The Courage came out of the gates wanting to get on the board early, as most of the first half was played on the Spirit’s side of the field. The visitors attack-minded play earned them six corner kicks in the first 12 minutes of the game. The Washington defense, however, was very good to thwart any attempts by the Courage during the opening minutes of the half.
In the 18th minute, Williams dispossessed Sam Staab at the top of the box and took her chance which sailed into the arms of Spirit keeper Aubrey Bledsoe. Just three minutes later Bledsoe would also punch away a Debinha volley to keep the match scoreless.
The Washington Spirit continued to defend and try to take advantage of counterattacks. Their first clear chance came in the 22nd minute when Ashley Hatch received a ball from Mallory Pugh, but her shot was easily saved by Stephanie Labbé.
In the 38th, Jessica McDonald and Williams continued to create chances but, while Bledsoe was unable to hold on to the ball, the ensuing Crystal Dunn rebound sailed high above the crossbar.
The forwards’ chemistry would finally pay off in added time of the first 45 minutes as McDonald picked up a Dunn cross and took it all the way to the far corner before crossing it to an oncoming Williams. The Courage forward squared it straight through Bledsoe’s legs for the 1-0 lead right before the halftime whistle.
Not wanting to let off the gas pedal, the Courage began the second half the same way they played the first, laying siege to the Spirit goal. In the 58th, Williams tried to double up with a shot from distance that forced Bledsoe to punch the ball over the crossbar.
As the game wore on, Dunn also created some solid chances but her attempts in the 63rd and 68th minute hit the crossbar and the post respectively.
After making some adjustments, the Spirit started to turn the match around in the last 15 minutes of the game. The equalizer came in the 75th minute when second-half substitute Bayley Feist sent a low cross over to Mallory Pugh who slotted her left-footed shot to tie the game.
Ten minutes later Washington would gain the advantage. Arielle Ship, who also came on as a substitute, found an open Rose Lavelle at the top of the box. The young midfielder sent a laser shot far post to give the home side the 2-1 win and a fighting chance to make the playoffs.
Next, the 2019 NWSL Shield winners return home for the regular season finale on Saturday, October 12 as they host Sky Blue FC at 7 p.m. at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park. The NC Courage will then host the NWSL Semifinal on Sunday, October 20. While kickoff time and opponent are yet to be determined, tickets for the semifinal will go on sale Monday, September 30 at 10 a.m. on Ticketmaster.com and at the Coastal Credit Union Box Office by calling 919.459.8144.
Defender Abby Dahlkemper appeared in her 100th NWSL match. She joins Abby Erceg, Jaelene Hinkle and Lynn Williams who all reached the century mark this season.
Lynn Williams’ goal was the 50th of her career.
Julia Spetsmark and McKenzie Meehan appeared as second half substitutes.
The loss was the Courage’s first in seven matches. The team was running a six-game win streak that started after falling to Portland 2-1 on August 11.
WAS (4-2-3-1): Aubrey Bledsoe; Dorian Bailey, Sam Staab, Paige Nielsen, Tori Huster; Andi Sullivan ©, Meggie Dougherty Howard (Chloe Logarzo, 46’); Rose Lavelle, Ashely Hatch (Arielle Ship, 82’), Mallory Pugh; Cheyna Matthews (Bayley Feist, 66’)
Subs not used: Amy Harrison, Shae Yanez, Crystal Thomas, Jordan DI Biasi
NCC (4-4-2): Stephanie Labbe’; Jaelene Hinkle, Abby Erceg ©, Abby Dahlkemper, Heather O’Reilly; Debinha, Denise O’Sullivan, McCall Zerboni (Julia Spetsmark, 88’), Crystal Dunn; Lynn Williams, Jessica McDonald(McKenzie Meehan, 74’)
Subs not used: Katelyn Rowland, Kaleigh Kurtz, Samantha Mewis, Meredith Speck, Cari Roccaro,
WAS: Mallory Pugh (Bayley Feist, 75’), Rose Lavelle (Arielle Ship, 84’)
NCC: Lynn Williams (Jessica McDonald, 45+2’)
WAS: Tori Huster 56’, Cheyna Matthews 59’
NCC: Abby Erceg 86’