NWSL players not happy after Challenge Cup final marred by injuries, missed calls

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.

Baggett was reported to be smiling as she was carted off and was later taken to the hospital.

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.

Kerolin left the game after that tackle, while standout Spirit goaltender Aubrey Kingsbury stayed in despite a concerning head collision with the post.

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.

May 7, 2022; Cary, NC, USA; Washington Spirit athletic trainer Summer Jones calls for the stretcher for Washington Spirit defender Jordan Baggett (11) during the second half against the North Carolina Courage at WakeMed Soccer Park in the NWSL. Mandatory Credit: Lewis Gettier-USA TODAY Sports
Jordan Baggett was hospitalized after a scary moment in the NWSL Challenge Cup final. (Lewis Gettier-USA TODAY Sports)