Preview: Unbeaten in last six, Spirit looks to keep momentum going versus North Carolina Courage

Washington Spirit  |   June 28, 2024
Preview: Unbeaten in last six, Spirit looks to keep momentum going versus North Carolina Courage Featured Image

Washington, D.C. (06/28/2024) – The Washington Spirit will face the North Carolina Courage on Saturday night in the first matchup of the year between the sides. The match begins at 7:30 p.m. EDT at Audi Field in Washington, D.C. and will be broadcast nationally on ION. Fans can also listen to the team’s first-ever local radio broadcast on or the ESPN 630 AM website or app.


The Spirit

The Spirit enters Saturday’s Pride Night matchup against the North Carolina Courage coming off an intensely physical and gritty road victory against Gotham FC. The Spirit won that match, 2-0, marking the second two-goal shutout victory over Gotham this year and securing the regular season sweep. With an NWSL-leading ten wins on the season, the Spirit is the third team in NWSL history to win 10 of its first 14 matches of a regular season (Seattle – 11 in 2014, North Carolina – 10 in 2018). The Spirit sits third on the table at 31 points through 14 matches, though prior to this year, only Seattle in 2014 and North Carolina in 2018 had recorded 30 or more points at this stage of a season. The win also marked the first time in club history that the Spirit won three straight road matches.

In the match, several Spirit players logged impressive performances. Notably, rookie Courtney Brown found the back of the net for the first time in her professional career. Brown’s goal was assisted by fellow rookie Croix Bethune. It was Bethune’s ninth assist on the season, moving her to a tie for second-most in a single season in NWSL history, joining Lauren Holiday (2013) and Nahomi Kawasumi (2017). One more assist and Bethune will tie Tobin Heath for the most in a season by an NWSL player. Finally, Aubrey Kingsbury recorded her 33rd regular season career clean sheet and made a crucial penalty kick stop, putting her in third place in NWSL history with seven regular season PK saves.

Washington and North Carolina are set to meet for the first time this season. Last year, the two sides met four times (two regular season, two Challenge Cup) with the Spirit dropping three of those matches (1-3-0). In the Spirit’s win over North Carolina last April, Trinity Rodman and Ashley Hatch both scored. The two forwards are the Spirit’s leading scorers in the all-time series against North Carolina with four apiece. Should the Spirit win this weekend, the team will tie with North Carolina for both the fourth most wins (81) and home wins (48) in NWSL history.

Saturday’s matchup brings the return of Ashley Sanchez to Audi Field. Earlier this year, Sanchez was traded in return for the fifth overall pick in the 2024 NWSL Draft and $250,000 in allocation money. The pick was later used to draft standout rookie and U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) 2024 Olympic alternate Hal Hershfelt. The Spirit has a keen eye for Sanchez’s talent and will be sure to pay specific defensive attention to the midfielder who has two goals and three assists this season.

Unbeaten in its last six matches, the Spirit has now won or tied in 27 straight matches when leading at halftime (20-0-7). When doing so this season, the team is 8-0-0. Look for the Spirit to strike first against this North Carolina side that has yet to win a game on the road this season.

Next up, the Spirit heads west to finish its regular season series with Bay FC. The match on Saturday, July 6 at 10 p.m. EDT will be the Spirit’s last regular season match until August 25.


The Opposition

North Carolina picked up a big three points prior to its clash with the Spirit. The 3-1 victory came at home against the Chicago Red Stars – the teams swapped places on the NWSL table (sixth and seventh, respectively) following the result. Each goal was accounted for by a different Courage player with Tyler Lussi, Ashley Sanchez and Meredith Speck all scoring. Eighteen-year-old Jackson Riley made the first start of her NWSL career.

The win brings the Courage to a 6-7-1 record (19 points) and marked the first victory for the team after trailing this season.

Lussi’s goal was her 10th regular-season goal with North Carolina, tied for the most goals for the Courage since she joined the club last year. Lussi has averaged a goal every 210 minutes with North Carolina after scoring once every 510 minutes on average in her first five NWSL seasons with Portland and Angel City.

North Carolina has won seven of its 11 away matches against the Spirit in all competitions (7-2-2), including the last three in a row. The Courage is one of two teams with seven road wins over a single opponent since they joined the NWSL in 2017, joining the Spirit, which has done so at Gotham FC.

All 19 of North Carolina’s points this season have been earned at home as the Courage lost each of its first seven road games of 2024. There is only one longer such streak in NWSL history. Look for the Spirit to capitalize on the homefield advantage.

Look out for the Courage’s heavy possession style of play. At over 58% possession on the season, the Courage is far and away the NWSL leader this season. Additionally, at 5,803 passes, the Courage ranks first in the NWSL with a difference of over 600 passes compared to second-place Portland Thorns FC. If the Spirit lacks possession on Saturday, it will have to make sure to seize its opportunities.

Following its match against the Spirit, the Courage plays Racing Louisville FC on Sunday, July 7 at 4:30 p.m. EDT.



• The Spirit owns a 4-10-2 regular season record versus the North Carolina Courage. The Spirit has a 2-6-1 record at home against the Courage, but is 1-1-1 at Audi Field.

• With one more penalty kick save this regular season, Aubrey Kingsbury will set a record for the most in single season in Spirit history.

• The Spirit has 11 different goal scorers this season, four of which are 2024 NWSL Draft selections.

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