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  • Erica Blackburn

Ashley Hatch kept the Spirit in a positive vibe after scoring two goals to help Washington win

WASHINGTON D.C. – Ashley Hatch scored two goals as the Washington Spirit defeated the North Carolina Courage 2-0 on Saturday.

A collision course was on the horizon at Audi Field. The Washington Spirit was looking to bounce back after last week’s defeat to Chicago. Meanwhile, the North Carolina Courage was flying high on a five-game winning streak and sitting on top of the NWSL standings. Both teams were missing top flight players due to the Olympic games.

Last week, Spirit head coach Richie Burke bemoaned how the team didn’t create enough chances against the Red Stars. You can tell Saturday’s game plan was to do just that. “Throughout the week of training, we re-calibrated,” said Burke. “We regrouped well, you know mentally and physically. I have to give an awful lot of credit to Michael (Minthorne), my high-performance coach. He did a great job of recovering players. We were a little bit worried about (Ashley) Sanchez and (Trinity) Rodman getting to those numbers but I thought they did great to get there.”

This was a different Spirit team. This Spirit team was aggressive. That aggression was evidenced by the yellow cards the Spirit collected. This Spirit team played with a sense of urgency. They controlled the game and possessed the ball 54% of the time. They wouldn’t have to wait long for a goal, as forward Ashley Hatch scored on a shot from the bottom left corner of the box. Ashley Hatch would score again in the 45th minute, assisted beautifully by midfielder Andi Sullivan. Courage struggled to generate offense and would only get one shot on goal in the first half.

In the second half, the Spirit’s youngsters cooled off a bit. Ashley Hatch nearly scored again in the 65th minute, but the ball ricocheted off the crossbar. Spirit had a few more chances to extend their lead but Hatch’s two scores proved just enough to take down the surging Courage.

We’ll take a look at some of the match film and realize what sort of stalled us (in the second half),” said Burke. “I think we dropped the tempo a little bit in the second half and didn’t push as much. But I’m not unhappy. I’m very pleased with our performance.”

Ashley Sanchez finished the game with 7 shots, with three shots on goal. Burke kept her in the game longer than anticipated because she was playing so well. “Don’t tell her, but she was on fire tonight,” said Burke. “She was very good.”

This win catapulted the Spirit to 4th place in the standings with a 4-2-3 record. North Carolina is still tied for first place with Orlando with a 5-3-1 record. “We were mindful of this being an important game, a hinge game for us,” said Burke. “If we lost this one, we’re still middle of the pack. It was a crucial match for us because of the numbers. But again, it’s the ninth game of the season. There’s still plenty to go.”

Spirit will look to build on their win as they take on NJ/NY Gotham FC next Sunday July 18th at Segra Field in Leesburg, VA at 5p ET.

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