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Washington Spirit stymied by NC Courage in 0-0 draw

Despite controlling large portions of the game, the Spirit found the Courage defense unsolvable at Audi Field

Kelley Piper / Black and Red United

The Washington Spirit had the bulk of the chances, but were stymied by the North Carolina Courage in a 0-0 draw at Audi Field. Courage goalkeeper Casey Murphy made four difficult saves to keep the Spirit at bay, but the larger story may have played out in the stands, with supporters chanting for Spirit owner Steve Baldwin to sell his share of the team amid multiple controversies in recent weeks.

Washington nearly went up very early, with Andi Sullivan playing Ashley Hatch in over the top, but the Spirit’s top scorer’s lob was snagged by Casey Murphy in the 3rd minute. Trinity Rodman had a promising shot go wide shortly thereafter, but the Courage began to settle into the game in the minutes that followed.

Washington was still creating the actual threats, though. Hatch nearly got to a Tori Huster chip into the box, while Rodman cut in from the left to fire just over the bar in the 22nd minute.

The Spirit were having the better of the match, but as the half wore on, NC’s resolute defense was able to restrict Washington to longer-range shots as the half wore on.

Rodman beat Carson Pickett along the right in the 59th minute to create a shot from nine yards for Sanchez, but Murphy produced a top save to tip the ball over the bar. Sanchez went closer a minute later, hitting the post from almost no angle after the ball found its way across to her from the left wing.

The Courage did have some threats after the hour mark, though. Substitute Jess McDonald’s shot struck Kelley O’Hara, prompting an NC penalty shout that referee Greg Dopja rejected, while Debinha’s 70th minute shot was cleared off the line by Sam Staab after sneaking past Aubrey Bledsoe and then deflecting off of Emily Sonnett as well.

Bledsoe produced a strong challenge to deny McDonald again as both teams opened up to produce a late game-winner. Hatch nearly re-took the NWSL scoring lead in the 78th minute, cutting onto her right foot but shooting just barely over the bar from 19 yards. Substitute Julia Roddar, in her first action since winning the silver medal at the Olympics with Sweden, nearly came up with an 84th minute winner after coming up from left back, only for Murphy to react at the last minute and slap her low effort wide.

NC had another half-hearted penalty claim as McDonald’s shot pinged off of Huster’s leg before hitting her hand, but Dopja wasn’t interested.

Despite a late push that included corners that brought the crowd to their feet, Washington couldn’t find the breakthrough, with the Courage extending their shutout streak to 400 minutes.

The draw sees Washington (6W-5D-5L, 23 points) remain in 4th place in the NWSL standings for the moment, but with other games going on tonight, they could fall to 5th or 6th before the weekend is out. They face a daunting match next Saturday, September 4, as they head west to face the league-leading Portland Thorns in a game set for a 10:30pm kickoff.


Box Score

NWSL Regular Season - Game 16
Washington Spirit 0
North Carolina Courage 0

Lineups:
Spirit (433): Aubrey Bledsoe; Paige Nielsen (Julia Roddar 60), Emily Sonnett, Sam Staab, Kelley O’Hara; Tori Huster, Andi Sullivan (C), Dorian Bailey; Trinity Rodman, Ashley Hatch, Ashley Sanchez

Courage (4312): Casey Murphy; Merritt Mathias (Kendall Fletcher 88), Kaleigh Kurtz, Diane Caldwell, Carson Pickett; Cari Roccaro, Denise O’Sullivan, Meredith Speck (Ryan Williams 78); Debinha (Angharad James 88); Amy Rodriguez (Jess McDonald 63), Lynn Williams

Bookings:
Spirit - Roddar 94+
Courage - L. Williams 55