Washington, D.C. (11/06/2021) – The Washington Spirit face the North Carolina Courage on Sunday, November 7 at 5:30 p.m. ET at Audi Field. The match will be broadcast on Paramount+ for fans in the United States and on Twitch for international viewers.
This will be the first playoff match for the Washington Spirit since 2016. From that team, only Tori Huster is still around. For much of the roster, this will be their first time in the playoffs. That being said, the Spirit have to feel confident based on their record in games played over the past three months. Since August 7, their last loss, the Spirit have gone 6-0-3 and outscored their opponents 14-5.
Looking at the Spirit’s success over that time, there are two clear reasons why the points kept coming in. On one side of the ball, the Spirit have the Golden Boot winner in Ashley Hatch, a candidate for Rookie of the Year presented by Ally in Trinity Rodman, and one of the most exciting young attackers in Ashley Sanchez. Those three have combined for 20 goals, 135 shots and 76 shots on goal.
Then there is the defensive side of things. Over the nine-game stretch, the Spirit only allowed five goals and recorded five shutouts. This defense is clicking at the right time and is buoyed by experienced national team players in Julia Roddar, Kelley O’Hara and Emily Sonnett, while also relying heavily on younger players such as Sam Staab and Tegan McGrady. With the strong play of Aubrey Bledsoe in net, it has been incredibly difficult for teams to score goals against this side.
The North Carolina Courage come into this game after pulling out a result against Portland last weekend to clinch the final playoff spot. While they may have struggled to get positive results in recent weeks, North Carolina brings an incredible amount of playoff experience. However, this will be their first time playing an opening-round playoff match on the road, something that could play heavily in the Spirit’s favor.
On both sides of the ball, the Courage have world-class talent. Offensively, they have their own three-pronged attack in Jessica McDonald, Lynn Williams and Amy Rodriguez. Step back one line and they have the extremely talented Debinha who can beat you from all over the attacking third of the field. Looking at the other side of the ball, they have New Zealand international Abby Erceg and a Defender of the Year candidate in Carson Pickett. This game could easily come down to a battle of the goalkeepers, one that the Courage will feel comfortable with having Casey Murphy in goal for.