Spirit doubleheader: amateurs win, pros lose

Despite the best efforts of captain Lori Lindsey, the Washington Spirit would be shut out yet again

Do the Spirit professionals need to take some lessons from the amateurs? The Reserve team, playing against W-League rivals the New Jersey Wildcats, seldom had trouble scoring in an 8-1 rout. By contrast, the NWSL team lost, 2-0, to the Western New York Flash, the third straight match in which they’ve failed to score.

Now, to be fair, the amateurs don’t have to get through the likes of Adrianna Franch and McCall Zerboni to score, nor to try to keep the likes of Veronica Perez and Adriana Martin from scoring.

With Flash WNTers Abby Wambach and Carli Lloyd away, those two answered the question of who would take care of the scoring by teaming up on the first goal. Adriana lobbed the ball over the back line for Perez to run onto. She took a shot that Spirit goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris managed to make contact with, but then the ball hit the right post almost squarely but somehow spun in. On the second goal, right flank defender Alex Sahlen lofted a cross outside the far post that Vicki DiMartino managed to head in from a tough angle in the 31st minute.

Stephanie Ochs was the most energetic player for the Spirit on the day

The Spirit had a few chances in what was left of the first half: Tiffany McCarty was deep in the box just a minute later but was too hesitant and quickly found herself surrounded by defenders. Eight minutes after that, McCarty was right on the line waiting for a through ball from Ochs, but whenever Ochs wanted to send it on McCarty was in an offside position.

Washington regrouped to start the second half, subbing out Candace Chapman – who had been struggling the entire first 45 minutes – and replacing her with Jasmyne Spencer, going from a 4-5-1 to a more aggressive 4-4-2 while Tori Huster dropped from midfield back to her now-familiar central defender role.

Jasmyne Spencer would come on after halftime and help spark a strong second-half performance

The team would dominate the second half, though to no avail. The Flash went without a shot, while the Spirit would earn six corner kicks (and it seemed like more) but convert on none, somewhat controversially on the first one in the 52nd minute as Huster was taken down in the box with no call, rather shocking given the PK-happy NWSL. Some of it seemed like bad luck as every Spirit shot seemed to find a defender’s leg or body in the way. Whatever the reason, most of the 4,630 fans in attendance – the second-highest total so far for the team and more than showed up the last time the Flash played (with Wambach) – went home disappointed in yet another loss.

Head coach Mike Jorden was disappointed in how the team came out to start. “”We just didn’t come out ready to play in the first half. We started okay and then gave up the first goal, a silly goal, then gave up a second one that never should have happened. So, it’s disappointing. The second half, we changed the system around a little bit, made a couple of changes. I thought the second half was really good. We didn’t get any goals, but we took it to them and played really well.”

Toni Pressley had only been with the team for one practice but impressed enough to earn a starting spot

The match featured the debut of two players new to Washington. Defender Toni Pressley started and went the full 90 minutes after arriving from Russia just a couple of days before and participating in just one team practice. “She’s a world-class center back, said Jorden. “Just from seeing her yesterday in training, one day, it wasn’t a tough decision to put [Pressley] in the starting lineup. She’s got the size and strength and did well.”

And Mexican national teamer Lupita Worbis, who arrived several weeks ago, subbed in for midfielder Ingrid Wells in the 70th minute. (Visit YouTube for a video interview with her done at the Reserves’ June 1 match.) Additionally, Danielle Hubka was called up from the Reserves to fill in for the missing Ali Krieger, Diana Matheson, and Robyn Gayle, but she was not called upon to play.

By contrast, the Washington Spirit Reserves, with the arrival of Alex Doll, Molly Menchel, and Andi Sullivan, had almost a full complement. And it showed.

It took only seven minutes for the Reserves to get on the scoreboard when Monica Mendes took a free kick from just a couple of yards out from the top of the box and sailed it into the upper left-hand corner.

Menchel, playing forward instead of her usual left back position, continued the scoring in the 13th minute when Jordan Grant lofted a long cross from the right toward the left post, and she volleyed it into the right side netting.

In the 33rd minute, Amber Stobbs sent a ball through to Tiffany Brown on the right, and she fired it into the left side netting.

Amber Stobbs would assist on two goals, adding to her W-League-leading total of seven

Washington looked to be taking a shutout into halftime, but in stoppage time Claudia Vasquez of the Wildcats sent a ball through to Jesse Fuccello, who had an easy putaway.

The home team showed their depth by subbing in Alex Doll and Kara Wilson for Mendes and Hayley Siegel to start the second half. They would team up on the 4th goal, Doll feeding Wilson for the score. Then less than a minute later, Stobbs tipped the ball to Wilson just inside the right post, and she just had to touch it into the net. That would be Stobbs’ league-leading 7th assist.

Ten minutes later Stobbs would get a goal herself on a shot that looked more like a cross, sailing from well out on the right into the upper left corner over the Wildcats goalkeeper. Brown would be credited with the assist.

Supersub Morgan Reuther came in for the last 27 minutes and scored twice, both late, opportunistic efforts. In the 85th minute, Wilson tried to complete her hat trick but couldn’t get enough on the ball. It was cleared but right to Reuther at the top left corner of the box, and she sent it into the right side netting. Four minutes later, Andi Sullivan ran through the back line and crossed to her left, and Reuther put it away.

Wilson attributed her scoring prowess on the day to being in the right place at the right time but was happy with the team’s growing cohesion. “I think we’re definitely building momentum and working towards the ultimate goal which is getting to the championship and winning that, so I think we headed in the right direction, taking the right steps.”

There are now just two teams in the W-League with but a single blemish on their record. On Thursday, those two teams face each other, as the Spirit Reserves take on the Long Island Rough Riders Thursday at 7 pm at Howison Homestead Complex in Woodbridge, VA.

Meanwhile, the senior team has two road matches, June 23rd against Kansas City and June 28th against Western New York, before returning home on Wednesday, July 3, at 7:30 pm to take on Kansas City in their first weeknight home match of the season.

Photos courtesy of Larry J. Clark/Soccer-Shots.

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