The NWSL's Challenge Cup is supposed to be an early-season showcase for the league and a potential windfall for its top players.
On Saturday, it was a demonstration of a number of issues that continue to plague the top U.S. women's soccer league.
The North Carolina Courage defeated the defending champion Washington Spirit 2-1 in the tournament's final, but all anyone was talking about was a series of scary moments and infuriating missed calls by the referees.
The worst moment came toward the end, when Spirit midfielder Jordan Baggett went down hard in a collision with Courage striker Debinha. Medical attention was slow to come, even as players reportedly yelled Baggett was "having a f***ing seizure." The medical cart was brought out, but Spirit players tried to get it to Baggett even faster by running it themselves.
Spirit players made their concerns known after the game.
Gosh, that was horrifying. I love you so much Jordy ❤️
— Teegs9⚽️ (@teganmcgrady9) May 7, 2022
It should be noted that paramedics are typically trained to not run during emergency situations for a number of reasons, most notably the potential for injuries to the paramedics themselves. The bigger question is why in the final of a supposedly important women's soccer match, the only medical support apparently available was a lone paramedic on the other side of the field.
Major controversy also emerged in the second half, when what looked like clear, obvious fouls went uncalled. Courage players complained about calls involving captain Abby Erceg taking a cleat to the gut and forward Kerolin getting tackled in dangerous fashion.
Ref said “I clearly saw the ball hit your ribs” https://t.co/LntbSxHSXS
— Abby Erceg (@abbyerceg) May 7, 2022
“I saw with my own eyes that it was the ball that hit her ribs, not a cleat” -the ref 😑 https://t.co/fGugc03aEj
— Katelyn Rowland (@rowland_katelyn) May 7, 2022
This is just so not okay!! Refs are meant to protect the players, and tackles like this will continue to happen if players go unchecked! https://t.co/IB2NWU7uwa
— Kaleigh Kurtz (@KaleighKurtz) May 7, 2022
Apparently all ball and not a penalty! I’ll keep quiet 🤐 before I get in trouble but this ain’t good enough. https://t.co/WYJgppzPq7
— Nathan Thackeray (@NathanThackeray) May 7, 2022
Kerolin left the game after that tackle, while standout Spirit goaltender Aubrey Kingsbury stayed in despite a concerning head collision with the post.
Here is Aubrey Kingsbury's head collision with the post from #NCvWAS. Horrendous to watch and training staff absolutely should've forced her off after this, this is a huge concussion risk. pic.twitter.com/RoJ7MDlMhD
— Bella Valeriano Munson (@munson_bella) May 7, 2022
Overall, it was an ugly game, and ugly in ways players have complained about for years. The referees did not seem up to snuff, and the lack of medical staff on site created potential danger for the players. Many NWSL players watching the game from home had plenty to say as it all played out.
Congratulations on @TheNCCourage for winning the Cup. Enjoy it.
But..nobody is talking about the game itself, that should tell us there is a problem.
NWSL please sit down,make some coffee.. reflect.
Admit short comings. Make it better.
Start by investing in refs & scheduling
— Jessica Fishlock MBE (@JessFishlock) May 7, 2022
Me looking for a yellow card 🟨 in this game… pic.twitter.com/9VotgIGIUe
— Crystal Dunn | Soubrier | (@Cdunn19) May 7, 2022
Studs up to the ribs and literally no card lololol what’s going on
— Lindsey Horan (@LindseyHoran) May 7, 2022
Protect the players. I’m literally begging you.
— Nikki Stanton (@GutiNikki7) May 7, 2022
Just catching up (i missed the last part of the game) but it’s clear player safety needs to be prioritized ASAP. Hoping everybody hurt/injured in that game heals quickly 💛🥺
— Kai (@hiyakaiya) May 7, 2022