Megan Rapinoe (left) celebrates with her USWNT teammates. (Jack Gruber-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
Sorry, folks. Megan Rapinoe isn’t about to give any of her penalty kick secrets away.
Heck, she doesn’t even know where she will put the ball until the final second.
On Friday, the U.S. women’s national team veteran decided the shootout as she powered a right-footed blast into the upper right corner. The conversion boosted the Americans to a 4-2 shootout win over the Netherlands after the two teams battled to a 2-2 draw in Yokohama, Japan.
When NBC’s Marisa Pilla asked about her secret, the 36-year-old veteran replied, “Can’t tell you the secret. We got two more knockout rounds to go. I mean whatever side I go I just try to be confident with it. I had people ask me that. Honestly, I don’t really know when I decide. I feel like I see it in my peripheral or something. It’s like a hazy sort of portrait up there, but just try to step up and hit it with confidence.”
The USWNT booked a spot in the semifinals, where it will play Canada in a rematch of the epic 2012 semifinal confrontation in Manchester, England at the 2012 Summer Games.
Rapinoe converted a penalty during regulation in that encounter, which ended in a 4-3 USA triumph.
Some players shy away from taking PKs. Rapinoe relishes the challenge.
“I felt good. I don’t mind a penalty. I like taking penalties,” she said. “The team has confidence in me. We work on them a lot.
“I feel like we have the vibe on the team, like if you’re willing to take one and you want to take one, then no matter what happens, like we’re all together. So, I think that gives us a lot of confidence and obviously Allysa again to off the board is huge to take the pressure off all of us.”
Rapinoe was referring to goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who produced two saves in the shootout.
The USA had to ground this win out in a game that had many twists and turns.
Asked about the team’s mental focus to close out the match, Rapinoe responded, “Just digging deep. Everyone’s tired. Everyone in the whole tournament is tired. We’ve been able to rest a lot so obviously split up the minutes.
“It’s either like you come on here and you give everything, or you got to go home, basically tomorrow. So, we don’t want to go home yet. Just give everything you can. We knew that we were getting chances and knew we were all over them. If it went to PKs, we were confident in that as well.”