All eyes were on U.S. soccer legend Megan Rapinoe as she entered San Diego’s Snapdragon Stadium on Saturday night for her final professional match after a lengthy career that featured numerous big wins on and off the field.
In the third minute of the game, though, Rapinoe went down. She did not appear to trip and was not tackled. As she limped off the pitch, a career that included two World Cup trophies came to an end.
Rapinoe hit the ground while defending Gotham FC midfielder Maitane Lopez, who had just taken a pass from her own goalkeeper and was making her way up the pitch. Rapinoe cut Lopez off and forced a backpass, but planted her foot wrong, prompting the fall. She went down grabbing her lower leg.
She was unable to get up and was met by medical personnel. After a few minutes sitting on the field, and after shedding a few tears, Rapinoe was helped up and limped off the field. A stretcher was brought out for her but she did not use it.
Bethany Balcer was subbed into the game in Rapinoe’s place.
Rapinoe’s OL Reign ultimately lost the National Women’s Soccer League finals match to Gotham, 2-1.
Gotham FC’s Lynn Williams scored the game’s first goal 20 minutes after Rapinoe left the game. Reign’s Rose Lavelle responded with a goal shortly after, just for Gotham’s Esther González to score again in the final minutes of the first half.
In the game’s final minutes, the Reign nearly scored a second to tie the match, but it was saved by goalkeeper Mandy Haught, who was later hit with a red card after a review for handling the ball outside the box and denying the Reign a clear goalscoring opportunity.
But any hope of a late comeback amounted to nothing as Gotham held on for the first NWSL Championship in its history.
Rapinoe limped onto the field at the end of the game wearing a boot on her right foot.
The matchup pitted Rapinoe against another U.S. Women’s National Team stalwart, Gotham’s Ali Krieger, who also played her final professional match Saturday after announcing her retirement earlier this year.
The Redding, California, native will be leaving competitive soccer as one of America’s most durable and accomplished female athletes of all time, having played on four World Cup teams and four Olympic sides.