Megan Rapinoe’s injury during NWSL Championship robs her of ‘perfect ending’ with OL Reign | ET REALITY


All week long, there was a constant refrain: the NWSL Championship was set for a poetic finish between two of the sport’s greatest players. Megan Rapinoe and Ali Krieger would face off for one more trophy in the final match of their respective careers. “You couldn’t write a better ending,” Gotham forward Lynn Williams said Friday with a smile. It was supposed to be a last chance to give flowers to two players in real time, no matter who ended up victorious.

But just two minutes and 25 seconds into Saturday night’s showdown at Snapdragon Stadium in front of a rowdy record crowd of 25,011 fans, Rapinoe’s chance to write her half of history ended abruptly and without warning. During an offensive run, Rapinoe slipped and fell to the field with an apparent non-contact injury. He clutched his lower right leg, first in disbelief and then with a typical wry smile.

“It sucks,” Rapinoe said after the game, her right foot encased in a boot. “I don’t think there’s anything good to say about it or any positive side.

“I felt good. In fact, I felt in my best shape all season these past few weeks. I didn’t feel tight in my calf or Achilles tendon or anything. So, in classic form, I thought, ‘Damn, who just kicked me?’ There is no one, I am the one who presses, there is no one around me. So, I had that immediate thought and then I felt depressed (there), there’s nothing there. I really don’t think I need a scan (to know it was possibly a torn Achilles tendon).”

Although she received a boot and crutches at halftime, Rapinoe sent a few text messages to her mother and fiancée Sue Bird, allowing the rest of the team to discuss the plan for the second half. “I didn’t get too excited about it,” Rapinoe said. “I mean, I touched my Achilles tendon in the sixth minute in my last game in the literal championship game.”

Before Rapinoe left the field for the last time, she limped over to Krieger and exchanged a hug, somehow still smiling that familiar smile. For his part, Krieger said that he had encouraged Rapinoe to bandage her leg to get back out there, that he had never expected something like this to happen.

“Football is a big risk, right? You never know if it will be your last game, your last moment, and if it will happen to such an incredible player, in that moment, when there was so much preparation,” Krieger said.

As Rapinoe cautiously walked off the field, it was hard not to think about something Krieger had mentioned in a pregame press conference, about why she was still playing despite all the wins and all the struggles she’d been through in her career. . “I’m giving everything I have and I don’t necessarily get everything in return. So you have to have the will and the drive to want to do it for yourself because you love it,” he said.

Ali Krieger and Megan Rapinoe end their careers together. (Photo by Ben Nichols/Getty Images)

This year, Rapinoe hasn’t always gotten much out of the game. He missed his penalty during the USWNT’s World Cup loss to Sweden this summer. Before that moment he had never missed a penalty. Just like Saturday, that night in Melbourne he ended with tears and laughter and that note of disbelief that such a reliable part of his game had let her down at such an important moment. But on Saturday, she felt like nothing more than a fluke, a misstep, something she could never have seen coming, or even tried to avoid.

The moment affected the game, for both teams. “When I saw her throw her head back,” Gotham forward and game MVP Midge Purce said, “I saw her fall (earlier) and it was really sad. Then one of the girls on her team started crying and I turned to her (Yazmeen Ryan) and said, “Let’s go to her,” because she was clearly upset. It’s hard. “I think that definitely affected them a lot.”

Purce helped Gotham take the lead later in that half, setting up Lynn Williams’ first goal by running past three OL Reign defenders. Rose Lavelle tied it, but Purce again scored the go-ahead goal, giving her team the lead before halftime, a lead they would never relinquish.

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After the game, as Lavelle walked through the mixed zone, clearly feeling various emotions from the loss, he had to pause for a moment to collect himself before answering a question about Rapinoe.

“It seems like a bad joke that it has to end that way,” he said. “It’s been a great honor to be able to share the field with her, so I wish I could have done it today. She is amazing; She doesn’t deserve that. “I think through it all, she just takes it seriously and was still our biggest fan.”

During the post-match press conference, Lavelle sat next to Rapinoe as the former Ballon d’Or winner dealt with adversity the only way she knows how, through humor.

“I mean I don’t deserve this,” Rapinoe said, laughing. “I’m a better person than this, maybe I was in a previous life. … This feels different than missing a (penalty) in New Zealand. I mean, again, it’s like that’s life. It’s part of the game.”

Just over 24 hours earlier, Rapinoe had laughed out loud when asked why she and her teammates had never before managed to win an NWSL Championship, despite two previous appearances in 2014 and 2015 and a streak of semifinal losses. . “It’s hard,” she had said, a simple enough explanation. A real one.

Saturday night was more of the same.

She also got another question, one she’s heard over and over again throughout the games since announcing her retirement before the World Cup, to her last game with the USWNT and her farewell ceremony with the Reign. What exactly is his legacy?

And, as always, he was still hesitant to respond in the way any journalist would like: a tidy summary of his career, his off-field achievements, his personality, his refusal to fit into a box.

“Oh, you should write that,” she replied. “No, I do not know. I always tried to play the game the right way. I always tried to enjoy it. At the end of the day, I feel like we’re in the entertainment business and, especially in a growing sport and league, I feel like that’s really important. Always try to improve things.

“I leave very proud and happy to have not only my contribution to the game but also the era I have played in and know that the game is in a better place. That’s a testament to all the players who have played in this generation and played in this league,” he said, pointing to the league’s new media deal, the quality of the games. “I feel like I can come out smiling no matter what, really proud of my entire career.”

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So perhaps it was fitting that in one of her final quotes as a player, she gave a typical Megan Rapinoe answer to a question about the game she’s now leaving behind, at least as a player.

“This is what the players who played in my generation have built, this is part of our legacy and what we have left behind. Which is now here for the kids to take and do with whatever they want. But I feel like we’ve left them with a pretty solid plan to continue to not only grow the game and make it the premier league in the world, but also to make changes off the field and continue to blend that with who they are. doing on the field,” Rapinoe said.

“I’m a proud, gay aunt who looks down on the league and thinks, ‘Damn, we did good.’ But they can take it much further.”

And with that, Rapinoe, for the first time in more than a decade, ended her responsibilities as a professional soccer player.

“I guess I rode it until the wheels came off,” Rapinoe said. “You don’t always get perfect endings, but I’ve had a lot of perfect endings too.”

(Photo: Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

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