The NWSL has returned, and in just the second game, the players have already set records through an extended beef. The Portland Thorns and Kansas City combined for a league-record four red cards—all in the final five minutes of play—during their first match of this year’s Challenge Cup, the league’s tournament that serves as a kickoff to the regular season. Before Friday, there had never been more than two red cards in a single NWSL game.
You may wonder why this league-issued highlight reel conveniently skips from the 86th minute to the final whistle. Here’s why:
Before this clip, Thorns forward Simone Charley had been sent off for a second yellow card in the 90th minute after she made an aggressive tackle. Portland coach Mark Parsons exchanged some conversation with the referee about that call, and earned his own red card before the ball was even put back in play.
Then Kansas City got involved. After her teammate and coach’s red cards, Thorns forward Morgan Weaver was determined to run off the final few minutes of stoppage time with a 2-1 lead. As she tried to keep possession, she got tangled up in the corner with Kansas City midfielder Kristen Edmonds, who took Weaver down.
After the two players picked themselves up, Weaver gave Edmonds a shove. Edmonds, who at 5-foot-4 is six inches shorter than Weaver, gave a shove back, right into her opponent’s face. It looked like a punch at first, but upon further review, Edmonds’s hand was open. This team photo helpfully captured the critical moment:
Both players received red cards. The Thorns are maintaining their innocence, seemingly because Weaver throws her hands up to suggest she did nothing wrong. Thorns owner Merritt Paulson tweeted that the team “would obviously be appealing this.”
After watching the clip multiple times, I’ve reached a different and more important conclusion: An angry come-at-me-bro head bob is infinitely better when the aggressor has a long ponytail. The hair flip has the final word in this fight.
Thorns midfielder Crystal Dunn, in Sweden with the USWNT, chimed in with her review:
Portland ultimately closed out the 2-1 victory. Unless they win their appeal, they’ll be without two players and their head coach for their next match against the Chicago Red Stars on Thursday. The NWSL’s full regular-season schedule hasn’t been released, but this Thorns-KC beef will return.