Megan Rapinoe is no longer a starter for the USWNT. Mallory Pugh has made the left flank her own, and it was the 24-year-old Chicago Red Stars forward who forced the opener on Tuesday night against Nigeria at Audi Field with a low cross that resulted in an own goal from the Super Falcons.
However, after Nigeria had surprisingly found an equalizer in the 50th minute through Tigres forward Uchenna Kanu, it was Rapinoe's introduction in the 65th that brought the crowd back to life before her quality in the final third restored the USWNT's advantage just one minute later.
This is exactly what the 37-year-old offers now, and it's exactly what you want from a supersub. The 2019 Ballon d'Or winner changes the mood of the team when she enters the pitch with nearly 200 caps to her name, and then there's that left foot of gold that's never been impacted by the passage of time.
If have a late set piece, you almost certainly want Rapinoe standing over it, although this bit of service was a cross from open play that found Rose Lavelle in the center of the box for an acrobatic header.
73 SECONDS.That's all it took for @mPinoe to find @roselavelle to give us the lead! #USAvNGA x @Allstate pic.twitter.com/yDFzCOJ5Pg
— U.S. Women's National Soccer Team (@USWNT) September 6, 2022
Credit has to go to Nigeria, which became the first African team to score on the USWNT since the 2000 Olympics. They started with an incredibly young squad in the nation's capital, including 18-year-old Rofiat Adenike Imuran, 20-year-old Oluwatosin Blessing Demehin and three 21-year-olds. They're clearly building some good depth ahead of their ninth consecutive World Cup finals appearance.
For the U.S., it was a much quieter evening from Sophia Smith after her brace last time out. Lindsey Horan had a couple clear chances she couldn't convert, while Alex Morgan wasted her best opportunity right before halftime.
Lavelle's goal was a fitting reward for a lot of hard work in the middle of the park, while 23-year-old defensive midfielder Sam Coffey showed a good range of passing from deep.
The United States returns on Oct. 7 against England at Wembley.