A late, controversial no-call helped send the Washington Spirit to the Challenge Cup final Wednesday as they won 9-8 in a penalty shootout over OL Reign.
Deep in stoppage time, the hand of Washington’s Anna Heilferty made contact with the ball on a redirected corner kick from OL Reign’s Megan Rapinoe. Instead of whistling for the penalty that Reign players wanted, the referee blew the whistle to signal the end of regulation.
The referee told OL Reign that Heilferty’s arm was against her body, so the play was not a handball, Rapinoe said after the match.
“The hand was out on f—ing Jupiter,” Rapinoe said. The USWNT star, who was subbed on late for her first NWSL appearance of 2022, also said she thought the game got away from the referee for both teams.
OL Reign head coach Laura Harvey tried to remain neutral on the controversial call to start her postgame presser, saying she was “really trying not to get fined.” But she eventually relented, calling it “embarrassing.”
“I just cannot get over that you can say someone’s arm is next to their body when they’re literally doing the f—ing robot man,” she said. “You’re joking me.”
Still, Harvey applauded the Spirit, who are riding a 20-game unbeaten streak dating back to last August and are the reigning NWSL champions.
“I’ve been where Washington are right now, where they’re riding the crest of the wave and everything they touch turns good. Sometimes that can be really beneficial to you,” said Harvey. She added that while the Spirit were the better team in Sunday’s 2-1 win, she thought her team was the better team Wednesday.
“We should’ve won the game tonight. They know it and we know it,” she said. “We have to pick ourselves up. We did some really good things tonight. I said to the team at the end, I’m really proud of them. I thought after what a good performance by us on Sunday, to come back and have the performance we did tonight, I thought showed a lot about our group. We’ve come a long way in seven, eight games and we’re going to continue to progress.”