The Washington Spirit welcomed back five starters Friday from U.S. national team duty, but even after taking three leads and watching Trinity Rodman score twice, the reigning National Women’s Soccer League champions settled for a 3-3 draw with the North Carolina Courage in Cary, N.C.
“Disappointment is high,” defender Kelley O’Hara said. “We were up three times, and we blew it.”
All the scoring occurred in a 20-minute span bridging intermission. Rodman, a 20-year-old forward who helped the U.S. team win the Concacaf W Championship in Mexico, scored in the 42nd and 56th minutes — the first two-goal game of her professional career.
Tara McKeown also scored, but the last-place Courage (2-5-3) answered each time to negate Washington’s highest output of the season.
Diana Ordoñez (University of Virginia) had two goals, including the last equalizer, which came on a 62nd-minute penalty kick.
“[The Spirit] is very, very good creating scoring chances,” Washington Coach Kris Ward said, “and unfortunately we created some for them.”
Not all of the Spirit’s returning U.S. players were available: Defender Emily Sonnett (foot) and forward Ashley Hatch (leg) were sidelined.
North Carolina welcomed back goalkeeper Casey Murphy, who started three of five U.S. games at the W Championship. But the hosts were without dynamic attackers Debinha and Kerolin, who are with the Brazilian national team in Colombia for Copa América Femenina, which serves as 2023 World Cup qualifying.
The Courage also was missing starting defenders Merritt Mathias (coronavirus protocols) and Jaelene Daniels, who declined to wear the team’s rainbow uniform on Pride Night, which celebrates the LGBTQ+ community.
Five years ago, citing religious reasons, Daniels turned down a U.S. national team call-up because the squad was planning to wear jerseys with rainbow colors.
In a pregame statement, the Courage said, “While we’re disappointed with her choice, we respect her right to make that decision for herself.”
The teams combined for three goals in the last five minutes of the first half.
In the 42nd minute, Washington went ahead on Rodman’s goal. Amber Brooks won the ball 35 yards out. McKeown connected with Ashley Sanchez, whose no-look pass set up Rodman for an angled bid into the far side.
Two minutes later, the Courage drew even. On Denise O’Sullivan’s through ball, Brittany Ratcliffe (Virginia) split two defenders and slotted a low shot past goalkeeper Aubrey Kingsbury.
In the first minute of stoppage time, the Spirit reclaimed the lead when McKeown beat Murphy to O’Hara’s high cross and headed in her first goal.
Eight minutes into the second half, Meredith Speck intercepted Kingsbury’s stray clearance and crossed to Ordoñez for a tap-in.
Three minutes later, Rodman pressured defender Kaleigh Kurtz, seized possession and ripped a rising shot into the near side for her fourth goal of the year. In the 62nd, Ordoñez converted a penalty kick after Ratcliffe drew off-the-ball contact on a cross into the box.
“We tried to get an explanation [of the penalty call], and it was a little bit unclear,” midfielder Andi Sullivan said. “But we have to look at the cross that led up to the penalty and how that broke down there.”
North Carolina’s Jorian Baucom hit the crossbar in stoppage time.
Looking at the prospects of saving the season, Sullivan said, “You’ve seen wilder runs than what we have to do. We are very aware we need to win out. . . . But before you can even talk about winning out, you need to talk about winning the next. We knew this was a big game and we knew we needed to win. So we’re all very disappointed.”
Notes: Midway through the first half, the match was delayed 68 minutes because of lightning. …
Spirit defender Sam Staab set a club record by making her 60th consecutive appearance, all starts. She surpassed Christine Nairn (2014-16). …
Washington will visit Racing Louisville (2-6-5) next Friday.
THORNS 2, RACING 1: In Louisville, Hina Sugita scored in the 74th minute as Portland (6-1-6) moved into first place. Sophia Smith, a U.S. national team forward, scored in the seventh minute before Alex Chidiac equalized in the 29th. Smith is second in the NWSL scoring race with nine goals, two behind the San Diego Wave’s Alex Morgan.