Fans were, appropriately, freaking out. It was the World Cup semifinal, after all.
But now we know why: Coach Jill Ellis confirmed that Rapinoe had a slight hamstring strain.
“I feel we have a deep bench and called upon another player and thought they did a fantastic job,” Ellis said.
As for the secrecy surrounding Rapinoe sitting out, the coach said she didn’t want to reveal her hand.
“There was an outside chance that Rapinoe could take a penalty, so we didn’t want to extend ourselves more than we had to. … Fortunately, we didn’t have to go to penalty kicks, but that was an option.”
Rapinoe said after the game that she feels like she will be ready for Sunday’s final.
The concern began about an hour before the game. The team tweeted its lineup, and Rapinoe — with five goals to her name in this tournament — wasn’t on it.
Then, reports from the stadium began trickling out.
A CNN producer spotted Rapinoe crouching on the sidelines while the rest of the squad was warming up. She was seen talking with the team’s staff and then cheering on her teammates when the starting lineup was announced.
The American star had been on a roll, so fans had to wonder why she was held out.
Some thought it was a strategic move
If you were to search for a scouting report on England’s Lucy Bronze, you would have quickly discovered two things:
- She’s the best defender, maybe the best player, England has on its team.
- Everyone was anticipating the Rapinoe vs. Bronze matchup.
Soccer reporters pushed this possibility:
“As good as Pinoe is, she doesn’t contribute a lot defensively. Christen Press is the fastest and fittest player on the USWNT. England RB Lucy Bronze has been the best player at this tournament. So, that’s why,” theorized Kim McCauley, a sports reporter.
“Not hearing any indication that Rapinoe is injured, so this decision looks tactical with Ellis going for more speed/defensive cover with Press in Rapinoe’s place. I would have preferred going 4-2-3-1 with Ertz on the left side of the 2 and keeping Rapinoe in the lineup,” reporter Grant Wahl added to the pool.