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Spirit Suffer Second Home Loss, Fall to Courage 3-2

The Washington Spirit suffered their second straight one-goal home as they lost a tough match to the NWSL leading North Carolina Courage on a rare Wednesday night game at the Maryland SoccerPlex. The Courage scored two late goals to win 3-2.

While losing the game may be tough for the Spirit who have won just four games this season, tied four and lost 12, the more difficult loss may be the injury to outstanding defender Estelle Johnson who was carried off the field on a stretcher. And Nigerian International forward Francisca Ordega come off the field with a hamstring injury late in the game.

For a team which has seen player after player go down with injury this season seeing those player go down may be worse than the loss. While Johnson returned to the bench and was walking on her own, her left knee was wrapped. Since the start of the season, the Spirit have lost player after player to injury. In Saturday’s game rookie forward Arielle Ship went down with a right knee ACL tear; Danish International midfielder Line Sigvardsen Jensen was lost to a right knee ACL tear while playing for the Danish National Team in July; veteran midfielder Joanna Lohman was lost for the season with a left ACL tear back in May; substitute Yanara Aedo is out with a right knee meniscus tear, midfielder Kassey Kallman has been out with a concussion after being hit in the face with a hard shot; and last year’s starting goalkeeper Kelsey Wys continues to show up as doubtful while she recovers from a right ACL tear which happened over the winter while she played in Australia.

For the second straight game, the Spirit were without their Bronze Medal Winning Canadian International keeper as Stephanie Labbé was out with an “excused absence” giving DiDi Haracic her second straight start between the pipes.

Washington took an early lead on a put-back goal by Argentine international Estefanía Banini, who tapped in a deflected save by Courage goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland following an initial shot from forward Cheyna Williams. The goal was Banini’s first of the season.

Just before halftime, North Carolina managed to level the score at 1-1 when U.S. international Sam Mewis placed a header into the top right corner of the net on a feed from her USA teammate Abby Dahlkemper.

U.S. international forward Jessica McDonald netted back-to-back goals in the second half to put North Carolina ahead, starting in the 61st minute on a header from the center of the box, finishing off a pass from U.S. international defender Jaelene Hinkle.

McDonald struck again in the 66th minute, sending a shot from the center of the box into the bottom right corner of the net. Another U.S. teammate, forward Lynn Williams, was credited with the assist on the play as Carolina took a 3-1 advantage.

The Spirit countered quickly, as Williams scored her fifth goal of the season in the 73rd minute on a tap-in from point blank range. The second-year forward won a race against a pair of Courage defenders to the front of the goal after Francisca Ordega sent a cross in from along the right wing.

Both defenses held strong the rest of the way, as the Courage held on for the narrow 3-2 win.