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Megan Rapinoe gets it.

No stranger to controversy, Rapinoe decided to air out some grievances in her postgame interview after OL Reign’s win over the Portland Thorns last Sunday. The matchup was billed as the Cascadia rivalry, so the USWNT icon decided to treat it like one, on and off the pitch.

“Obviously, the Thorns fans need no introduction,” said Rapinoe. “They’re incredible. They have one big problem though: it’s that they love me. So it’s really difficult for them to cheer against me. When I scored, I had to go right over and really talk my shit. And I was trying to talk shit to them, and they just kind of didn’t know what to do. And then finally someone gave me like a big double f— you, middle fingers up, and I was like, ‘That’s what I’m talking about!’ Like, that’s the kind of rivalry that we want.”

The NWSL was due for its “and I took that personally” moment, and they got it in Rapinoe’s dust-up. To scorn an opponent in the way she did is ultimately to respect them. She dished it out and was happy to see the Thorns fans dish it back (eventually).

In the end, Rapinoe’s trash talk was a much-needed reminder that the NWSL is a league with high stakes and high emotions, something league leaders need to lean into. Simply put: rivalries are good for sports. Some of the most compelling stories in the space are born of intense, bitter and deep-rooted contentions.

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    In the Thorns-Reign Derby alone, fans had a chance to see USWNT stars Rapinoe and Crystal Dunn (who usually share the same left-side for the USWNT) go head-to-head. While it’s fun to see these players compete for World Cups and Olympic golds together on the national team, it can be even more riveting to see them face off for NWSL bragging rights.

    In the end, Rapinoe’s comments served as a somewhat-friendly wake-up call about the need for more animosity between the league’s clubs. We may all be in this together, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room to rock the boat.