Kelley O’Hara fights back tears talking about Megan Rapinoe’s final run


AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Kelley O’Hara fought back tears on Tuesday as she urged her United States colleagues to send national team legend Megan Rapinoe into retirement in the best possible way. 

By winning the World Cup. 

Rapinoe has been one of the faces of global women’s soccer for more than a decade but announced before the tournament that this would be last her World Cup and that she will quit soccer at the end of the current NWSL campaign.

[Best moments of Megan Rapinoe’s USWNT career: Highlights and goals]

While the news was not altogether a surprise — Rapinoe is 38 — O’Hara’s reaction when questioned about her friend at the U.S.’ media availability in downtown Auckland, showed how the shock of soon losing such a figurehead player is still hitting home for the squad.

And, quite possibly, providing the ultimate jolt of motivation.

“There has never been one like her, there is probably never going to be one close to her,” defender O’Hara, 34, said, her voice cracking. “So it’s sad to think about this being her last, but she’s done such incredible things for this team and for the world. To be able to see the up close and personal ‘Pinoe’ and be close to that has been really special. 

“I hope that we all send her out on a high.”

  

As the Americans prepare for their Group E opener against Vietnam (9 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app), Rapinoe’s presence remains tangible. Rapinoe was outstanding for the USA in the 2015 and 2019 World Cups and was arguably the best player in the world for much of that intervening period.  

Four years ago, she scored six goals to become joint top scorer alongside teammate Alex Morgan and England’s Ellen White, as the team completed back-to-back triumphs. Back in 2011, she assisted on one of the program’s most famous goals, providing the last-minute cross for Abby Wambach’s unforgettable World Cup quarterfinal equalizer against Brazil

Yet Rapinoe will be remembered for more than just her soccer ability. A staunch advocate for equal rights, she has been a vocal ambassador for the women’s game, never afraid to tackle sensitive topics, even if criticism follows. To those within the team though, she is most notable for the support she provides to younger players. 

An example came in the final warm up game against Wales in San Jose last week. Although Rapinoe did not feature due to an injury precaution, she cheered louder than anyone from the substitutes bench and danced excitedly when Trinity Rodman scored the goals that sealed victory. 

O’Hara admitted she can scarcely imagine life without Rapinoe’s effervescent energy and upbeat guidance. 

“It’s hard to put into words honestly,” she said. “I know that the world sees the Megan Rapinoe that the world sees, but we got to see her up close and personal. And obviously the ‘Pinoe’ that the world sees is an incredible person and human. And that is her also up close and personal. She brings a sense of humor and lightness, but intensity and empathy and just she is one of a kind.”

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletter.

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