Four Red Cards Given as NWSL Challenge Cup Opener Nearly Devolves Into Brawl

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The NWSL is back, and it didn't take long for #NWSLAfterDark to be activated thanks to Portland and Kansas City. 

While the Thorns walked away with a 2-1 victory in the NWSL Challenge Cup opener after a rough 2020 season, they could be without two players and their head coach for future matches after three red cards were handed to Portland and one to a Kansas City player. 

There has never been an NWSL game with more than two red cards, making Friday’s chaotic ending historic.

Portland's Simone Charley received a straight red card for a hard, late tackle after receiving a yellow earlier in the match. She will miss the Thorns' next game. Then, as head coach Mark Parsons argued the call, the referee flashed him a red as well. 

He was then ejected from the sidelines. 

A minute later as the game clock wound down, a fight almost broke out in the corner. The Thorns tried to draw the clock out, creating a close battle between four players around the corner flag while up 2-1. 

But as the ball slipped away, Kansas City's Kristen Edmonds and Portland's Morgan Weaver started an aggressive shoving match. It appeared that Edmonds's might have punched Weaver in the face, and one of the Thorns players came to her teammate's defense despite Weaver raising her hands and walking away. 

Red cards were given to both Edmonds and Weaver. 

Thorns player Meghan Klingenberg said after the match that she wants "quality refereeing and quality accountability" in the league. 

"I want my players safe, I want the other players on the other team safe as well. And I don't think that's too much to ask."

Portland owner Merritt Paulson tweeted after the match that they will be appealing Weaver's red card. 

Meanwhile, as the USWNT gears up to play Sweden on Saturday afternoon in Sweden, new Thorns player Crystal Dunn woke up to watch her teammates despite being seven hours ahead.