Megan Rapinoe, OL Reign’s winger, suffered a non-contact injury to her right ankle early in the NWSL final match Saturday night and was subbed off in what she described as “the worst possible outcome” for the final game of her professional career.
Following her international retirement from her 203-matches-long career on September 24, Rapinoe, who needed assistance as she hobbled off the field, was hoping to finish her storied career as a NWSL champion – a title she had never won – but, Lynn Williams and NJ/NY Gotham FC stood in her way.
The 38-year-old striker, who earned recognition not only for being a two-time world champion but also for her activism, gained fame for her advocacy of LGBT+ rights, solidarity with NFL player Colin Kaepernick and famously confronting former U.S. President Donald Trump.
On Saturday, Gotham FC became the new NWSL champions after a dramatically chaotic game, beating the OL Reign 2-1 to complete an out-of-nowhere rise from the league’s lower floors to the summit.
As well as being the decider of the club season in the US, the match was billed as a showdown between two USWNT legends: Rapinoe and Krieger.
This NWSL final marked the last time people got to watch these two legends run, pass and shoot.
Former teammates and close friends, Gotham FC’s Ali Krieger and OL Reign’s Megan Rapinoe, were planning to enjoy the last piece of their successful career.
However, the party was ruined way too early. Three minutes into the game, while both teams were tied 0-0, Rapinoe went down with a non-contact injury and was forced to leave the pitch, in tears.
Rapinoe broke toward Maitane Lopez of Gotham FC, who was dribbling outside her penalty area, and suddenly collapsed.
After remaining on the ground for a few minutes, Rapinoe needed help from two physiotherapists for the long walk along one end line and then down the sideline back to the Reign’s bench at Snapdragon Stadium.
Krieger paced toward her close friend Rapinoe and hugged her.
Rapinoe’s Post Match Reaction
The two-time World Cup champion told game broadcasters CBS that the match’s outcome “is a tough one, definitely not how I envisioned this last one going”, before adding “that’s life; it’s part of the game. I was feeling really good before the game, wasn’t feeling tight or wasn’t having calf issues or anything. You don’t always get to have the perfect ending.”
In the final pre-match press conference of her career ahead of the final, Megan Rapinoe – or Pinoe, as her teammates used to call her – was emotional and couldn’t hold back the tears.
Answering a question on her legacy, Rapinoe told reporters “I’ve always tried to play the game the right way, always tried to enjoy it. At the end of the day, I feel like we are in the entertainment business and especially in a growing sport and a growing league, I feel like that’s really important.”
The activist who defended female footballers’ rights throughout her career said she’s proud of how far the game has come, “I just walk away so proud and so happy of not only my contributions to the game but the era that I’ve played in. Knowing that the game is in such a better place and that’s testament to all the players that have played in this generation.”
“A huge media deal just got announced, this league was insane this year, it was so much fun to watch and be a part of, all the storylines, so I feel like I get to walk away just smiling no matter what and really proud of my entire career.”
Megan Rapinoe’s Most Iconic Moments
Scoring An ‘Olympico’ At The Olympics
Rapinoe made Olympic history when she scored an Olympico — a goal scored directly from the corner flag — at the Tokyo 2020 tournament.
In September 2016, Rapinoe knelt during the anthem on the sideline of an NWSL match against the Chicago Red Stars. She transferred her kneeling to USWNT matches, where bigger audiences meant louder messages. Her efforts were seen as brave by some, and divisive by others.
Following her action, U.S. Soccer implemented a policy, later dubbed “The Rapinoe Rule”, requiring players to stand during the national anthem.
Coming Out Ahead Of The 2012 Olympics
Rapinoe is the first USWNT to publicly come out while being an active team member. She came out ahead of the London Olympics with Out magazine.
“You can’t win without gays” became one of Rapinoe’s most famous quotes.
‘I’m Not Going To The Fucking White House’
A legendary quote during a photoshoot ahead of the 2019 World Cup, Rapinoe was asked about the possibility of attending the White House in a World Cup year, when Donald Trump was in office.
Her response was firm, “No, I’m not going to the White House. We’re not going to get invited. I doubt it.”
She’s been vocal about pay equity for women throughout her career. She was one of five players in 2016 to originally file an equal pay complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Ahead of the 2019 World Cup, the players filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against U.S. Soccer in the United States District Court in Los Angeles.
The end of a legendary on and off the field career.