Category Archives: Washington Spirit Reserves

WPSL->NWSL: Familiar faces have a shot at the pros

Maddie Huster (left) warms up while Rachel Moore (right) awaits her turn.

Maddie Huster (left) warms up while Rachel Moore (right) awaits her turn. (Washington Spirit photo)

For me, the 2018 NWSL draft was the culmination of the last four years (and more) of covering the elite amateur teams in the Washington, DC, area, as half-a-dozen of the players I’d been covering were picked for a shot at going professional. I stopped by the Washington Spirit’s third day of practice, on Wednesday, February 21st, to talk with as many of them as I could.

Head coach Jim Gabarra talked about picking “homegrown” talent. “We’re fortunate to bring that quality of players in who have an attachment to the area or the Reserve team or teams past. It’s always good to give future generations the real true carrot, the pathway to the professional team by showing that we’ll at least give a chance to those we’ve had in as Reserves.”

I asked did he think it made it easier for those with experience with the organization to make the transition. “Yes, I think it does. The psychological part of coming into a pro team or into a national team, if you haven’t ever been there, the first couple of days, the first phase is always difficult. And this way we’ve got players in our DA or on our reserve teams that have been in training sessions with the pro team, so it’s something they’ve gone through. So they get to know you, and the comfort level is a lot higher.”
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WPSL DC-Area End of Season: Not with a Bang

Braddock Road captain and U-23 national teamer Kaleigh Riehl should be one of their few longtime veterans back next season.

Braddock Road captain and U-23 national teamer Kaleigh Riehl should be one of their few longtime veterans back next season. (Photo by Larry J. Clark)

Last Saturday I turned off of Braddock Road onto Sideburn Road and approached the vicinity of the Robinson High School turf field that the Stars Elite play on. I was somewhat nonplussed to note the dearth of vehicles parked by the side of the road, though I quickly realized the game must have been cancelled for some reason. Sure enough, once I parked and came over, I found head coach Larry Best, operations manager Margie Madsen, the referees, and two ballgirls and their parents. But no players: the Legacy-W76 team out of Williamsburg had – according to Madsen – dithered since the previous evening over whether or not to make the trip with just eight or nine players and had even set off, but at Richmond turned around and went back home. Best said they’d have been willing to loan them some players and play for fun, but that offer was not accepted.

So I was deprived of one last opportunity to see the phenomenal young Aria Nagai – “the best 15-year-old in the country” according to Best – as well as longtime Braddock Road mainstays like Natalie Larkin and Rachel Moore, who will almost certainly find better things to do with their summers after graduation than play in the WPSL. Best expects Larkin to move into the real world while he sees Moore playing overseas somewhere. Meanwhile, star player and U-23 national teamer Kaleigh Riehl – a red-shirt sophomore at Penn State – should be around for another couple of years.

On top of that, a few days later I received a couple of messages from Washington Spirit Reserves assistant coach J.P. Sousa indicating that the Reserves would not be participating in the WPSL playoffs because they couldn’t be assured of having enough players for the championship round. That’s what happened last year: the Reserves participated in and won the East Conference, then found they wouldn’t be able to muster enough players, so the Boston Breakers Reserves went in their stead and ended up as WPSL champions, despite Washington beating them, 3-1, in the East final. They thought it was unfair to have that happen again, and I have to agree with them.
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Early July twists and turns in WPSL’s Colonial Division

Braddock Road's Aria Nagai - "the best 15-year-old in the country" according to her coach.

Braddock Road’s Aria Nagai – “the best 15-year-old in the country” according to her coach.

(All game photographs courtesy of Larry J. Clark)

The big match of the weekend looked to be the July 7 match with the Richmond Strikers versus the Washington Spirit Reserves, big enough that I decided to drive down for it – on a Friday afternoon, no less. Both teams were vying for first place in the Colonial Division and the sole playoff spot that went with it. For the Reserves, it was close to a must-win as they’d already dropped points in two matches while the Strikers had only dropped points in one.

While I was driving down, meanwhile, the resurgent Braddock Road Stars Elite were taking on Virginia Beach City. Out of goalkeepers, they drafted defensive midfielder Rachel Moore to play in the net. “Rachel was brilliant in goal,” said head coach Larry Best. “Rachel saved a PK. And nobody knew that she wasn’t a goalie, 5’10”, 5’11”, and she’s a good athlete. And she catches. She played basketball, so she’s got good hands. It was against Virginia Beach, and they didn’t realize until the last five minutes of the game that she wasn’t a real goalie. Because the kids were laughing every time she’d get the ball.”

Braddock Road would pull out a 2-1 win despite giving up the first goal, making it a three-game undefeated streak – starting with the 2-2 draw with Washington – after losing their first five matches of the season.

