North Carolina Courage Falls 2-1 to Washington Spirit in a Close Contest

by | Apr 18, 2023 | NWSL

Courage Are Unable to Pick Up Points For Consecutive Matches

By Jaden Dakwa – LA Soccer Press

Goals from Trinity Rodman and Ashley Hatch in either half handed the Washington Spirit a 2-1 victory over the North Carolina Courage on Saturday evening at WakeMed Soccer Park. A first half goal from Kerolin was able to momentarily equalize the match, but the Courage conceded early in the second half. Courage captain Denise O’Sullivan celebrated her 100th appearance for the club before the match in front of an attendance of 5,160 fans.

Washington Spirit got off to a flying start in the 6th minute after Trinity Rodman pounced on Courage left back Kiki Pickett’s misplaced pass and rifled a shot into the side net.

The Courage were handed a lifeline after Washington Spirit midfielder Andi Sullivan was called for a handball in the box in the 41st minute.

Kerolin stepped up to the spot as the Courage’s designated penalty taker and her effort was nearly saved by Washington Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Kingsbury. The ball still ended up nestling into the corner of the net after Kingsbury got her fingertips to the shot.

In stoppage time of the first half, the ball came to Washington Spirit midfielder Marissa Sheva and she was able to get a shot on target. Courage defender Kaleigh Kurtz was able to make a block on the close range effort that may have been headed for goal.

The Courage conceded a penalty in the 48th minute after Emily Fox and Ashley Hatch engaged in a challenge for the ball. A foul was ruled on Emily Fox and VAR eventually ended up checking to review the call. The call was upheld and Washington Spirit Ashley Hatch stepped up to the spot in the 50th minute. Hatch struck the ball into the side of the net to restore the Washington Spirit’s lead.

Washington Spirit substitute Chloe Ricketts came onto the pitch for Marissa Sheva, making her first appearance in the National Women’s Soccer League at the age of 15. 

In stoppage time, Chloe Ricketts nearly hit the target from close range, but her effort ended up going wide of the target. 

The Courage continued to attack in an effort to find an equalizer in stoppage time, but were unable to score a goal.

Courage head coach Sean Nahas believes the team performed well, but lacked a clinical edge to convert some of their chances.

“I thought it was a good performance from the group to be fair,” Nahas said. “We had some moments of adversity and felt we had some good moments and spells and possession. I thought, especially in the second half, some of the adjustments we made in the spaces we found created some good chances in the later part of that half. But, you know you can’t be naive to think it’s just going to come easy. We have to find ways to put those in the back of the net and those are the learning moments that we’re going to go through. I was overall pleased with the team performance, just disappointed for them to not get a result.”

Nahas praised Courage captain Denise O’Sullivan for her achievement of reaching 100 appearances for the club.

“She’s the face of our club and she’s a warrior,” O’Sullivan said. “She loves the club. She wants to compete. She wants to have success. She’s taken this role on and she’s been a great leader for the group. She’s someone that always wants to be on the field and help us be successful. But, her energy, her engine, her quality on the ball is so much cleaner than it has been since she came. As she has been here she’s gotten so much better on the ball and in possession. She’s so much better defensively. But, that’s because of the work she puts in.”

Courage midfielder Denise O’ Sullivan spoke about her achievement and her career at the club so far. 

“It means a lot,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s an absolute honor. I’ve been playing for this club for a long time. The team is special and the club is great. And, the fans as well. It’s a happy moment, but it’s a pity about the results. We couldn’t top it off with a win, but we’ll get back to work again on Monday.”

Courage defender Emily Fox believes there were tense moments during the match that the backline dealt with well and will continue to improve from.

“I think for us, especially in the second half, we really minimized their attacking chances and locked it down,” Fox said. “And, I think learning from San Diego that really helped, especially with teams really direct. I think we improved from San Diego and I know we’ll try to improve from this game as well.

The Courage will start their NWSL UKG Challenge Cup campaign when the team faces Orlando Pride on Wednesday, April 18th at 7 PM ET.

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.