She scored two spectacular goals in a 4-3 victory over Australia in the bronze-medal game, giving the U.S. women’s squad its first third-place finish in the Summer Games. Carli Lloyd added two goals in what will likely be the last Olympics for both all-time greats.
The squad was expected to win its fifth Olympic gold and become the first team to come out on top as the reigning World Cup champs. But uninspired play and a sputtering attack through much of the tournament left them to play for bronze.
Rapinoe bent in an incredible corner kick in the 8th minute put the U.S. on top, 1-0.
Australia’s Sam Kerr answered 9 minutes later, booting a left-footer into the goal off an assist by Caitlin Foord.
That was already a 100% increase in scoring production for both squads over their previous scoreless match in the group stage.
Rapinoe volleyed an Australian clearing attempt into the top left corner of the goal, pushing the Americans ahead again, 2-1, in the 21st minute.
Lloyd fielded a ball from Lindsey Horan and knocked it in during the first minute of first-half stoppage to give the U.S. breathing room, 3-1.
She quickly added another in the second half to make it 4-1, becoming the national team’s all-time leading scorer in the Olympics with 10 goals.
Foord shrunk the margin back to two goals a few minutes later with a header in the 54th minute.
Rapinoe, 36, was subbed out by Tobin Heath in the 61st minute and Lloyd, 39, was replaced by Alex Morgan in the 81st. But the soccer icons had done the damage.
Emily Gielnik of Australia scored late to tighten the score.
Rapinoe and Lloyd shared two World Cup victories and have both been honored as the best player in the world. Lloyd has two Olympic gold medals and Rapinoe has one.
Rapinoe previously spoke of her frustration that she and Lloyd were not able to win gold at this tournament after the U.S. lost to Canada in the semifinals. But they still had a bronze to win.
“There’s still a lot to compete for,” Rapinoe said before the game. “That’s what I told the girls and what we talked about in the huddle. It’s not the color we want, but there’s still a medal on the line.”
Lloyd was in sync offensively as well.
She scored the game-winning goals for the Americans’ 2012 and 2008 gold-medalist teams. This time she provided the cushion for the U.S. to secure bronze.
U.S. Coach Vlatko Andonovski said the team would “do anything possible” to capture a medal and Adrianna Franch, the backup goalie thrust into the starter’s role after Alyssa Naeher’s injury, said beforehand: “The bronze is just as important, because it’s what we have to fight for,” she said.
And fight they did, with Rapinoe and Lloyd leading the way.