Minutes after her team OL Reign began competing against Gotham FC in the National Women's Soccer League Final Nov. 11, she suffered a non-contact injury. As the crowd gave her a standing ovation, Rapinoe left the field at San Diego's Snapdragon Stadium limping, assisted by medical staff. She received a hug from friend and current rival Ali Krieger, who like her, is set to retire from the sport after the game.
"Pretty sure I tore my Achilles, so the worst possible outcome," the 2019 Ballon d'Or Feminin winner later said at a press conference. "I mean, just obviously devastating to go out in a final so early. I know it's my last game and that is devastating as well, but to go out so early, that also changes things. It takes a sub off a bench. Taking one of your best players off the field is not ideal."
Rapinoe, one of the most renowned female soccer players of all time, said she felt "really good" before the game. "I guess I just rode it till the wheels really came right off," she added. "You don't always get to have the perfect ending."
The final also marked the last pro soccer game for Krieger, Rapinoe's former U.S. women's national teammate, a fellow two-time World Cup winner and whose team Gotham FC won the NWSL Final 2-1. At her own press conference, she called her friend's injury "devastating."
"I'm so gutted for her, not only as a friend but former teammate, and I know what this game meant to her" Krieger said, "and it's devastating to see one of the best players in the world have to step out because of injury in the first five minutes of the game."
She continued, "I was devastated because it does change the game. You want the best players out on the field. You want to play against the best players and I was really upset for her."
Both Kreiger, 39, and Rapinoe, 38, announced earlier this year they would retire from professional soccer after the end of the 2023 National Women's Soccer League season.
"It is with a deep sense of peace & gratitude that I have decided this will be my final season playing this beautiful game," Rapinoe wrote on Instagram in July, alongside a pic of herself as a child. "I never could have imagined the ways in which soccer would shape & change my life forever, but by the look on this little girl's face, she knew all along."