The NC Courage continued their dominant form with a 2-0 win against the Washington Spirit on Wednesday night. North Carolina controlled nearly every aspect of the game and coasted to an easy victory.
The game featured a new look for the Courage as Heather O’Reilly started at left back for Jaelene Hinkle in her first start since joining the club. Sam Mewis also started the game on the bench, coming on for Jess McDonald to help see the game out in the 65th minute.
As for the game itself, the Courage opened the scoring early on a long ball played to Lynn Williams. Spirit keeper Aubrey Bledsoe came off her line but failed to close down Williams before she could pass to Debinha in the box. The Brazilian took a touch, settled herself and tapped the ball into the open net.
The Courage would have their typical high number of chances in the game. The team managed 21 shots with six on goal and generated 18 crosses. The team also limited the Spirit to six shots and kept a clean sheet for the second time in three matches. It looked as if one of those chances had been converted in the 30th minute when a Lynn Williams header sailed into the Spirit net, but the assistant referee judged her offside and the goal was disallowed.
All of the pressure the Courage put on the Spirit nearly led to a goal in the 55th minute. A long ball played to Williams put her through on goal. Bledsoe again came off her line, but this time she recovered just in time to make a diving stop the keep the game at 1-0.
Finally, the team would double their lead in the 60th minute with a well taken chance from Jess McDonald. Crystal Dunn earned the assist when she dished a pass to McDonald just inside the 18 yard box. The forward would cut to her left and then loft a shot just out of the reach of Bledsoe to put the score at 2-0.
From there, North Carolina would manage the game to earn their 13th win in 17 games, a truly remarkable accomplishment.
After the match, Jess McDonald spoke about the win and the pressure that the team is under, saying “We definitely have a target on our back – we are the team to beat. And at the end of the day, it is kind of nice to have that pressure and be able to act on the field in a professional manner the way that we have during this process. It’s pretty amazing to see us improve each game.”
With seven matches remaining in the season for the Courage, it will be interesting to see if Riley rotates his squad more down the stretch or continues to have his first choice lineup refine their style of play.