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Washington, D.C. (10/15/2023) – The Washington Spirit fell short of clinching a postseason berth this evening in a 1-0 loss to the North Carolina Courage at Audi Field.
With both sides jockeying for possession in the opening minutes of today’s regular season finale, the first scoring opportunity came off the foot of Courage midfielder Narumi Miura in the seventh minute. Miura possessed the ball in the low end of the Spirit box but fired a shot wide right, negating any need for a play from Spirit keeper Aubrey Kingsbury.
The Spirit made its first significant play at goal in the 12th minute when forward Ashley Hatch collected the ball outside the top of the box and sent a shot just over the top of the crossbar in front of the season-high Audi Field crowd of over 15,000. A minute later, midfielder Ashley Sanchez dropped a cross deep in the box to forward Ouleymata Sarr; Sarr and forward Trinity Rodman each had a good look at the ball, but Courage keeper Casey Murphy was able to corral it out of harm’s way.
The turning point in the match came in the 23rd minute when a VAR review of a Rodman tackle attempt overturned a yellow card to a red, forcing Rodman to leave the match and the Spirit to play down a player for the remainder of the contest. Just two minutes after the sendoff, North Carolina capitalized on the advantage when forward Tyler Lussi received a low cross from midfielder Manaka Matsukubo and chipped it into the back of the net for the first half lead.
Keeping its foot on the pedal, the Courage attack nearly tacked on another in the 33rd minute but Kingsbury came up with two big stops to keep the margin at one. Five minutes later, the shorthanded Spirit attack created its best chance of the day when midfielder Paige Metayer found possession of a loose ball deep in the box but had her shot cleared away by a defender. Hatch had a header attempt on target the same minute that was saved by Murphy.
Coming out of the locker rooms, the Spirit attack was still finding chances. Sarr got a clean look at the goal from inside the box but had her shot saved by Murphy. Minutes later, Courage forward Kerolin appeared to have a threatening chance in the Spirit box but conceded a free kick after she was called for a handball.
The Spirit went through a dry spell in the attacking third through much of the second half before finally putting some chances together late in the match. In the 86th, Metayer fired a close-range shot wide left off a feed from Hatch. A few minutes later, midfielder Andi Sullivan fired a shot from outside the box wide left as well. The home attack maintained strong possession through the waning minutes of the match as it looked for an equalizer but was unable to do so before full time was called.
Additionally, with a full 90 played, defender Sam Staab qualified for Iron Woman status for the 2023 season. This is the third season (of four eligible seasons) that Staab has done so. She would have played every available regular season minute in her entire career if not for a red card in 2021 that was later overturned.
With the loss combined with other Decision Day results, Washington fell below the playoff line for the first time in 2023, just missing out on the postseason. The Spirit will be back in action in 2024 with all home matches once again being played at Audi Field. In total, Washington hosted almost 120,000 fans across the club’s 11 regular season home matches in 2023, averaging nearly 11,000 in attendance per home match. Fans can secure their tickets to all home matches next season with a season membership.
-NWSL Match Report-
Match: Washington Spirit vs. North Carolina Courage
Date: October 15, 2023
Venue: Audi Field
Kickoff: 5:00 p.m. EDT
Weather: Partly cloudy, high-50s
NC – Tyler Lussi – 25’
WAS: 1- Aubrey Kingsbury; 14- Gabrielle Carle; 3- Sam Staab; 5- Annaïg Butel; 19- Dorian Bailey; 26- Paige Metayer; 10- Ashley Sanchez (22- Amber Brooks, 86’); 12- Andi Sullivan; 8- Ouleymata Sarr (30- Camryn Biegalski, 74’); 33- Ashley Hatch; 2- Trinity Rodman
Unused Substitutes: 28- Nicole Barnhart; 18- Lyza Bosselmann; 16- Maddie Elwell; 13- Bayley Feist; 23- Tori Huster; 39- Chloe Ricketts; 25- Marissa Sheva
NC: 1- Casey Murphy; 12- Emily Fox; 7- Malia Berkely; 3- Kaleigh Kurtz; 13- Ryan Williams; 6- Narumi Miura (8- Brianna Pinto, 90’+2’); 34- Manaka Matsukubo (19- Frankie Tagliaferri, 79’); 10- Denise O’Sullivan; 14- Tyler Lussi (17- Rikke Madsen, 90’+2’); 28- Tess Boade (5- Haley Hopkins, 65’); 9- Kerolin (11- Brittany Ratcliffe, 65’)
Unused Substitutes: 18- Sydney Collins; 22- Mille Gejl; 23- Kiki Pickett; 8- Brianna Pinto; 0- Katelyn Rowland
Stats Summary: WAS / NC
Shots: 8 / 11
Shots On Goal: 4 / 3
Shots Blocked: 1 / 2
Saves: 2 / 3
Tackles Won: 11 / 10
Fouls: 12 / 8
Offsides: 0 / 6
WAS – Trinity Rodman – 23’ – Red Card
NC – Brittany Ratcliffe – 67’ – Yellow Card
WAS – Annaïg Butel – 87’ – Yellow Card