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Recap: A lightning delay, a lot of goals, questionable refereeing, and the Spirit’s eighth draw

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NWSL: Washington Spirit at North Carolina Courage Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

A weird and wacky game of soccer broke out in Cary, NC as the North Carolina Courage equalized three times to earn a 3-3 draw with the Washington Spirit. The match involved a lightning delay, two braces, and a refereeing decision that confused everyone. Trinity Rodman scored a brace and Tara McKeown got on the scoreboard, but it was countered by Diana Ordoñez and Brittany Ratcliffe, with the aid of a dubious penalty call.

The match began at a furious end to end pace that saw both teams get chances. Kelley O’Hara made an early key defensive sliding clearance in the box just when it looked like North Carolina would grab the lead.

The Spirit unveiled a new formation, a sort of 3421 with Trinity Rodman covering LWB and a back three of Kelley O’Hara, Sam Staab and Amber Brooks. Things were slightly shaky in the beginning, allowing the high pressing Courage to pressure the Spirit into turnovers for counterattacking opportunities. Just as the Spirit were settling into their responsibilities, the match was halted for a lightning delay in the 24th minute.

The delay lasted about an hour but eventually the dangerous weather cleared and the teams got the match started at much the same pace, if not with even more intensity.

In the 31st minute Tara McKeown latched onto a long delivery from Sam Staab and went 1v1 with Casey Murphy. McKeown beat the keeper but the ball also rolled wide of the near post.

Washington came out a bit more organized in their new formation and have found the spaces to use the Courage’s aggression against them. After a handful of half chances, Trinity Rodman opened the scoring in the 42nd minute.

The Spirit pressed hard and won the ball high. Sanchez recieved a pass at the top of the box and slipped in a no look pass to Rodman on her left who blasted the ball into the far top corner.

Just as the Spirit were feeling like they’d gotten the reward for their gameplan and execution, Brittany Ratcliffe bullied her way through the line to be first to a through ball and slot it by Aubrey Kingsbury. It was a counterpunch that was as quick as it was frustrating for Washington who were carved open with just two vertical passes.

A minute later Washington responded with a counterpunch of their own. Kelley O’Hara collected the ball deep on the far left side and measured a long lofted pass into the box. Tara McKeown timed her leap perfectly and met the ball just ahead of the outstretched arms of 6’1 goalkeeper Casey Murphy. The ball floated behind Murphy and into the back of the net for the Spirit’s second lead of the match.

Halftime came with the Spirit taking an unconventional route to a lead but a lead nonetheless.

The Spirit’s lead lasted all of seven minutes after the restart. Aubrey Kingsbury got caught in an awkward position facing a high press and didn’t get enough on a pass that was intercepted and fed back in for a quick touch into the back of the net from Diana Ordoñez.

Trinity Rodman was personally offended by this so three minutes later decided to do some Trinity Rodman things to retake the lead, again. Ashley Sanchez sent a ball into Rodman who was being marked by Kaleigh Kurtz. Though Kurtz was able to win the first touch, Rodman kept the pressure up to deflect the ball, curl to claim possession and fire a shot near post beyond Casey Murphy.

Unfortunately, referee JC Griggs then decided to make a very curious decision as a cross was sent about twenty feet over a crowd of players and Diana Ordoñez fell. There was some contact but on the replay there was nothing egregious or intentional, but the referee decided it was enough to give North Carolina a shot to tie from the penalty spot. Truly a curious, borderline outrageous decision.

Ordoñez converted and the teams were tied yet again, 3-3.

Just before the ninety minute mark Kaleigh Kurtz nearly repeated her late heroics from the last meeting between these two. Carson Pickett’s deep cross from a free kick lands near the back post and just misses Kurtz’s sliding foot.

Six minutes of stoppage time were added for the Spirit to find their winner and reclaim the lead for the fourth time. However, it was Jorian Baucom who had a great chance to break Spirit hearts early in stoppage time as she met a cross from Kiki Pickett and rattled it onto the bar. A late free kick from the edge of the box gave the last kick of the match to North Carolina but Carson Pickett skied the ball into the stands.

The final whistle blew, securing the Spirit’s eighth draw of the season. Needed three in this one, and the Spirit will undoubtedly be frustrated that the third goal was a soft penalty out of nowhere.

Box Score

NWSL Regular Season

Courage - 3 (Ratcliffe 45’; Ordoñez 53’, 62[pen])

Spirit - 3 (Rodman 42’, 56’; McKeown 45+1’)


Courage (4231): Murphy; C. Pickett, Erceg, Kurtz, Williams; Speck, O’Sullivan, Berkely, Pinto (Tagliaferri 76’); Ratcliffe (K. Pickett 76’), Ordoñez (Baucom 82’)

Spirit (3421): Kingsbury; O’Hara, Staab, Brooks; Rodman, Bailey, Sullivan, Heilferty (Aylmer 75’); Sanchez, Baggett (Feist 62’); McKeown


Courage - None

Spirit - Bailey 19’