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NWSL Saturday: Spirit go top of NWSL with win over Royals

Washington Spirit 2, Utah Royals FC 0

The Washington Spirit continued their remarkable start to the NWSL season defeating the Royals 2-0 on Saturday night at the Maryland SoccerPlex. The win was the fifth in seven matches for a side that accrued only 11 points all of 2018, and it leaves them in first place ahead of next weekend’s league-wide bye.

Ashley Hatch starred on the offensive side of the ball for the Spirit, scoring in the first half and creating a goal for Dorian Bailey in the second. The opener came in the 23rd minute. Jordan DiBiasi sprung an attack by deftly playing a ball in midfield traffic out wide to Tori Huster. The next pass went to Hatch who turned on the right shoulder of the penalty area and sent a shot that split two Royals defenders and then beat Nicole Barnhart to the far post.

At 70 minutes, Erika Tymrak was muscled off the ball by Andi Sullivan and Cali Farquharson played a quick ball ahead to Hatch. The 2017 NWSL Rookie of the Year took the wide space to reduce her angle and her initial shot hit the far post, possibly with a tip by Barnhart. Bailey followed up the play and finished the rebound for her first professional goal.

Bledsoe’s shut out was her fourth of the season, matching her career total over 34 matches entering the season.

The Spirit (5-1-1, 16 pts) assure themselves of being clear in first place when they next take the pitch Saturday, June 15 away to Reign FC. The Royals (4-2-1, 13 pts) are now 1-2-1 after a 3-0-0 start and next host Sky Blue FC, also June 15.

Goal Summary

  1. Washington Spirit (Ashley Hatch , 23′)
  2. Washington Spirit (Dorian Bailey, 70′)

Caution Summary

  • none

— Dan Lauletta

Orlando Pride 0, North Carolina Courage 3

It started with progress: when the halftime whistle blew, it was the first half all season long in which Orlando hadn’t given up a goal. It ended as it has too many times for the Pride, with no goals and no points.

The first half played out like two teams who haven’t been in their best form, as these two teams were. Haley Kopmeyer made a couple of good saves late, but otherwise neither side created many chances. It was a slightly chippy yet tightly called match, with nothing too egregious, and the teams went into the locker room fairly even.

Orlando started out the second half the better side, getting their best look on goal when Samantha Leshnak was forced to be quick off her line but was still beaten by Rachel Hill, but Hill’s shot went wide. However, it didn’t last long.

In the 59th minute, Kopmeyer made a good stop on a cross, but she spilled the ball, and Kristen Hamilton was there to clean up the rebound to open scoring.

Less than 10 minutes later, it was Hamilton again, working her way past two defenders to fire a rocket over Kopmeyer.

But she wasn’t done yet. Shortly before stoppage time, Jaelene Hinkle sent a great ball into the box right at Hamilton’s feet, and she played it through with a nice karate kick to notch her first-ever career hat trick.

The Courage (3-2-3) jump up to third place and host Portland on June 15, after the NWSL’s World Cup break. Orlando (0-7-1) remain in ninth place and travel to Houston that same day.

Goal Summary

  1. North Carolina Courage (Kristen Hamilton, 59′)
  2. North Carolina Courage (Kristen Hamilton, 66′)
  3. North Carolina Courage (Kristen Hamilton, 85′)

– Chelsey Bush

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