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Megan Rapinoe, an icon bigger than soccer, takes a bow for the U.S. national team

In her last game for the national team on Sunday, Megan Rapinoe took a final bow for her career as an international soccer player, basking in the applause and the hugs of her teammates.

While it’s the finish to her remarkable national career, it doesn’t quite feel like an ending, because so much of who Rapinoe is and what she stands for extends beyond the pitch.

Sometimes it seemed unbelievable that someone with such moral courage and aplomb could also score the most goals at the 2019 Women’s World Cup, a winger with a foot like a laser. How could all of this talent and nerve be in one person?The last match

In Sunday’s friendly match in Chicago, the U.S. beat South Africa 2-0. Rapinoe didn’t notch a goal or an assist, but came very close.

There was her curving corner kick early in the second half, punched away by the South Africa goalkeeper, then headed in by USWNT’s Emily Sonnett.

And there was the moment, so perfectly teed up for the finale: Rapinoe’s free kick in the 52nd minute, the chance to go out with a goal in one of her countless surgically executed set pieces. She blasted it toward the goal and the keeper leapt to stop it – but the ball narrowly sailed over the crossbar.

So there was not a perfect goal to end her national career, just as there was not a perfect performance at the Women’s World Cup last month, where the U.S. was knocked out earlier than ever before.

But that didn’t dampen the fans’ admiration when Rapinoe was subbed out for the last time, in the game’s 53rd minute, giving the 25,000 spectators at Soldier Field a chance to pay their respects.

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