Courage clinch spot in the NWSL Playoffs; McDonald tallies brace
It's North Carolina's 14th win of the season
North Carolina Courage forward Jess McDonald scored twice vs. the Spirit.
 (Photo credit: Brad Smith/
North Carolina Courage forward Jess McDonald scored twice vs. the Spirit. (Photo credit: Brad Smith/

The North Carolina Courage became the first team to clinch a spot in the NWSL Playoffs with a 3-2 win over the Washington Spirit on Wednesday night at Maureen Hendricks Field at the Maryland SoccerPlex. Courage forward Jess McDonald scored twice in the comeback win.


With the victory, North Carolina (14-5-0, 42 points) became the second team in NWSL history to win 14 games. With five games left to play, they are two games shy of tying the record of 16 wins set by Seattle Reign FC in 2014 (also set in a 24 game season, like 2017). It’s also the first time the Courage have won a game after conceding first.


Courage midfielder Sam Mewis scored in first half stoppage time to level the match after North Carolina fell behind 1-0 on an 8th minute goal by Spirit midfielder EstefanÌa Banini. Mewis’ goal came as the result of a free kick, awarded after Spirit midfielder Tori Huster earned a yellow card for a foul on Courage forward Kristen Hamilton near midfield.


Defender Abby Dahlkemper took the ensuing free kick, sending it long into the box where Mewis out-jumped everyone and headed it past Spirit goalkeeper Didi Haracic for her fifth goal of the season.



The Courage made it 2-1 in the 61st minute on another set piece. McDonald was fouled on the right wing by Spirit defender Shelina Zadorsky to set up the free kick. This time it was taken by Jaelene Hinkle, whose kick was headed in by McDonald for her 34th career goal.


McDonald would need just five minutes to get her brace, scoring in the 66th minute off an assist from Lynn Williams.



With her two goals Wednesday night, McDonald moved past Chicago Red Stars forward Christen Press into second place all-time in the NWSL with 35 career goals. She trails only Sky Blue FC forward Sam Kerrs 42 goals for most in league history.


Spirit forward Cheyna Williams scored in the 73rd minute to pull Washington to within a goal, but that was as close as Washington would get in the game.



Francisca Ordega, who recorded the assist on the goal, looked like she was possibly injured on the play, but she stayed in the game until leaving in the 87th minute. Because the Spirit were out of subs, they finished the match with 10 players on the field.


Banini gave the Spirit an early lead, scoring in the 8th minute on a rebound after a shot by Williams.


Spirit defender Estelle Johnson was subbed out in the 52nd minute after appearing to injure her left leg on a non-contact play.


The Courage will try to earn win No. 15 and work on securing a home playoff game this weekend when they visit the Chicago Red Stars on Sunday.


The Spirit, who have already been eliminated from the playoffs, will head to Portland to take on the Thorns on Saturday.

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