But on to the Richmond match. Both teams were short-handed this time, Washington again without Douglas, Germino-Watnick, and Schnurr while the Strikers’ U-17 national teamer, Jordan Canniff, was also away.
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Short-handed Spirit Reserves draw 1-1 with Richmond Strikers

A Washington Spirit Reserves team missing Gloria Douglas, Paula Germino-Watnick, and Kristin Schnurr gave up a goal in the closing seconds of second-half stoppage time to settle for a draw with their opponents, this time the Richmond Strikers. That’s the second time that’s happened this season. The Strikers, meanwhile, had as their star player U-17 WNTer Jordan Canniff, fresh off training with the professional Spirit team last Wednesday.
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WPSL DC-Area End of June Recap

Maryland Gatorade Girl's Player of the Year Cammie Murtha had a role in all three goals against Fredericksburg.

Maryland Gatorade Girl’s Player of the Year Cammie Murtha had a role in all three goals against Fredericksburg.

June 25: Washington Spirit Reserves 8, Virginia Beach City FC 0

The draw with Braddock Road evidently didn’t faze the Reserves at all, and they took out any frustrations on Virginia Beach, Kristin Schnurr scoring a hat trick to lead them to an 8-0 romp.

Schnurr started off the scoring in the 12th minute after Gloria Douglas made a run down the left sideline and sent a great cross into the box. Schnurr got a foot on it and redirected it into the net.

In the 24th minute, Paula Germino-Watnick fired a shot in from outside the box. Meghan Nally finished the first half scoring in stoppage time with a header off a cross from the right.

The next goal came off a corner kick in the 62nd minute. The ball bounced around in the box until Alexis Tye headed it in off a feed from Sadie Stark.

Three minutes later, it was Stark’s turn to score as Emma Kershner sent in a cross from the left side that she put away.

Schnurr got her second goal in the 84th minute off another feed from the left, sending the ball in from the middle of the box.

Two minutes later, Cammie Murtha made a run down the right flank, beat her defender, and sent in a cross that Schnurr sent in to complete her hat trick.

Not surprisingly, assistant coach JP Sousa was happy with the result. “We started off a little slow, but once we got into a groove, scored a couple of goals, then they just kind of opened up. We got the third one right before halftime, and then we scored early in the second half. And then it just kind of went from there. Everybody got to play, got some good, creative stuff going on. We were happy with it. We needed to get a game where we scored a bunch of goals, just to feel good.”
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WPSL DC-Area June Recap

June isn’t quite over yet, but I’m only going to make it to one more match, so here’s what’s happened so far this month.

All photographs courtesy of Larry J. Clark.

Virginia Beach City FC 4, Braddock Road Stars Elite 2

Braddock Road's Alex Myers attempts a shot against Virginia Beach.

Braddock Road’s Alex Myers attempts a shot against Virginia Beach.

On Wednesday, June 7, at Robinson High School in Fairfax, VA, a well-oiled Virginia Beach attack overpowered a normally solid Braddock Road defense and even though the Stars Elite scored twice – a good performance by them – it wasn’t enough.
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WPSL DC-Area Week One Recap

Meaghan McElligott

Australian Meaghan McElligott scored three consecutive goals in two matches for the Washington Spirit Reserves.

One week in (roughly), and we have three matches from the local teams in the books, two for each. (The math works out because they played each other.) The Washington Spirit Reserves are, unsurprisingly, 2-0-0, while the Braddock Road Stars Elite, also unsurprisingly, are 1-1-0.
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WPSL DC-area preview 2017

Washington Spirit Reserves players at a preseason practice.

Washington Spirit Reserves players at a preseason practice.

The regional elite women’s amateur scene has altered once again with the folding of the ASA Chesapeake Charge. For most of seven seasons, they were the local WPSL team to be reckoned with, but as time went by they found it harder and harder to recruit enough players to be competitive. When for some games last year they were starting the 13-year-old daughter of their operations manager, the writing was on the wall. So from two years ago when there were four local teams in two leagues, we’re down to two local teams in one league, the Women’s Premier Soccer League. Let’s look at those teams now.
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Spirit Triumph Over Breakers in Playoff Battle of NWSL Reserve Teams

Imani Dorsey scored twice to lead the Spirit Reserves to victory.

Imani Dorsey scored twice to lead the Spirit Reserves to victory.

WPSL East Conference Final: Washington Spirit Reserves 3, Boston Breakers Reserves 1

It was everything you’d expect the first-ever match between two NWSL reserve teams to be: hard-fought, high-quality, and suspenseful. But the 2015 W-League Champion Washington Spirit Reserves came out on top on the strength of two goals from Imani Dorsey and a strike from distance by Maddie Huster that Carli Lloyd would have been proud of. Boston’s Katie Lenz countered with a well-placed goal, but it wasn’t enough.
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Spirit Reserves Tough It Out in WPSL Regional Semifinal

Washington, Boston reserve teams will face off for WPSL East Championship

Midge Purce picked up two assists but should have had a lot more

Midge Purce picked up two assists but could have had a lot more.

Unlike last season in the W-League’s fiercely competitive Southeastern Conference, the Washington Spirit Reserves have seldom been challenged this year, with their toughest opponent being the Spirit Academy. That changed tonight when they faced the regional hosts the Penn Fusion. They came away with a 3-1 victory, but it was hard-fought.
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