Washington Spirit Defeat North Carolina Courage 2-1
Mallory Pugh scored for the Spirit in the 75th minute. Photo: www.twitter.com/WashSpirit

Washington Spirit Defeat North Carolina Courage 2-1

The Spirit hold on to their faint playoff hopes as they down the Courage in an unexpected comeback.

jessicaaguann
Jessica Guan

The North Carolina Courage fell to the Washington Spirit 2-1 in their final road game of the season. Lynn Williams scored her fiftieth career goal, but it was not enough for the first-place team to maintain their winning streak despite being more dominant.

Courage show dominance

The Courage came out of the gates wanting to get on the board early, for the opening half was largely played in their attacking half. Their offense minded play earned them six corner kicks in the first twelve minutes of the game. The Washington defense, however, did well to thwart each of their attempts. 
 
In the 18th minute, Williams dispossessed Spirit rookie Samantha Staab at the top of the box and took her chance which sailed into the arms of goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe. Just three minutes later, Bledsoe punched away a volley by Brazilian international Debinha to keep the match scoreless temporarily. 
 
The Spirit continued to defend and take advantage of counterattacks. Their first clear chance came in the 22nd minute when striker Ashley Hatch received a ball from USWNT forward Mallory Pugh, but her shot was easily saved by Courage netminder Stephanie Labbé.
 
In the 38th minute, the lethal duo of Jessica McDonald and Williams created another chance for the visitors. However, even though Bledsoe was unable to hold on to the ball, the rebound from 2015 league MVP Crystal Dunn flew over the crossbar. 
 
Their chemistry finally paid off in stoppage time as McDonald picked up a cross from Dunn and took it all the way to the far corner before playing it to an oncoming Williams. The 2016 league MVP squared a shot right between Bledsoe’s legs to put her team ahead right before the intermission.

Spirit turn match around

Not wanting to let off the gas pedal, North Carolina began the second half the same way they played the first. In the 58th, Williams tried to double up with a shot from distance that forced Bledsoe to punch the ball over the crossbar. 
 
As the game wore on, Dunn also created some solid chances, but her attempts in the 63rd and 68th minute hit the crossbar and the post, respectively. 
 
After making some adjustments, the Spirit started to turn the match around in the last fifteen minutes of the match. The equalizer came in the 75th minute when second-half substitute Bayley Feist sent a low cross to Pugh who slotted the ball into the net with her left foot. 
 
Ten minutes later, Washington gained the advantage. Arielle Ship, another substitute, found an unmarked Rose Lavelle at the top of the box. The young USWNT midfielder sent a laser shot far post to give her team a win and a fighting chance of making the playoffs.


 
The Washington Spirit (7-8-6) will visit the Orlando Pride in the only NWSL match during next weekend's international break. The North Carolina Courage (14-4-4) close out their regular season against Sky Blue FC in exactly two weeks.

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