Spirit Start Strong but Ultimately Fall to the Courage in First Game of 2021

Washington Spirit  |   April 10, 2021
Spirit Start Strong but Ultimately Fall to the Courage in First Game of 2021 Featured Image

Ian Decker
Alejandra Martin

Leesburg, Va., (04/10/2021) – The Washington Spirit opened the season with a 3-2 loss in their first match of the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup Presented by Secret Deodorant on Saturday afternoon at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, NC.

The opening moments of the game were characterized by quick movements; Tori Huster sent a long ball up the field, which led to an Ashley Sanchez shot and corner for the visitors. While the Spirit failed to convert on the ensuing play, Kumi Yokoyama buried a shot from the top of the 18 less than five minutes in to give the Spirit the 1-0 lead

But in typical North Carolina Courage fashion, the two-time champions responded by carving through Washington’s defense. Debinha looped a pass to Jessica McDonald, who cut the ball back to Kristen Hamilton. The potent striker then tucked a shot under a diving Aubrey Bledsoe to level the contest at one. 

Four minutes after netting their opening tally, North Carolina threatened again, but Paige Nielsen did well to put Debinha under pressure, forcing the Brazilian to put her shot wide of the net. 

In the 18’, Yokoyama feathered a pass through North Carolina’s backline to Anna Heilferty but the rookie, whose touch took her in on net, pushed the shot wide. Misses from point-blank range seemed to be a theme of the first; Debinha shanked a shot wide after the ball fell to her inside the six. 

Moments after Debinha’s attempt, Carson Pickett found McDonald in behind the defense, and, thanks to a fortunate ricochet, the ball ended up in the net to give the Courage the lead

It took only 25 seconds into the second half for the Courage to pick up where they left off. Meredith Speck picked the pocket of Natalie Jacobs for the first shot of the second half. 

In the 51’ Merritt Mathias, who missed all of the 2020 season recovering from a left knee injury, was in acres of space on the right wing and deftly chipped Bledsoe for her team’s third marker of the outing. 

At the hour mark of the first game of the season, second-half substitute Trinity Rodman, the second overall pick in the 2021 Draft, scored her first-career NWSL goal in her debut match. Jacobs sent a long ball to Rodman, whose first touch sent the ball in front of her, and the 18-year-old fired a right-footed shot into the back of the net.

The seven minutes of stoppage time gave the Spirit a chance to equalize, and while Sanchez managed to get a look on goal, North Carolina’s composed defending preserved the three points for the hosts. 

For their second fixture of the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup Presented by Secret Deodorant, the Spirit will face Racing Louisville on Thursday, April 15 at 7 pm ET at Audi Field and will be broadcast live on Paramount+ (USA) and Twitch (INT).

-NWSL Match Report-

Match: North Carolina Courage vs Washington Spirit

Date: April 10, 2021

Venue: WakeMed Soccer Park

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET

Weather: Cloudy, high 70s

Scoring Summary:

Goals 1 2 F
North Carolina 2 1 3
Washington 1 1 2

 WAS – Yokoyama 4’

NC – Hamilton 9’

NC – McDonald 28’

NC – Matthias 51’

WAS – Rodman 60’


NC (4-2-2-2): 99-Katelyn Rowland; 15-Schuyler DeBree; 21-Cari Roccaro; 11-Merritt Matthias; 19-Havana Solaun; 16-Hailie Mace (29-Rylee Baisden 72’); 4-Carson Pickett; 10-Debinha (3-Kaleugh Kurtz 90+4); 25-Meredith Speck; 14-Jessica McDonald (c) (13-Ryan Williams 79’); 23-Kristen Hamilton

Unused Substitutes: 6-Abby Erceg; 2-Taylor Smith; 42-Samantha Leshnak

WAS (3-4-3): 1-Aubrey Bledsoe (c); 4-Natalie Jacobs; 9-Tegan McGrady; 10-Ashley Sanchez; 14-Paige Nielsen; 16-Julia Roddar (30-Camryn Biegalsk 68’); 17-Kumi Yokoyama (2-Trinity Roland 55’); 19-Dorian Bailey; 21-Anna Heilferty; 23-Tori Huster; 33-Ashley Hatch (24-Chinyelu Asher 88’)

Unused Substitutes: 3-Sam Staab; 11-Jordan DiBiasi; 18-Devon Kerr; 24-Chinyelu Asher; 31-Sydney Schneider

Stats Summary: NC / WAS

Shots: 16 / 16

Shots on Target: 7 / 6

Saves: 4 / 3

Blocked Shots: 3 / 5

Fouls: 13 / 14

Offside: 7 / 1

Misconduct Summary:

WAS – Natalie Jacobs 63’ – Yellow Card

NC –  Merritt Mathias 90+6’– Yellow Card


Referee: Alyssa Nichols

Assistant Referee 1: Jennifer Garner

Assistant Referee 2: Jordan Davis

Fourth Official: Emma Richards

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