Photo: Alex Grimm (Getty)

The USWNT’s 2-1 World Cup semifinal win over England was a nailbiter, and that was just watching it on TV. From the bench, it was a pressure-cooker. “It’s terrible,” said Megan Rapinoe, who didn’t play due to injury. “It’s so stressful. It’s hard. You put everything into this game ... You have everything invested in it and no way to get rid of your anxiety.”

(She tried one way to let off some nervous energy just before the start of the match. It apparently didn’t work.)

It came as a shock when Rapinoe, who had scored four goals in the previous two games, was not in the starting lineup, but around the half word leaked out that her absence was injury-related, not tactical or disciplinary or ... other. After the game, U.S. coach Jill Ellis revealed that Rapinoe has a “slight strain” in her right hamstring, suffered late in last week’s quarterfinal match against France. Rapinoe said she tried to play through it, but was eventually subbed off in the 87th minute. On Monday, Rapinoe was wearing tape on her hamstring in practice.

Rapinoe downplayed the severity of the her injury and sounded optimistic that she’ll be healthy enough for the final, which is Sunday against the winner of Sweden-Netherlands.

“It’s not really even a strain. But not really able to go today. [The team] just felt like it wasn’t going to hold up.”

[...]

“But it’s feeling much better and I expect to be ready for the final. I expect, how it feels now, to be ready. As is with these things, you just have to go day by day and see how it is.”

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The U.S. is in pretty good shape even if Rapinoe isn’t able to go. Her replacement, Christen Press, played a crucial role in both American goals, delivering a decisive header for the first and ably corralling a long ball on a sequence that set up Alex Morgan for the second.

Rapinoe—jokingly?—acknowledged her expendability on a squad whose depth is its strength. “Maybe they don’t need me for the final,” she laughed. “Maybe I just got pushed right to the side.”