There was no lack of excitement in a six-goal matchup Saturday between the North Carolina Courage and Washington Spirit.
The Courage (3-0-0, 9 points) came out on top, overcoming an early deficit with a brace from midfielder McCall Zerboni and goals from Crystal Dunn and Lynn Williams for a 4-2 result in front of an announced crowd of 3,458 at the Maryland SoccerPlex.
Three minutes after kickoff, Mallory Pugh put the Spirit (1-2-0, 3 points) up 1-0 with a shot past Courage keeper Sabrina D’Angelo into the upper right corner of goal.
The lead did not last long as North Carolina flipped momentum in a five-minute span.
First, Dunn scored off an assist from Jessica McDonald in the 20th minute. Then in minute 24, Zerboni got her first goal via free kick. North Carolina continued to dominate from that point on, entering halftime with a 2-1 lead and 54 percent possession. The Courage also outshot Washington 8-3 and had six shots on goal compared to their opponent’s two.
Zerboni came out firing in the second half as well and gave her team a 3-1 advantage in the 48th minute after a shot into the bottom left corner of the net.
The Spirit narrowed the gap with a 58th-minute goal by Francisca Ordega, who was wide open at the far post when he received a cross from teammate Havana Solaun moments after a corner kick. The Spirit looked rejuvenated after the goal and the crowd grew raucous. Pugh made some dangerous-looking runs — including a combination up the left side in the 65th minute for a shot she couldn’t quite angle enough and sent into the side of the net.
That momentum died after the Courage again went up by two goals a minute later.
Dunn sent a ball forward to Williams, who fired a grounder from about 20 yards out into the left corner of the net for the final score.
The Spirit lost Pugh in the 75th minute after she went down with an injury. She walked gingerly off the pitch after being looked at by a trainer and was replaced by Tori Huster. A sense of urgency kicked in and the Spirit maintained more possession toward the end, but North Carolina did not relent, pressing and controlling play until the final whistle.
In the end, the Courage doubled Washington’s shots, 16-8, and more than tripled the Spirit’s shot on goal, 10-3. D’Angelo finished with two saves, while Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe collected six.
North Carolina has a short turnaround with its next match Wednesday at home against the Seattle Reign. Washington travels across the country for a Friday meeting with the Portland Thorns.