OL Reign had multiple opportunities in the past several weeks to secure its spot in the playoffs, needing a win that could seemingly never be found. But on Sunday, during the National Womens Soccer League‘s first-ever Decision Day, the Reign’s day-one players came up with huge performances to secure not only a playoff spot but a homefield advantage in the first round.
Facing a Chicago Red Stars team already eliminated from playoff contention and 12th in the standings, OL Reign’s goal was clear ahead of kickoff: win the game and make the playoffs. The Red Stars have leaked goals like crazy this season but an away win for the Reign was never a given. The Reign had failed to get a win in four games heading into Sunday.
It took one more vintage effort from Megan Rapinoe — who was facing the reality of playing her final professional game on Sunday if the Reign lost — to make sure the Reign made the playoffs for the fifth straight time. Rapinoe put the team on her back with two quick goals just after halftime. They were moments of magic made more mystifying by the fact that the second goal looked like a replay of the first. Rapinoe, who is due to retire after this season, put the team on her back as she has so often over the past decade.
“Big players come up big in big moments; she’s done that all of her career,” Reign coach Laura Harvey said after the match, reiterating a point she has made frequently. “That’s the thing with Pinoe, you just believe when she’s on the field and she’s in those type of moments that something amazing is going to happen.”
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