Preview: Washington Spirit hosts North Carolina Courage in “Pitchside Pups” Challenge Cup Matchup

Washington Spirit  |   June 13, 2023
Preview: Washington Spirit hosts North Carolina Courage in “Pitchside Pups” Challenge Cup Matchup Featured Image

Washington, D.C. (06/13/2023) – The Washington Spirit will face the North Carolina Courage on Wednesday night in both sides’ third match of the 2023 UKG NWSL Challenge Cup. The match kicks off at 7:30 p.m. EDT at Audi Field in Washington, D.C. and will broadcast nationally on Paramount+ for fans across the United States. International viewers can stream the match on as well.


The Spirit

Hot off a 2-1 regular season victory at Audi Field over Angel City FC only four days ago, the Washington Spirit enters Wednesday’s Challenge Cup match having earned its first victory in nearly a month. The win was Coach Mark Parsons’ 25th with the Washington Spirit, making him the first coach to win 25 or more matches with two NWSL teams. Nicole Barnhart made waves after subbing in for Aubrey Kingsbury – Barnhart’s 142nd regular season appearance – late in the game, breaking her own record for the oldest goalkeeper (and second-oldest player) to play in the NWSL. Ashley Hatch scored in the 33rd, tying her with Carli Lloyd for the eighth-most goals in NWSL history.


The Spirit most recently played North Carolina on April 15, defeating the Courage, 2-1, off goals from Hatch and Trinity Rodman. Ahead of the Courage by one point in the East Division standings, the Spirit trails first place NJ/NY Gotham FC by only one point.


A 4-2 victory over the Orlando Pride in the Spirit’s last Challenge Cup match helped propel the team past the Courage in the standings. In that match, the Spirit became the first team in NWSL history (all competitions) to score four goals from outside the box. Additionally, the win helped the Spirit earn its second victory over a team for the first time in its Challenge Cup history; the side had previously never beaten a team more than once.


The last Challenge Cup match between Washington and North Carolina came in last season’s Challenge Cup final in which the Spirit lost, 1-2. Tied through 70 minutes, the Spirit surrendered an own goal and could not tie the game. In the entire Challenge Cup history between the two sides, the Spirit has conceded 11 goals – seven more than against the next-closest Spirit opponent. These 11 goals account for more than half of the Spirit’s total goals conceded in the Challenge Cup and are the most goals conceded to a team in Challenge Cup history. The Courage has scored multiple times in each of the five Challenge Cup matchups between the sides.


Finally, the Spirit has never lost at Audi Field in six (3-0-3) Challenge Cup matches at the venue, joining OL Reign and North Carolina as the only teams to never lose at home during the Challenge Cup. The team is similarly unbeaten through seven games (all competitions) at Audi Field this season with a 4-0-3 record.


Following Wednesday’s match, the Spirit will travel west for a two-game road trip including a match on Sunday, June 18 at 7 p.m. EDT against the Kansas City Current.


The Opposition

The North Carolina Courage enters the match following its most decisive decision of the 2023 regular season, having defeated the Chicago Red Stars, 5-0. The Courage is the first team in NWSL history to record multiple road wins of five or more goals (5-0 at Chicago in 2023, and 6-0 at Portland in 2019). Courage forward Kerolin scored a hat-trick, her first-career hat-trick and the fourth Courage player to record a hat-trick in franchise history (Lynn Williams – 2, Kristen Hamilton – 2, Debhina – 1). Kerolin’s 34th-minute goal in that game was preceded by 25 passes, the longest build-up to a goal in the NWSL since 2016.


The reigning Challenge Cup champions, North Carolina has yet to win a single Challenge Cup game this season after recording draws against both Orlando and Gotham FC. Last season, the Courage did not drop a single Challenge Cup game on their path to winning the tournament (5-0-3).


The Courage owns the three highest expected goals total of any team’s head-to-head Challenge Cup matchups – Washington (9.02), Orlando (8.29), and Gotham (8.12). The Cary-based club is unbeaten in 12 straight Challenge Cup matches (6-0-6), tied with OL Reign for the longest such streak in NWSL history.


Next up, the Courage play a similar foe in the Orlando Pride on Saturday, June 17 at 7 p.m. EDT.



  • The Spirit owns a 5-12-4 record versus the North Carolina Courage; however, the team has never lost to North Carolina at Audi Field (2-0-2). In Challenge Cup matches, the Spirit is winless against North Carolina (0-3-2), the only East Division team the Spirit has never beaten in Challenge Cup history.
  • The Spirit leads Challenge Cup history in shots on target (112) and possession (53.29%) and ranks second in passing accuracy (77.89), touches (12,588) and goals (24).
  • Ashley Hatch has scored nine career goals against North Carolina (all competitions), the most by any player against the Courage in club history. Hatch has scored in each of her last six matches against North Carolina, the longest streak by a player against a single opponent in NWSL history, all competitions.
  • The Courage has scored three goals in the first half of a road match for the fifth time since the start of 2018 (all competitions). All other NWSL teams have done so four times combined in that time.
  • Former Spirit players meet again:
    • North Carolina defender Estelle Johnson meets the Washington Spirit again after playing with the side from 2015 to 2018.
  • Former college teammates meet again:
    • First-year Spirit midfielder Paige Metayer played with first-year Courage defender Sydney Collins at the University of California from 2018 to 2021.
    • Spirit defender Gabrielle Carle played at Florida State – under the tutelage of current Spirit President of Soccer Operations/General Manager Mark Krikorian – with both Courage defender Malia Berkely (2017-20) and midfielder Clara Robbins (2017-21).
    • Spirit defender Dorian Bailey played with Courage defender and USWNT member Emily Fox at North Carolina in 2017 and 2018 as well as Courage midfielder Brianna Pinto in 2018.
    • Spirit forward Civana Kuhlmann (2017-21) and midfielder Andi Sullivan (2017) played with Courage defender Kiki Pickett while attending Stanford University.
    • Spirit midfielder Marissa Sheva played with Courage midfielder Frankie Tagliaferri in 2017 and 2018 at Pennsylvania State University.
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