Billed as the de facto Women's World Cup championship match -- the quarterfinal fit for a final -- USA versus France lived up to hype Friday.
Facing a crisp opponent locked on knocking the queens off their throne en route to what would be a historic win on home soil, the USWNT knew they'd need a memorable performance to get past the French.
A sloppy opening few minutes showed the Americans might not have their A-game, but Captain American arrived early at Parc des Princes. But instead of a shield and an iconic suit, Captain America arrived in Paris with pink hair and a deft touch.
Megan Rapinoe, who scored both goals in USWNT's Round of 16 win over Spain, struck early in the fifth minute Friday, skipping a free kick through Amandine Henry's legs and into the back of the net to give the Americans an early 1-0 lead.
Rapinoe had been in the news for the past few days after President Donald Trump scolded her for past comments about not wanting to visit the White House. The star midfielder stood by her comments, and then went and buried two in the back of the net against USWNT's fiercest foe, with the second marker coming in the 65th minute off a Tobin Heath pass to give the Americans a 2-0 advantage.
France outplayed the Americans for much of the match, but the USWNT's backline stood strong, and goalie Alyssa Naeher was solid in goal, allowing only Wendie Renard's 81st-minute strike that cut the lead to 2-1 -- the score the U.S. went on to win by, punching its ticket to the semifinals against England.
"Quadruple the amount of grit," Rapinoe said of her team's performance in the thrilling win. "You have to give it up to the French. I think they outplayed us for sure with the ball today, but we were so good defensively, so strong, We hit them where it hurts, we took our chances. This team -- just unreal amount of heart."
Rapinoe was undaunted in facing questions about Trump's tweets about her Thursday, making a quip about how her mother would disapprove of her language, and then pivoting to soccer and the tall task that lied ahead.
She arrived Friday at Parcs des Princes already an icon, both for her on-field ability and off-field activism. She left it, in the 87th minute, as a conquering hero. A savior of a superpower struggling to find its best.
But she, Megan Rapinoe, is USWNT's best. And she brought it when the team needed it most. Two strikes, one with each foot, delivered USWNT from disappointment and despair, and pushed the Americans past the one team most believed could be their undoing.
All champions eventually fall. Teams stumble, falter and fail when the moment gets too big or when fatigue sets in. This could have been that moment for USWNT.
Megan Rapinoe, Captain America, wouldn't allow it. And the Red, White and Blue of the USA is marching on, one step closer to completing their repeat dreams.