Courage earn 13th win of the season, blank Spirit 2-0
Debinha and Jess McDonald scored
Jess McDonald scored her sixth goal of the season. (Photo credit:
Jess McDonald scored her sixth goal of the season. (Photo credit:

The North Carolina Courage collect another three points on the year defeating the Washington Spirit 2-0 in Week 16.

Debinha scored first for the Courage in the 12th minute, and Jess McDonald sealed the game off in the 60th minute. The Courage are now 13-1-3 with 42 points and secure in first place in the standings. The Spirit are now winless in their last eight matches and drop to 2-11-4 and 10 points.

With the win, the Courage have now won four-straight, while the Spirit have now dropped four-straight.

Heather O’Reilly made her debut for the Courage last Wednesday, coming on in the 75th minute against the Chicago Red Stars. On Wednesday night of Week 16, O’Reilly earned her first start suiting up as a left back.

The Spirit sat back against the Courage— they were conscious to get numbers behind the ball and slow the game down. But, in the 12th minute the Courage found a way in as Debinha scored her sixth goal of the season to make it 1-0.

The play started with a long ball over the top from McCall Zerboni to Lynn Williams down the flank. Williams looked like she had a small window to shoot, but decided to slip it across the box where it got deflected and Debinha was able to pull-back and slot it home. Debinha scored her sixth goal of the season.

Courage forward Crystal Dunn had a couple of looks to follow, but Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe came up big for her side denying any more goals before the break. In the 40th minute, O’Reilly and Zerboni combined on transition and set up defender Merritt Mathias down the right flank. Mathias had space, but her shot from a distance was collected by Bledsoe.

After the first half, the Spirit had their first corner kick of the night and midfielder Tori Huster was able to get her head on the service, but it went high. In the 47th minute, Williams found herself in a dangerous position at the top of the box and got a shot off. Her chance was saved by Bledsoe.

In the 54th minute it was a Williams-Bledsoe battle once again, and this time Bledsoe showed phenomenal recovery footwork to follow the play and deny Williams’ shot.

In the 60th minute the Courage continued to push for a second and this time it was McDonald who found the small window to shoot and buried it past Bledsoe for the 2-0 lead. Dunn earned the assist, her fifth of the season. McDonald scored her sixth goal of the season and this is the second goal she has scored in the Courage’s last three games.

In the 61st minute it looked like the Courage were going to get another one as McDonald played a dangerous service far post and the Courage had more number than not crashing the box.

The Courage finished the game with 21 shots to the Spirit’s six and held a 53.7 % possession to the Spirit’s 46.3%.

Spirit midfielder Rose Lavelle entered the game in the 68th minute and in the 83rd minute slotted Ashley Hatch in behind the Courage defense. Hatch took a shot from the right side of the box, but Courage goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland came up big to earn the shutout on the night. Rowland has three shutout performances this season and has collected 30 saves.

In the 90th minute it looked like the Courage were going to put a stamp on the night with a third goal, but Spirit defender Estelle Johnson made a crucial block to deny Williams the chance to shoot on Bledsoe.

Johnson finished the night with eight clearances, three blocks and two interceptions. Johnson remains first in the league in clearances with 92.

The Courage will next travel to New Jersey to face Sky Blue FC on Saturday and the Spirit will have some time to bounce back before they return to NWSL action the following Saturday vs. the Houston Dash.

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