Spirit fall short at defending champion North Carolina, 1-0

Washington Spirit  |   August 3, 2019
Spirit fall short at defending champion North Carolina, 1-0 Featured Image

Cary, North Carolina – Saturday, August 3, 2019: North Carolina Courage vs Washington Spirit at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park.

Owen Krucoff

Cary, N.C., (8/3/2019) – The Washington Spirit dropped a tight contest against the North Carolina Courage on Saturday afternoon in Cary, North Carolina.

The Spirit fought bravely after being reduced to 10 women by a first-half red card but ultimately came up just short. The defending NWSL champion Courage remain unbeaten at home this season.

The match was originally scheduled for Friday night, but inclement weather forced the game’s postponement to Saturday. Spirit defender Paige Nielsen found herself on the unfortunate end of a refereeing decision in the 24th minute, when she was red-carded for a foul on a North Carolina attacker.

The Courage used their one-player advantage to control play for most of the first half, but the Spirit weathered the storm to keep the game scoreless at the break. 

Goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe made two terrific saves in the first 45, beginning with a tip over the bar to stop Courage defender Merritt Mathias’ long-range effort in the second minute.

In the 30th minute, Bledsoe turned heads again with an acrobatic stop against North Carolina’s Kristen Hamilton. Hamilton took possession on the edge of the six-yard box after a shot rebounded off Bledsoe’s post, but the Washington goalkeeper leaped into action to anticipate her shot just in time.

The strong defensive play by the Spirit continued into the second half until Courage midfielder Debinha scored the game’s lone goal in the 64th minute. 

The Washington offense kicked into gear from there, with all three of the team’s shots on target coming in the last 15 minutes of the game.

“I thought at the end when we went to two strikers and tried to chase the game, we had a couple of good chances and could have nicked a point, which would have been justice, I think,” Spirit head coach Richie Burke said.

One such chance came in the 75th minute, when forward Dorian Bailey received a cross from forward Ashley Hatch in a dangerous position but couldn’t take control before Courage goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé got involved.

The result leaves the Spirit in fifth place in the NWSL standings with a 6-5-3 record, while the Courage take a temporary hold over first place at 8-3-4.

“We had a couple of really good chances at the end, even though we were down a man, to get back into this match, and instead we have to lick our wounds and go back up the road with no points,” Burke said.

The Spirit will return home next weekend for a crucial matchup with the Chicago Red Stars. Kickoff from the Maryland SoccerPlex is set for 7 p.m. ET on Saturday, August 10. [TICKETS]

-NWSL Match Report-

Match: North Carolina Courage vs Washington Spirit

Date: August 3, 2019

Venue: Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park

Kickoff: 4 p.m. ET

Attendance: 4,393

Weather: Cloudy, mid 80s

Scoring Summary:

Goals 1 2 F
North Carolina 0 1 1
Washington 0 0 0


NC – Debinha 64’


NC (4-5-1): 1-Stephanie Labbé; 15-Jaelene Hinkle; 6-Abby Erceg (c); 3-Kaleigh Kurtz; 11-Merritt Mathias; 7-McCall Zerboni; 8-Denise O’Sullivan; 21-Cari Roccaro (84’ 25-Meredith Speck); 10-Debinha (90+2’ 17-Heather O’Reilly); 12-Leah Pruitt (46’ 16-Julia Spetsmark); 23-Kristen Hamilton

Unused Substitutes: 4-McKenzee Meehan; 30-Peyton Perea; 27-Lauren Milliet; 99-Katelyn Rowland

WAS (4-3-3): 1-Aubrey Bledsoe; 14-Paige Nielsen; 3-Sam Staab; 23-Tori Huster; 28-Elise Kellond-Knight; 12-Andi Sullivan (c); 8-Meggie Dougherty Howard (69’ 13-Bayley Feist); 4-Jordan DiBiasi; 33-Ashley Hatch (81’ 31-Crystal Thomas); 19-Dorian Bailey; 6-Chloe Logarzo (35’ 20-Cheyna Matthews)

Unused Substitutes: 7-Amy Harrison; 30-Shae Yanez; 24-Carlin Hudson; 17-Cali Farquharson

Stats Summary: NC / WAS

Shots: 20 / 6

Shots on Goal: 5 / 3

Saves: 3 / 4

Blocked Shots: 7 / 0

Fouls: 14 / 7

Offside: 9 / 3

Misconduct Summary:

WAS – Paige Nielsen 24’ – Red Card


Referee: Gustavo Solorio

Assistant Referee 1: Maggie Short

Assistant Referee 2: Ben Pilgrim

Fourth Official: Nicole Ripellino

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