Thursday, December 7, 2023

USWNT legend Megan Rapinoe comes up clutch for OL Reign, prolongs career and gets home NWSL playoff game

CHICAGO — Megan Rapinoe took control of her destiny and helped secure a place in the postseason for her long-time club OL Reign on Sunday. The Reign were in the sixth and final playoff spot ahead of Decision Day and their 3-0 win against Chicago Red Stars means they will host a quarterfinal match against Angel City FC on Friday night. Rapinoe scored two goals in the victory and Jess Fishlock recorded a third. 

The Reign were mostly in control of the match on the road. Despite leading in nearly every attacking stat in the first half, they failed to record a goal with seven shot attempts and four on target. The squad was frequently in the final third, but some frantic decision-making kept things scoreless into halftime. The halftime table didn’t offer much margin for error as the Reign were still in sixth place with potential to be knocked out.

One more round for Rapinoe

The two-time World Cup champion and USWNT superstar Rapinoe announced her retirement earlier this year ahead of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The club recently celebrated her NWSL career shortly after her final USWNT match in September, and during the celebrations coach Laura Harvey mentioned to the crowd of 34,000 that they hoped to have another opportunity to do this for Rapinoe again. 

Rapinoe delivered. She scored quickly in the second half, two goals in the span of three minutes, and the Reign were knocking down the door of the quarterfinals. 

“I mean, she actually said to me after the second goal, she went, ‘What is happening?’ And I was like, ‘I don’t know but keep doing it’,” Havey joked in the press conference on Rapinoe’s brace,” Harvey said.

“Big players come up big in big moments. She’s done it all of her career. And I wish I could have given her that send-off a week ago in Seattle, but we tend to do things the hard way.”

“So yeah, I thought she could have scored in the first half. We could have scored multiple goals in the first half. But I think [she] just showed her quality. I think I was behind both of the shots and they were sort of carbon copy of each other. I could just tell Alyssa [Naeher] couldn’t see it. So not many people try that. And yeah, she is who she is for a reason.”

Home field advantage

The Reign have mostly been in the upper half of the table throughout the season, but with all the different Decision Day scenarios in play, no points in their final match could’ve spelled doom for the Pacific Northwest side. Now they’re the fourth-place seed, which means they get to honors of hosting a quarterfinal match and keep the dream of glory alive. They’ll get to face Angel City FC, a team they have played multiple times this year between the regular season and the NWSL Challenge Cup. 

“The fact that we’re at home, the fact that we can get the crowd again — on short turnaround — but I think that being at home is a good place for us,” said Harvey. “We know that. Against an opponent that we know quite well and then, you know, if we can have success in that game we’re not traveling too far, so I think that you know I’ve always said ‘West coast, best coast.”

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