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Rapinoe's retort: 'I think I'm extremely American'

LYON, France -- One day before the Fourth of July, United States women's national team forward Megan Rapinoe offered her thoughts on what it means to be an American.

Rapinoe, who did not play Tuesday because of a hamstring injury as the U.S. advanced to the Women's World Cup final by defeating England 2-1, told ESPN on Wednesday that the hammy is "feeling very good" and that she expects to be available for Sunday's game in Lyon against Netherlands.

But a player who has been in the spotlight throughout this tournament, on and off the field, had more to say when asked to respond to critics who say her words or actions are anti-American.

"I think that I'm particularly and uniquely and very deeply American," Rapinoe said. "If we want to talk about the ideals that we stand for, all the songs and the anthem and sort of what we were founded on, I think I'm extremely American."

Rapinoe has been an outspoken advocate for a number of social issues, especially related to racial inequality, LGBTQ rights and gender discrimination. She supported Colin Kaepernick's protests regarding racial injustice and police brutality. She knelt during the national anthem before two U.S. games in 2016, as well as with her NWSL team Reign FC.

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She was also active in raising money for victims of last year's wildfires near her hometown in Northern California.

More recently, after months-old video was released of her saying she would not visit the White House if invited after a U.S. title, she was the subject of several critical tweets from President Donald Trump. She said in a subsequent statement she regretted using profanity in the video clip but otherwise stood by her sentiments.

Named one of three U.S. captains before World Cup qualifying last fall, Rapinoe, 34, said Wednesday that little of her public commentary is planned and that she feels increasingly free to speak her mind.

"I think for the detractors, I would have them look hard into what I'm actually saying and the actions that I'm doing," Rapinoe said. "Maybe you don't agree with every single way that I do it, and that can be discussed. I know that I'm not perfect.

"But I think I stand for honesty, for truth and for wanting to have the conversation. And for looking at the country honestly and saying, yes, we are a great country and there are many things that are so amazing -- and I feel very fortunate to be in this country. I'd never be able to do this in a lot of other places.

"But also, that doesn't mean that we can't get better. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't always strive to be better. I think that this country was founded on a lot of great ideals, but it was also founded on slavery. And I think we just need to be really honest about that and be really open in talking about that, so we can reconcile that and hopefully move forward and make this country better for everyone."

On the field, Rapinoe, with five goals, remains in the running for the Golden Boot as the World Cup's top scorer. She trails teammate Alex Morgan and England's Ellen White, who will play in the third-place game, by a goal.

On Wednesday, she told ESPN's Julie Foudy that the team's depth helped afford her the opportunity to rest her hamstring ahead of the U.S. advancing. 

"It's like I have been playing well in this tournament but I have to sit, and then you bring Christen Press off the bench. I mean, that's like next level, that's like a cheat code, that's not fair. So I had a good session (Wednesday) morning, it's feeling good, getting better every day and I expect to be ready for the final."

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