06.11.2023 07:04 h

Rapinoe not done yet as OL Reign reach NWSL final

Megan Rapinoe will have a chance to add to her trophy collection before calling time on her iconic football career.

Rapinoe's OL Reign reached the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) final on Sunday with a 1-0 victory over the San Diego Wave.

Veronica Latsko's 47th-minute goal was enough for the Reign in their semi-final and means Rapinoe will be back for one more match when her Seattle-based club face Gotham FC for the title in the same Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego next Saturday.

"This is really the last one," said the 38-year-old Rapinoe, who can claim a title she has never won in 11 years in the league.

"This is the perfect way to end it," she added. "Gotta win it now."

Rapinoe, celebrated for off-field activism as well as her success on the pitch, announced earlier this year it would be her final season.

Rapinoe sparked the Americans to titles at the 2015 and 2019 World Cups and gold at the 2012 London Olympics.

An advocate for LGBTQ rights who has lent her voice to an array of US social justice issues, Rapinoe was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian honor, by President Joe Biden last year.

Rapinoe, FIFA's 2019 Women's Player of the Year, also was among the leaders of the US women's successful fight with US Soccer for equal pay and conditions with the men's squad.

She ended her epic US national team career with 63 goals in 203 caps over more than 17 years in September in a farewell match at Chicago's Soldier Field.

An NWSL playoff record crowd of 32,262 turned out to see what could have been her last match, the pre-game tailgate parties turning the parking lots into a sea of pink and blue and lending a festive atmosphere to the proceedings.

Attacker Rapinoe played all 90 minutes in what turned out to be a dogged affair.

Latsko's unlikely winner from an awkward angle was intended as a pass but curled toward the back post and over the head of San Diego goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan.

"That was not supposed to be a shot," Latsko said.

"We've been grinding a lot out and tonight was no different," Reign coach Laura Harvey said. "Obviously the goal was a little bit of luck but sometimes you need that in these games.

"But I thought we defended really well. We limited them to chances that were away from our goal, which you have to do against them."

Harvey said Rapinoe's impending retirement had fired up her club.

"We knew this year we had a little bit of bite about us because it's 'Pinoe's last year and we just wanted to extend it as long as we can," she said, adding that the veteran remained a key contributor.

"I mean, she ran about tonight like she was 28 not 38," Harvey said.

Gotham FC booked their berth in the final earlier Sunday with a 1-0 extra-time victory over reigning champions Portland.

The championship match will also be the final career game for Gotham's Ali Krieger, a two-time World Cup winner with the USA.

"We've had two really different games against them this year," Harvey said. "We've battered them at our place, they've battered us (at theirs), so we'll see what next week brings."

A return to the final is something the Reign have been itching for since 2015, when they fell 1-0 to FC Kansas City to just miss the title for a second straight year.

"We left things on the table then and we won't do it next week," Harvey said.