Despite a furious rally late in the second half, the Spirit took a tough loss to North Carolina after a stoppage time goal from the visiting side at Segra Field Saturday night.
The Courage struck first in the sixth minute when Kerolin received a through ball from Brianna Pinto and broke away down the middle of the field. With just one defender to beat, Kerolin fired a shot from the left side of the box that found the back of the net on the far right side of the goal. Trinity Rodman was almost able to bring the Spirit level in the 19th minute when she took a shot from the right side of the box that connected with the center of the crossbar and bounced out of play.
In the 23rd minute, Sam Staab stifled a North Carolina threat when she blocked an attempted cross from close range out of bounds for a corner kick. Five minutes later, Spirit newcomer Maddie Elwell beat out her defender on a feed down the sideline and delivered a great cross to Rodman, whose ensuing shot went just wide left. In the 39th minute, Rodman took a shot from long distance that had to be saved by the Courage’s Casey Murphy in the bottom left corner of the goal.
The final minutes before halftime saw several close scoring chances starting with an open net opportunity for the Courage in the 40th. North Carolina’s Brianna Pinto sent a cross from the right side of the goal near the end line that found its way across the width of the target almost perfectly parallel to the goal line but no Courage players were able to get a foot on it.
A minute later, Washington’s Elwell received a corner kick from Staab and ripped a shot into the outside of the net from close range. For a moment in the 45th minute, the Spirit appeared to have netted an equalizer when Elwell finished off an attack from the home side but the rookie was ruled offside.
Just five minutes into the second half, the Courage doubled its lead. Carson Pickett fed a corner kick into the center of the box that Abby Erceg headed home to push the margin to 2-0. The Spirit’s dynamic duo of Rodman and Ashley Sanchez combined for another great scoring chance in the 56th minute when Rodman fed Sanchez in the center of the box for a shot on goal that was saved by Murphy.
From the 70th minute on, Washington was able to shift its offense into another gear. In the 70th, Bayley Feist had a great look from inside the box that was tipped out of bounds for a Spirit corner kick. Finally, in the 74th minute, the Spirit broke through when Sanchez and Feist ran a quick give-and-go to set up a score. Sanchez received an entry pass from Cam Biegalski and delivered a masterful spinning touch pass to Feist low in the box. As Sanchez broke toward the goal, Feist fed the ball back to her for the finish into the back of the net.
Three minutes later, Rodman received a cross near the center of the box but had her shot deflected out for a corner kick. Maintaining possession, the Spirit set up the equalizer when Ashley Hatch centered a ball in the box for Emily Sonnett who was fouled in front of the net. Hatch stepped up and buried the ensuing penalty kick for her fourth goal of the regular season, knotting the match at two goals apiece.
Washington was able to orchestrate four more quality shots in the attacking third before stoppage time, including an 81st-minute Taylor Aylmer strike through traffic from the top of the box that went just wide left and an 83rd-minute Bayley Feist header from the center of the box that missed high and right. In spite of the late offensive energy from the defending champions, North Carolina was able to convert when it mattered most.
In the third minute of stoppage time, the Courage’s Kaleigh Kurtz buried a loose ball for the late lead after a free kick. Washington had one more look at the goal when Rodman sent a header on target that had to be saved by Murphy just before full time was called, giving the Courage a rare 2022 regular season win.
The Spirit now has a six-day break until its next match, a bout with Racing Louisville FC on Friday, June 17 at Segra Field. Following the match, Washington will have 16 days until it travels to San Diego for its first-ever contest against Wave FC.
For more information on the Washington Spirit fans are encouraged to click on the link seen here: