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A love-hate thing for Megan Rapinoe
All 21,144 fans stood on their feet as the announcer called, At forward, Megan Rapinoe.
The sellout crowd at Providence Park the first in Portland Thorns history and a National Womens Soccer League attendance record cheered for Rapinoe, who was retuning to Portland for the first time since helping lead Team USA to its third Womens World Cup championship.
The same crowd cheered Rapinoe when she was subbed out of Wednesdays Portland-Seattle match at the 81-minute mark even though she plays for the archrival Reign.
Rapinoe received multiple standing ovations in the heart of enemy territory. One of them came during a pre-match ceremony where the players who participated in the Womens World Cup were given scarves celebrating their achievement.
I didnt feel like I was away too much, as an away player, Rapinoe said of the evening, on which the Reign won 1-0. Thats amazing, just in terms of the league and what were aspiring to be. Thats really cool.
Rapinoe had three shots, one on goal.
I love coming back here, she said. I hate the Thorns, but I love coming back here.
On average, the Reign get home attendance of 3,174 (the Thorns are averaging 13,769). Rapinoe said the Reign, and all NWSL teams, need to create more awareness of the professional womens soccer clubs.
We just need to keep letting people know who we are, Rapinoe said. Those games in Vancouver that we had for the World Cup, Im sure a lot of the people came from Seattle and from the Northwest in general, and people dont necessarily know about the league.
Part of the Portland crowds affection for Rapinoe stems from her time in college. Rapinoe played for the University of Portland from 2005-2008 and was a member of the Pilots 2005 NCAA Division I champions.
Rapinoe is one of five players on the Seattle Reign who attended UP. Keelin Winters and Elli Reed played for the Pilots from 2007-2010, Danielle Foxhoven was there from 2008-2011, and Michelle Cruz was a Pilot from 2010-2013.
Winters played all 90 minutes in Wednesdays game, and Reed was subbed in for Kendall Fletcher at the 84-minute mark.
Playing in the NWSL and internationally, the Pilot alumni find it hard to make it back to Portland to see their alma mater.
You know the drive? Rapinoe asked, jokingly. Why does it take so long? It seems like it should be two hours tops, and its never two hours.
A 10th anniversary celebration of the 2005 title team is coming up in mid-October, and Rapinoe said she hopes to return for that.
With the win, the Reign are 7-3-3 this season and have 24 points, one behind the first-place Chicago Red Stars. The Thorns have fallen to 3-5-4 and have 13 points, putting them in seventh.
The two teams will meet again Sunday at Seattles Memorial Stadium.