Megan Rapinoe’s Teammates Celebrated Her First Career Red Card

For all her talk off the field, Megan Rapinoe usually lets her play do the talking on the pitch. Except on Saturday night during NWSL After Dark. The OL Reign beat Angel City 1-0 at Lumen Field, but not before the first Megan Rapinoe red card of her career.

Bethany Balcer’s quick reactions netted the only goal of the night in Angel City’s first game since Christen Press learned she’d miss the rest of the season with an ACL tear. The match was physical throughout, with seven players receiving yellow cards. In the 74th minute, the first red card of the entire 2022 NWSL season came out.

That red was shown to Rapinoe, the 36-year-old veteran who had never before seen red in 14 years as a pro. It came in her first start of the season. 

So what set Rapinoe off? Was it her reaction to hearing her partner, Sue Bird, is retiring after this WNBA season? Did someone criticize the hue of her hair? Was she just wanting to hit the showers early ahead of the Concacaf W Championship? 

None of the above. The Reign winger was sent off for dissent moments after she was subbed off the field. But instead of being an example of a mouthy player talking back, her teammates cheered her on after the red, a sign of how much they appreciate her leadership.

The aggressive nature of the Reign-Angel City match made it a tough one to officiate; the 29 fouls called were the second-most in the league this season. That didn’t stop players from arguing with the officials. 

“I thought it was a consistent theme throughout the game that both benches, both sets of players were concerned about the safety of their teammates, and, yeah, that’s probably as much as I should say,” Reign coach Laura Harvey said after the match.

In the first half, Rapinoe spent nearly 20 seconds on the ball, holding off defenders while jawing at the referee.

At one point, Rapinoe and Savannah McCaskill could only laugh about a bizarre yellow card shown to the Angel City midfielder for delaying the game despite her team trailing.

After the match, Reign midfielder Jessica Fishlock posted these not-so-cryptic comments about the officiating.

Rapinoe eventually picked up her first yellow card of the night in the 58th minute. She was subbed out in the 72nd minute and shortly thereafter Balcer limped off in tears after being injured by a strong challenge. 

This, ultimately, is what led to the Megan Rapinoe red card. 

Teammates Cheer First Megan Rapinoe Red Card

The star of the 2019 Women’s World Cup was shown a second yellow for yelling at the referee about the collision leading to the injury to Balcer. Because she had already been subbed off, the second yellow didn’t hurt the team — the Reign finished with 11 women on the pitch after Ally Watt came on for Balcer — and Rapinoe’s teammates cheered her on as she left the pitch.

After the match, Harvey confirmed the second yellow was for Rapinoe arguing for Balcer’s safety, though she didn’t not know/say what actually came out of Rapinoe’s mouth. Considering Rapinoe had never before been sent off, we hope she got her money’s worth. 

Rapinoe will now join up with the national team for the first time all year. The USWNT will play the first of two friendlies against Colombia on Saturday in Colorado to prepare for the Concacaf W Championship, which serves as qualifying for the 2023 Women’s World Cup and 2024 Olympics. That tournament kicks off on July 4 in Mexico. 

There was a lot of chatter after Rapinoe was chosen to the USWNT roster despite not having started all season in the NWSL (before Saturday), but her Reign coach had a good explanation for how valuable Rapinoe is as a leader, leadership that was shown on Saturday night. 

Hard to argue with that sort of leadership. And if the first Megan Rapinoe red card is anything to go by, her teammates love how she stands up for them.

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