The Washington Spirit fell Wednesday night to NWSL table leaders North Carolina Courage 2-0 at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park.
North Carolina earned their 13th win of the season through 17 games (13-1-3, 42 pts). With the loss, Washington fell to 2-11-4 (10 points).
Brazilian international Debinha opened scoring early in the 12th minute. Lynn Williams controlled a long ball down the left side and played the ball through the box to where a lunging Whitney Church stabbed the initial ball away, but Debinha collected the rebound to give the Courage an early lead.
Jessica McDonald finished the second goal for the Courage in the 60th minute. Crystal Dunn collected a turnover in the Washington half and distributed to McDonald on the right side at the top of the penalty box. McDonald cut to her left and fired a shot which deflected off of Church seeking to defend and doubled the Courage lead.
The back line of Church, Taylor Smith, Estelle Johnson and Caprice Dydasco started together for the fourth consecutive game and for a significant portion of the game held the league’s most potent offense intact. The defense recorded five blocked shots including an impressive block in the 90th minute from Johnson who made up significant ground and caught up with Williams who was in-behind and cleanly slid in blocking a potential late third goal for North Carolina.
Aubrey Bledsoe recorded another impressive performance, recording four saves on six Courage shots on target. Bledsoe came up with another highlight reel save in the 55th minute, diving full extension into and colliding into the post to rob North Carolina of a goal.
The save earned Bledsoe the No. 1 spot on ESPN’s SportCenter Top 10 Plays on Wednesday night. Bledsoe took away what appeared to be a sure goal for North Carolina’s Lynn Williams, who had found open space deep in the Spirit box, and released a close range shot from the right side of the goal. Bledsoe, who had been drawn slightly out of the goal, made a quick recovery and came up with a full-extension diving stop just before Williams’ shot crossed the line.
The Spirit offense mustered six shots against the tough North Carolina defense, four of which were on target. Washington created the first major chance for either side in the 10th minute when Andi Sullivan threaded a through ball to Taylor Smith in-behind the back line. Smith’s shot was collected by goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland, who recorded four saves on the evening.
Washington nearly scored for the second consecutive game on a corner kick in the 48th minute. Church found an open Tori Huster, but the midfielder’s header was just high of the crossbar.
In the 83rd minute, substitute Rose Lavelle played a ball ahead to Ashley Hatch who took a clean first touch and fired at the net. Her shot required a save from Rowland and led to a corner kick.
Lavelle and Havana Solaun each entered the contest and earned significant minutes as second half substitutes for the second consecutive game. Mallory Eubanks returned to action, entering the game as a substitute in the 85th minute.
The Washington Spirit returns home to the Maryland SoccerPlex on Saturday, July 21 to take on the Houston Dash. Kickoff is set for 7:00 pm.
Top: Washington Spirit’s Estefania Banini during Wednesday’s 2-0 lost to the North Carolina Courage.
Video: Washington Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe earned the No. 1 spot on ESPN’s SportCenter Top 10 Plays for her 55th minute save on Wednesday night against the North Carolina Courage.
Photo and video courtesy Washington Spirit.