Megan Rapinoe's NWSL Championship Exit: Career Concludes Amid Injury.
Megan Rapinoe, celebrated in the realm of U.S. soccer, faced the spotlight for her last professional match at San Diego's Snapdragon Stadium. The game marked the conclusion of an illustrious career filled with triumphs both on and off the field.
However, in a surprising turn of events, Rapinoe's final match took an unexpected turn in the third minute when she went down, ultimately signaling the end of her career.
The fall occurred as Rapinoe was defending against Gotham FC midfielder Maitane Lopez. Despite not tripping or being tackled, Rapinoe planted her foot incorrectly, leading to the injury. With tears shed and moments spent sitting on the field, Rapinoe was eventually helped up, limping off the pitch. Although a stretcher was available, she opted not to use it, allowing Bethany Balcer to substitute in her place.
Despite the unfortunate conclusion to Rapinoe's career, the game proceeded, and her team, OL Reign, faced Gotham FC in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) finals. The Reign ultimately succumbed to a 2-1 defeat, with Gotham's Lynn Williams scoring the first goal 20 minutes after Rapinoe left the field. The Reign's Rose Lavelle responded with a goal shortly after, but Gotham's Esther González scored again in the final minutes of the first half, securing their victory.
In the closing moments of the game, OL Reign nearly scored a second goal, which could have tied the match. However, Gotham's goalkeeper, Mandy Haught, made a crucial save. Unfortunately for Haught, she received a red card after a review for handling the ball outside the box, denying the Reign a clear goalscoring opportunity.
As the final whistle blew, Gotham celebrated its first NWSL Championship in history. Rapinoe, despite her injury, made a symbolic entrance onto the field wearing a boot on her right foot. The match also featured a poignant moment as Rapinoe, leaving the field after her injury, received a hug from Gotham's Ali Krieger, another U.S. Women’s National Team stalwart who played her final professional match on the same day.
Megan Rapinoe, aged 38, had previously announced her retirement over the summer, concluding a stellar career. Hailing from Redding, California, Rapinoe leaves behind a legacy as one of America’s most accomplished female athletes. With four World Cup appearances and two Olympic gold and bronze medals, Rapinoe's list of achievements is extensive. Notably, her standout performance in the 2019 World Cup earned her the Golden Ball and Golden Boot awards.
Beyond her athletic prowess, Rapinoe actively used her platform for social advocacy, championing causes such as Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ rights, and women's equality. Her outspokenness, at times sparking disputes with then-President Donald Trump, earned her the label of a "walking protest." Rapinoe was a key figure in the push for equal pay in U.S. Soccer, culminating in a historic collective bargaining agreement last year.
In addition to her sporting accolades, Rapinoe's trophy case boasts the 2019 Ballon d’Or Féminin, Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year in 2019, the 2019 FIFA award for best female player, and a Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded in the previous year. Rapinoe's impact extended beyond the field, challenging norms and advocating for inclusivity, making her an enduring figure in the world of sports.