North Carolina Courage vs. Washington Spirit Preview: Two ends of the table meet

Two teams that were neck and neck last season are now separated by eight teams in the table, but that doesn't make this match any less important on both sides.

North Carolina Courage vs. Washington Spirit Preview: Two ends of the table meet
The North Carolina Courage will host the Washington Spirit in a rematch of the 2016 NWSL Final

The Washington Spirit will travel south on Saturday to take on the North Carolina Courage in the 17th week of NWSL play. The Courage and Spirit sit in first and last place in the table, respectively, so this rematch of the 2016 NWSL final will likely go the same way as that match, and the first time these two teams met this season: a victory for the Courage.

That being said, however, the NWSL has been full of midseason trades, the Spirit especially waiving and acquiring players, so a victory against the Washington team of seventeen weeks ago does not automatically equal one this Saturday. Unlikely opponents have stopped the Courage from plowing right through them as may be expected from the league leaders, and the Spirit have beaten teams much higher than them in the table by much wider margins than expected from a team with only four wins this season, so this weekend’s match will prove exciting for both the home Courage fans and traveling Spirit spectators.

Washington needs to capitalize

In last week’s draw against the Boston Breakers, the Spirit missed on many close chances that eventually spelled the difference between one point or three. With an opponent that may be more of a challenge this weekend, it will be even more important for Washington to convert their shots. In other matchups, there may be wider margins of error, more shooting opportunities to come if one is missed.

This weekend, however, shots on goal may be few and far between, so the forwards will need to make the build up worth it. The Spirit are not short on forwards, boasting Mallory Pugh, Arielle Ship, and Cheyna Williams among others. The last time these two teams met, the Courage won by only one goal. The Spirit have gained personnel and experience since that first match, and may even be able to grab a few points tomorrow.

Spirit players celebrate against Boston |Source: Washington Spirit Twitter @WashSpirit

North Carolina trying to hold onto Supporters’ Shield

The Courage have had the top of the table within their sight for the whole season, which makes sense considering their championship season last year. When it comes down to it, though, none of those weeks at the top matter if they drop the ball at the very end. It is crucial for North Carolina to win matchups like this one with the Spirit.

Three points against a team at the very bottom of the table who may be a bit down on their luck is not groundbreaking, but the three points will give them more cushion going into games against some tougher teams. They have enough talent in Jess McDonald and Sam Mewis, among others, it’s now just a matter of each player doing their job when it counts through the next few weeks. 

Game Details:

The match will be played on Saturday, August 19, 2017, at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina. The match will kick-off at 3:30 PM EST and will be televised as Lifetime’s Game of the Week