In the next match, Ms. Rapinoe came off the bench to deliver two assists in a semifinal victory over France. Afterward, she said blithely, “I believe I’m a fantastic player, and I try to go out there and do those things.”
Jill Ellis, the U.S. coach, has long agreed with that assessment. She said Thursday she was not worried about any increased pressure on the American women, noting that they thrived under pressure.
“I think we all support Megan,” Ms. Ellis added. “She knows that.”
Ms. Rapinoe also appears to have the support of FIFA, soccer’s world governing body. FIFA has historically been lacking in support for women’s soccer, but at Friday’s match and at other quarterfinal games it plans to campaign publicly for inclusivity and against discrimination of any type.
Ms. Rapinoe was not always so comfortable in the spotlight.
In middle school, Ms. Rapinoe told Yahoo Sports in May, she felt “lost” and “really alone.” But she began to flourish once she started understanding her sexuality, her twin sister told Yahoo.
“Maybe part of the reason she was quiet growing up was because she felt a little different,” Rachael Rapinoe said. “She didn’t quite feel comfortable in her skin. But once she realized who she was and why she felt the way she felt,” that’s when “she found strength in her voice.”
On a national team that, for two decades, has been publicly standing against what it considers inequalities in pay, travel and playing conditions, Ms. Rapinoe’s assertiveness has helped give broad, fearless license to her teammates to also demand equitable treatment and social justice.
She spoke Thursday, as she often has, of using the platform of soccer “for good and for leaving the game in a better place, and hopefully the world in a better place.”