her freshman year, and Rapinoe was able to finish third on the team that year in points (five goals and 13 assists). The two major knee injuries suffered the last two seasons meant that Rapinoe still had one more year of college eligibility through an NCAA waiver, but the California native decided to forego her last season to pursue a professional career.
Trip to the Windy City
In the 2009 WPS Draft, the former Portland Pilot was taken with the second overall pick by the Chicago Red Stars. In not just her first season, but the league’s first season, Rapinoe started 19 out of the 20 games she appeared in, and also found the back of the net twice while assisting three times. Her rookie season was good enough to earn her the honors of being a WPS First-Team All-Star. Rapinoe would spend one more year with Chicago before the team dissolved.
After her brief stint with the Red Stars, Rapinoe singed with the Philadelphia Independence. Her stay in Philly lasted shorter than her one in Chicago appearing just four times for the Independence before being traded to magicJack during the 2011 World Cup. A lack of attendance and sponsors led to the WPS suspending operations in 2012 leaving Rapinoe on the lookout for another home.
From Seattle to France and Back Again
After the premature end of the WPS, Rapinoe joined the Seattle Sounders women’s affiliate for the 2012 season. The Sounders possessed fellow national team players like Hope Solo and Alex Morgan as they prepared for the 2012 London Olympics. Rapinoe appeared just twice for Seattle, but still managed to record two assists in her brief stint with the club.
In 2013, Rapinoe made the move to France as she joined two-time Champions League winners Lyon in the January transfer window. In her first season, she made six appearances for Lyon adding two goals in the process. Rapinoe also managed to do something that very few Americans have been able to do with her new club, as well, when she played in five Champions League matches. Rapinoe even managed to play in the Champions League final, but Lyon fell 2-1 to Wolfsburg.
The revival of professional women’s soccer in the United States via the NWSL saw Rapinoe’s rights allocated to the Seattle Reign. After finishing the season with Lyon, the winger moved back stateside and she would end up appearing 12 times for the Reign, starting 11 of those matches. In the two years since her move to Seattle, Rapinoe has helped the club claim the league’s regular season title, and has appeared 21 times for the club scoring nine goals along the way.
Megan Rapinoe’s career with the US Women’s National Team began in 2006 when she came on against Ireland on July 23rd. Her first goal for the USWNT came just five months later in a game against Chinese Taipei when she bagged a brace. Her knee injuries at Portland kept the winger out of the national team setup for the next two years, and it wasn’t until 2009 that Rapinoe found herself back in the setup. During that year, Rapinoe appeared in seven games scoring another two goals against Norway and Canada.
2010 saw Rapinoe continue her rise with the national team as she appeared another ten times for the US where she scored key goals in World Cup qualifying matches against Sweden, China and Guatemala. Rapinoe also provided the key assist to Amy Rodriguez’s game-winning goal against Italy in the World Cup playoff series. The following year, Rapinoe made the most appearances of her young career as she playing another 18 times for the national side. During that year’s World Cup, she played in all six of the team’s games and it was her assists that provided magical moments, such as Abby Wambach’s header against Brazil, Alex Morgan’s goal against France in the semifinals, and another Morgan goal in the final against Japan before the team fell in penalty kicks.
Her playing time continued to increase in 2012 as she made another 29 times. Statistically, it was her best year to date as she scored a career-high eight goals and registered another career-high with 12 assists. Rapinoe was a key figure in the 2012 Olympic team and it was her assist that set up Carli Lloyd’s game-winning goal against Japan in the gold medal match. Currently, the attacking winger has been the catalyst of the US attack in the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada. Her play on the wings has been the one constant source of creativity and spark for the US throughout the tournament and her two goals against Australia in the team’s opening match helped set the tone for the rest of the tournament. To date, Rapinoe sits with 106 caps and another 31 international goals.
Typically playing on the left side of the field, Rapinoe can either be used as a traditional wing midfielder, or in a more advanced role up the pitch in a 4-3-3 setup. The 29-year-old is a constant nuisance for whatever poor defender is tasked with marking her, and Rapinoe also makes sure to help out on the defensive end cutting out attacks on the wings and winning 50/50 balls. Perhaps her most important trait is her creativity on the ball. There never seems to be a time when Rapinoe looks out of ideas or panicked. If given even just an inch of space or a second too long on the ball, Rapinoe can wreak havoc in the box and give her team the chance to find the back of the net.