The Washington Spirit suffered their first defeat in over two months in a 2-1 loss to the defending champion North Carolina Courage.
The Spirit played a strong first half highlighted by multiple highlight saves by Aubrey Bledsoe. Among them was a deflection over the bar following a well-hit shot from Merritt Mathias.
The Courage would break through at the end of the first half on a penalty kick in the third minute of added time at the end of the second half. Brazillian midfielder Debinia fired the ball to the left side, but Bledsoe made the initial diving save. The following rebound fell right to the feet of charging Debinha, who tucked the chance away into an empty net.
NC found the back of the net again in the 53rd minute putting the Courage up 2-0. The Spirit began to mount an impressive comeback in the second half, with many players getting quality chances. Of those chances, a cut-and-shoot opportunity from Cheyna Matthews threatened to cut the lead.
The Spirit earned their first goal on the night off an inbounds pass from Sam Staab. Defender Staab centered the ball in from the left wing to the left side of the box, finding Bayley Feist. Feist connected on a header which then found forward Crystal Thomas, who headed the ball to the lower left side of the goal and past keeper Katelyn Rowland.
The Spirit surge would continue into the final minute of action. The best chance of the match for the Spirit to equalize came from the left-foot of forward Ashley Hatch, who tested Rowland with a bending shot her right, forcing a fantastic save.
However, the comeback would fall just short. The defeat marks the first Spirit loss in over two months. The franchise record unbeaten streak will stand at 69 days.
The Spirit travel south to Orlando to face the last-place Pride next Saturday with a 7:30 pm. kickoff at the Orlando City Stadium. The game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. The match will also be streamed on Yahoo! Sports and Monumental Sports Network.
Top: Forward Crystal Thomas (31) gave the Spirit late life with a goal to cut the lead to 2-1, but it wasn’t enough to complete the comeback.
Video: Crystal Thomas cuts the lead to one.
Photo and video courtesy Washington Spirit.