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Rapinoe’s last pro game will be NWSL final after Reign beat Wave in playoff semis

Megan Rapinoe, never shy of the spotlight, will play the final game of her career in the NWSL final.

Veronica Latsko’s second-half goal was all Rapinoe’s OL Reign needed to defeat the San Diego Wave 1-0 and earn a spot in the National Women’s Soccer League championship game.

Megan Rapinoe ends USA career with a wink, an assist and victoryRead more

The Reign will face Gotham FC for the league title on Saturday at San Diego’s Snapdragon Stadium. Gotham took down the Thorns 1-0 at Portland’s Providence Park in the other semi-final match. Neither team has won an NWSL final, which means the league will have a new champion in its 11th season.

In the 47th minute, Latsko sent a long cross into the box. It looped over the head of Kailen Sheridan and slipped into the far corner of the goal. Latsko also scored the lone goal in the Reign’s quarter-final win. “Yeah … that was not supposed to be a shot,” Latsko admitted after the game.

VERONICA LATSKO STRIKES FIRST FOR OL REIGN 😤

(via @NWSL)pic.twitter.com/OEkDYLy2Fl

— espnW (@espnW) November 6, 2023

The Reign held the Wave, the 2023 NWSL Shield winner, to just two shots in the first half and defended as a team after Latsko’s goal to earn the shutout win on San Diego’s home field.

“I thought we defended really well. This group has worked so hard this year, and to finally get back to where we believe we belong is just an unbelievable feeling,” coach Laura Harvey said after the final whistle.

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In the other semi-final, Katie Stengel scored the lone goal in the 107th minute to put Gotham through to its first NWSL final.

The two teams played a physical, defensive battle in periodic downpours before Stengel’s goal – combining for just six shots on target while also being whistled for 38 fouls.

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KATIE STENGEL COMES OFF THE BENCH AND PUTS GOTHAM FC AHEAD‼️

(via @NWSL)pic.twitter.com/T0u311L1LD

— espnW (@espnW) November 6, 2023

After a scoreless 90 minutes, the match went to extra time. With 13 minutes to go, substitute Stengel curled a brilliant shot into the upper left corner from distance, beating an outstretched Shelby Ann Hogan in goal for Portland.

“I think I’m still dreaming,” Stengel said after the match. “I’m shocked it actually went in and we get to go to San Diego.”

The wins for Gotham and the Reign ensure that Rapinoe and Ali Krieger both end their careers in a championship match. The longtime NWSL and US women’s national team players will retire after the final. Although Rapinoe has won two World Cups with the US and three NWSL Shields for the best regular season finish with the OL Reign, she has never won the US domestic title. She played her final game for the UWSNT in September.

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“It seems a bit poetic that the championship game is ending with Krieger and Pinoe’s last game,” Reign’s Rose Lavelle said. “I think it’s really special to be able to get [Rapinoe] there.”