The U.S. team's exhilarating run through the Women's World Cup has captivated more than hard-core soccer fans. The players' skill and spirit – especially their never-say-die determination – epitomize how sports can be more than just a game.
With the semifinal win Wednesday, all the excitement culminates Sunday, when the team tries to win the title for the first time since that sun-splashed day in the Rose Bowl in 1999.
Striker Abby Wambach and goalie Hope Solo have garnered the lion's share of attention, and rightfully so.
But the Central Valley's own Megan Rapinoe has been at the center of some of the most dramatic moments and most joyous celebrations.
Without her, the U.S. wouldn't be in the final. Just to get to Germany, the team had to get through a playoff with Italy; Rapinoe made the pass that led to the winning goal.
In the World Cup, she has been the super sub midfielder who comes in during the second half and changes the match.
In the instant-classic quarterfinal last Sunday against Brazil, she made the perfect left-footed cross that Wambach headed into the back of the net to tie the match with only seconds left. "I took a touch and smoked it," Rapinoe said later. "And then that beast in the air got ahold of it." She calmly made her penalty kick, to boot.
Then Wednesday in the semifinal, her deft pass led to Alex Morgan's clinching goal in a 3-1 U.S. victory over France.
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