Here’s the problem with the Megan Rapinoe best friends forever meme: She’s actually good at soccer. Like, really good. Like get picked out by Olympique Lyonnais, spent parts of two seasons in France, cashed in on OL’s “here’s my down payment on a new place in Seattle” payday good. And although she’s crafted her soccer stardom with some on-field karaoke, a trademark goal celebration (whether you’re ready or not), and a personality that beats the cliché out of effervescent, she’s a lot more than Conradinho’s BFF lust – destined to be played by Tilda Swinton in the biopic.
She is among the most talented players on the U.S. national team – able to play up top, wide, through the middle, or (rarely) in defense; capable of being a focal point or an opportunistic game-changer; posing a threat with a well-weighted through ball or a history-making cross. She may not score a 10 in any one category, but she checks all the boxes.
It’s a package that make her the second overall pick in the late Women’s Professional League’s draft when she came out of the University of Portland in 2009. Those skills also convinced former WPS owner Dan Borislow to pay the Philadelphia Independence $100,000 to acquire her just over two years later. Two years after that, Rapinoe joined Lyon, joining the European giants in a rare case of a U.S. talent leveraging her true earning power.
Perhaps most telling is the content, with all those travels, her 92 appearances for the U.S., 28 international goals and an Olympic gold medal ultimately taking a back seat to a radiance that makes her one of the most popular figures in American soccer. It’s a personality that makes former U.S. internationals swoon, one that’s become a large part of Nike’s marketing as well as a steady figure at a newsstand near you. When you think Megan Rapinoe, you don’t necessarily think “Seattle Reign attacker.” You think about the yoga pose, the trademark hair – that look, and then, that smile.
Perhaps all the off-field charm should be kept in perspective, but it’s impossible to ignore. And in this case, there’s no need to apply any high-minded principles to her fame. She’s a key part of last year’s NWSL regular season champions, but she also has a childish charm that’s tailor made for social media. Whether she ends up starting or not, Rapinoe will be a factor over the next two years, in Canada and Rio, but she’ll also be one of the U.S.’s most prominent faces outside the lines, pulled in front of the camera to maintain the connections she established three years ago.
Rapinoe the Athlete shouldn’t be overshadowed by Rapinoe the Personality, but there’s also no reason why they can’t share the same air. Together, as Rapinoe the Star, they help form our most intriguing women’s soccer player in the world.
The Fake numbers
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