Two-time World Cup winner Megan Rapinoe said she was devastated after her final professional appearance came to a crushing early end.
The National Women’s Soccer League final between OL Reign and NJ/NY Gotham FC was highly anticipated as an emotional farewell for the 2019 Ballon d’Or winner and her former US women’s national team mate Ali Krieger.
But the retirement party came to an abrupt end as the 38-year-old went down in the third minute with a non-contact injury, grasping at her right calf before limping off the field as fans at San Diego’s Snapdragon Stadium gave her a standing ovation.
“The worst possible outcome,” the veteran midfielder told reporters after the match. “Obviously, devastating to go out of the final so early.”
Rapinoe said she was relying on her trademark sense of humour to overcome the disappointment, as she believes she tore her Achilles tendon but would await further testing.
“You don’t always get to have the perfect ending,” she said.
Gotham FC defender Krieger ran and offered her friend an embrace as she exited the pitch.
Gotham went on to beat Reign 2-1 to collect their first championship title.
The 38-year-old Olympic gold medallist was sidelined this year with a calf injury but her quick exit from her final professional match nonetheless left fans and fellow US women’s national team veterans stunned.
“Absolutely gutted,” retired US great Mia Hamm wrote on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
Rapinoe, who along with her national team-mates suffered a shock early exit from the Women’s World Cup this year, said she had an overall sense of “peace” despite the injury that marred her final game.
“It’s obviously disappointing to go out like that,” she said. “I feel great about my career. I feel so lucky and so grateful to have played as long as I played.”