The Club Celebration of Pride Night Had a Little Bit of Everything: Goals, Controversy, and Fun
By Jaden Dakwa – LA Soccer Press
A goal from Brittany Ratcliffe and a second half brace from Diana Ordoñez was enough for the Courage to salvage a 3-3 draw with the Washington Spirit on Friday night at WakeMed Soccer Park.
In the midst of the club’s celebration of Pride Night, headlines before the match were dominated by the Courage’s decision to not roster Jaelene Daniels. Daniels made the decision to not wear the club’s Pride jersey that was created for Friday night’s match.
Daniels refused a call-up to the U.S Women’s National Team in 2017, as she refused to wear a Pride Month jersey.
The Courage continued their Pride Night celebrations with a Pride festival and an all-female professional skydiving team jumping into the stadium before the match. Fireworks were displayed at the conclusion of the match.
In the 22nd minute, the match was paused due lightning in the area. A weather delay lasted a little over an hour and the match was able to be resumed at 9:10 p.m.
Washington Spirit forward Tara McKeown nearly opened the scoring in the 31st minute when she was able to get past the Courage defense after receiving a perfectly weighted long ball from Sam Staab. McKeown was left one-on-one with the goalkeeper, but her effort drifted just wide of the near post.
Trinity Rodman handed the Spirit a one goal advantage in the 42nd minute when Ashley Sanchez slipped her through on goal, and Rodman hit a one time finish that nestled into the side net.
Only two minutes later, Courage forward Brittany Ratcliffe equalized the match after she coolly placed her shot past Spirit goalkeeper Audrey Bledsoe. Denise O’Sullivan played a through ball and Ratcliffe was able to position herself between two defenders to get into the box. Ratcliffe was able to notch another goal in consecutive matches.
The Spirit were able to head into the halftime break ahead after notching a goal in the first minute of stoppage time. Kelley O’Hara hit a lofted ball into the box and Courage goalkeeper Casey Murphy came off her line to punch the ball away. Murphy was not able to get to the ball in time and Tara McKeown was able to send a flicked header past Murphy.
In the 52nd minute, Aubrey Bledsoe hit a misplaced pass that was intercepted by Meredith Speck. Speck was able to get towards the touchline and play a square ball across goal for Diana Ordoñez. Ordoñez was able to tap the ball from close range and equalize the match.
Trinity Rodman was able to put the Spirit back into the lead in the 56th minute when she got into the box and finished with a strike that struck the near post that Murphy was able to get her hand to. Murphy’s effort to save the ball ricocheted off the post and trickled into the net.
Within four minutes, the Courage received a penalty call after Brittany Ratcliffe was pulled down in the box. Ordoñez stepped up to take the spot to take a penalty in the 61st minute. Ordoñez coolly dispatched her effort into the side net to bring the match level once again.
The Courage nearly had an opportunity to take the lead in the latter stages of the match. Substitute Jorian Baucom had a brilliant header in the box that rattled the crossbar in the 92nd minute of play.
Courage head coach Sean Nahas believes his team put up a great fight although they were not at their best for some stretches of the match.
“I was proud of the character of the group today,” Nahas said. “To go down one-nothing, equalize, go down again, and shortly after equalize, then go down. The character of the group and the way they fought through it and persevered, I thought was fantastic. I don’t think we were at our best by any stretch today, but we still had chances to win at the end.”
Nahas also spoke about keeping his locker room together and how he has been personally managing different beliefs players may have.
“I think it is a tough situation,” Nahas said. “I don’t necessarily have to agree with what people think and what they choose to believe. Just like people don’t believe in things that I do. I told them [the team] how I felt about them personally. I wasn’t gonna do anything to not have those players wear those jerseys tonight. That was a massive thing. My number one thing was nothing is going to come in between that.”
Nahas told the media players were not “necessarily surprised” by Daniels’ decision not to play. He still believes that overall it was a great night for the club and the players represented the crest well.
“It was a great crowd,” Nahas said. “To see the crowd the way it was today and how they were throughout the game, picking the players up, the celebration before the game and what they did there I thought was unbelievable. I think it was just a well taken off night and day for the club. I was really excited for the players and the club.”
A player who looked sharp through certain stretches of the match was Brittany Ratcliffe. Ratcliffe was proud of how the team responded and was ecstatic with build-up for her goal.
“To go down a goal, come back, get another goal, go down again, but then to come back and tie the game I think says a lot about our character,” Ratcliffe said. “At the end of the day, you can’t teach grit. I am happy the way we responded the way we did. In terms of walking through my goal, a beautiful ball by Sully [Denise O’Sullivan]. I don’t think you can put any better of a weight on that pass. She’s the best.”
The Courage will return to action on Friday, August 5th when they take on the Portland Thorns in Portland, Oregon.
Dakwa holds a BS in Journalism from Elon University. He writes about North Carolina professional soccer for L.A. Soccer Press. Follow him at @JDakwa on Twitter.