Megan Rapinoe delivers a penalty kick for OL Reign against the Red Stars in the first half Oct. 15. She had two second-half goals in a 3-0 victory to postpone her retirement.  Photo by Jeff Vorva

Megan Rapinoe delivers a penalty kick for OL Reign against the Red Stars in the first half Oct. 15. She had two second-half goals in a 3-0 victory to postpone her retirement. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Red Stars Report | Rapinoe sinks Chicago with two goals in season finale

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By Jeff Vorva
Staff Writer

Women’s soccer legend Carli Lloyd’s career ended on the SeatGeek Stadium field in 2021.

There was a chance that another legend, Megan Rapinoe, was also going to play her final contest in Bridgeview.

But the 38-year-old Rapinoe, who will retire after this season, will put those plans on hold for a little while. She showed there is still a little gas in the tank as she scored two goals in OL Reign’s 3-0 road victory over the Red Stars Oct. 15 to close out the NWSL regular season.

The Reign entered what the league tabbed “Decision Day” in sixth place. Six of the league’s 12 teams qualify for the postseason, and the Reign (9-8-5) vaulted into fourth place with the victory over Chicago. They will host Angel City on Oct. 20.

The way things shook out, a loss would have knocked the Reign out of the playoffs.

“It’s quite the swing of emotions,” Rapinoe said on CBS after the game. “It was ‘maybe we’re going to be done for the season’ to hosting a game.”

MILAZZO RAPINOE scaled

OL Reign star Megan Rapinoe, right, looks to score against Tatumn Milazzo and the Red Stars on Oct. 10 at SeatGeek Stadium. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Rapinoe was not available to the media after the game.

“Big players come up in big moments,” said Reign head coach Laura Harvey. “She’s done it her whole career. You just believe that when she’s on the field and she’s in those types of moments that something amazing is going to happen.

“You always feel like she can turn the game around to you.”

Rapinoe, an 11-year NWSL veteran and an international standout with the U.S. national team, may be a controversial figure because of some of her comments over the years, but she still has plenty of star power. In what was her last regular season home game at Lumen Field in Seattle, there was an NWSL-record announced crowd of 34,130.

The crowd in Bridgeview was announced at 8,004, which is one of the Stars’ larger crowds. There was loud cheering when she opened the second half with goals in the 47th and 50th minutes. It was her 50th and 51st NWSL regular-season career goals.

 

Petrucelli fired before finale
The Red Stars (7-12-3) finished in last place.

The week leading up to the finale was full of drama as second-year coach Chris Petrucelli was fired Oct. 10 and assistant Ella Masar took over as interim coach.

The firing is one of the first major moves from the team’s new ownership group headed by Laura Ricketts.

“I think it was definitely probably a shock for a lot of us here,” Masar said of the firing. “We knew with a new organization coming in, they have set a standard that we want to be world-class, and everybody here knows how it should be in this game. If you want to get results, that’s what happens.

“For me, personally, I can’t thank Chris enough for what he did for me, supporting and mentoring, trusting me with the mistakes I made and hopefully holding me accountable at the same time.”

In his first season in 2022, Petrucelli guided the Red Stars to a 9-6-7 record and the team eked into the playoffs in sixth place and was eliminated in the first round by San Diego.

This year, they were in contention for the playoffs until the 21st game, but dropped a 6-3 decision at Kansas City to end hope of playing in the postseason.

Red Stars defender Tatumn Milazzo, an Orland Park native, said before the match that blocking emotions after the firing is a key.

“Throughout the season, there’s always opportunities for you to balance your emotions, your excitement, your nerves,” she said. “Going into this last game, it’s kind of the same thing. We want to put together a good performance that we can be proud of going into the offseason while also holding ourselves accountable and being good on the ball, moving the ball and doing things that we’ve been doing for weeks and months now.”

The week leading up to the finale wasn’t drastically different in practice.

“I feel like Ella’s done a lot of the sessions the last couple months, so we really do like the stuff she puts together, the passing patterns—although a bit complex sometimes—it gets our brains going,” Milazzo said. “I think that we’re used to it by now and it’s really nothing different. We know she has experience on the field and now she’s had experience as a coach, so we’re really thankful that we have someone we trust in this position.”

 

Honorees
Before and after the game, players were honored.

Rapinoe was honored for her many years of play.

Red Star Arin Wright was honored for making her 150th regular season start on Sept. 30, which is the most by a Chicago player.

The Red Stars’ Cheyna Matthews, who retired after the season finale, was also honored. She only played one year with the Red Stars but was in the league since 2016 with Washington and Louisville.

HEADER scaled

Red Stars and OL Reign players leap for a header in the Oct. 15 game in Bridgeview to close out the NWSL regular season. Photo by Jeff Vorva

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