By Staff Writer
Santa Monica, Calif. With the women’s soccer team for the 2016 Rio Olympics set to be announced next week, Megan Rapinoe has been racing against the clock to get fit in time. The USWNT star tore her ACL in training back in November but maintains she is at the “tail end” of her rehabilitation and could play a part as the U.S. women attempt to defend their gold medal in Brazil next month.
“I’ve just gone back into training with my club team, the Seattle Reign,” said Rapinoe, in an interview with SI.com. “I’m basically doing everything except contact. People can’t tackle me, which is how I prefer it anyway.”
Having the experience of Rapinoe, a gold medal and World Cup winner, could come as a boost to the Olympics hopes of a USMNT that will be without several of its mainstay players in Brazil. Abby Wambach has retired, as have Shannon Boxx and Lauren Holiday. Meanwhile Sydney Leroux is pregnant and Amy Rodriguez has just given birth.
The U.S. will be attempting to make history in Brazil by following last year’s World Cup triumph with Olympic gold – something no other team has done before.
While optimistic about her ability to make the team, Rapinoe, who turned 31 this week, also seems realistic about the kind of impact she could make at this particular time.
“I think [U.S. coach Jill Ellis] understands I won’t be coming being the starter I was and being a 90-minute player. But if there’s some capacity I can come in off the bench and help that way and be fit and good for maybe 30 minutes or a half, I think she’s willing to work with me on that and be open to that.”
Having provided the cross for the Wambach goal against Brazil that lifted the U.S. to the 2011 World Cup final and assisted Carli Lloyd for the winning goal in 2012 Olympic final, Rapinoe has a knack with coming up with big plays for her team in big games.
“I have some skills that are unique to me and I think [Ellis] rates, and she thinks if I’m at a certain level I can help the team in some capacity. It’s not just coming back for a friendly, it’s coming back for a major tournament.”
Rapinoe was also one of five players to have filed a lawsuit against U.S. Soccer over the disparity in wages between the women’s team and the senior USMNT.
“Those negotiations are still happening,” said Rapinoe. “Hopefully we can reach a deal that’s acceptable on both sides. We’d like to have it done sooner than later. It’s not optimal to have your contract run out for either side. Ideally, it would be best if we could come to an agreement soon.”
The U.S. team faces South Africa in Chicago on Saturday in its penultimate warm-up match before departing for Rio to compete for Olympic gold amidst concerns about venue readiness, security and of course the Zika virus.
While she is currently in the U.S. camp training and being evaluated for fitness, Rapinoe will not feature against South Africa.
She will however, take part of an organized campaign to raise awareness for the lawsuit against U.S. Soccer by being one of the players who will wear a t-shirt sporting the hashtag “#Equal Play Equal Play” during pre-match media availability.