The United States will start the World Cup semifinal matchup with England on Tuesday without their purple-haired hero Megan Rapinoe.
USA coach Jill Ellis has inserted Christen Press in Rapinoe’s place, joining Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath on the front line.
There was some speculation Rapinoe is nursing a right leg injury, and she did not participate in warmups with her teammates. A spokesperson for the USWNT, though, would not disclose to the LA Times the reason behind Rapinoe being out.
The decision may also have been for the purpose of containing England’s star right back Lucy Bronze, who’s known for her aggression in joining the attack. Press is a more defensive-minded forward and may fare better against Bronze’s pressure than would Rapinoe.
This is the second time this tournament Ellis has raised eyebrows with her lineup decisions. Ellis kept Lindsay Horan out for a majority of the USWNT’s quarterfinal win over France in favor of Sam Mewis.
Rapinoe has recorded the Americans’ past four goals — two goals against Spain in the Round of 16 and two goals against France in the quarterfinals — ensuring their advancement through the first two knockout stages of the tournament.
Alex Morgan and Rapinoe are tied with England’s Ellen White for the most goals in the tournament with five.