Washington dug itself a 2-0 deficit entering the 58th minute, offering only two shots on goal.
“The first half was — it was something,” Spirit Coach Kris Ward said. “I’m not sure exactly. That’s a question that I think the players are best to answer. I don’t think anything changed from our minds, and training yesterday was pretty lively. Sometimes these things just happen.”
The Spirit hit their stride 13 minutes into the second half, when captain Andi Sullivan delivered a cross into the box for forward Trinity Rodman, who settled it at her feet and lifted a shot over the head of Courage goalie Katelyn Rowland.
Within 10 minutes, Washington was level after Julia Roddar sent another cross into the box and Ashley Hatch ran onto it for a header, her second goal in as many games.
The draw was the Spirit’s third in as many Challenge Cup matches.
Hatch has picked up where she left off in 2021, when she led the league in goals, and Rodman remains an equally dangerous attacking threat.
Washington continued to threaten over the final 20 minutes, as Rowland narrowly denied Ashley Sanchez by deflecting a shot just over the bar.
On the flip side, the Spirit also conceded twice in the game’s first 30 minutes — first when goalie Aubrey Kingsbury managed only a light touch on a pass into the box, and Debinha finished it. Later in the half, North Carolina’s Carson Pickett stole the ball from Washington’s Anna Heilferty near midfield, then delivered a perfect pass to Taylor Smith, who was all alone 25 yards from the goal.
“We just didn’t come to play at the start,” Kingsbury said. “Not sure why that was, but the effort wasn’t there in the first half.”
Through half of the Challenge Cup’s round-robin schedule, the Courage leads the four-team group with seven points (2-0-1), followed by NJ/NY Gotham FC (1-1-1). The Spirit (0-0-3) has work to do to advance, starting with Sunday’s home match against Orlando Pride FC.