Hatch's extra-time goal sends Spirit to NWSL semifinals originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
The Washington Spirit have endured an adversity-filled season that included the dismissal of their head coach following a National Women’s Soccer League investigation for verbal and emotional abuse, a coronavirus outbreak and a bitter ownership dispute.
The drama long ago could have derailed Washington’s season. But the Spirit players banded together to go unbeaten in their final six games to qualify for the NWSL playoffs. On Sunday at Audi Field, they kept their season going with a dramatic extra-time win against the North Carolina Courage.
It took 90 scoreless minutes and then 30 minutes of extra time, but Ashley Hatch — the NWSL’s top goal scorer — slammed home a rebound in the 113th minute to lift the Spirit to an eventual 1-0 victory before an estimated 5,400 fans.
North Carolina came to Audi Field as the last team to get into the playoffs as the No. 6 seed. The Spirit were the No. 3 seed in the tournament and a mild favorite, especially after a 2-1 win over the Courage on the road Oct. 13. But it wasn’t easy.
Hatch jumped on a second chance opportunity off a shot by teammate Trinity Rodman and buried the chance to score the lone goal in the match. The Spirit held on for the final seven-plus minutes and avoided penalties.
Washington is 6-0-1 since it had to forfeit a pair of games thanks to a coronavirus outbreak – one in Portland against the top-seeded Thorns on Sept. 4 and the other a home match scheduled for Sept. 12 against OL Reign. Both games went down as 3-0 forfeits.
The Spirit will play in the NWSL semifinals on Nov. 14 at 3 p.m. when they travel to Tacoma, Wash. to face Team USA star Megan Rapinoe and the No. 2-seeded Reign with a spot in the championship game on the line. The final will be played on Nov. 20 in Louisville.