Your Woman of the Match, Amber Stobbs, with a goal and four assists
I thought long and hard about attending this match. Despite being on paper a home game, it was a longer trip for me than last week’s away game against Fredericksburg. But I figured I needed to check out the first home game since 2008 by DC’s flagship amateur team that wasn’t at the Soccerplex.* It ended up being even a longer haul than expected, thanks to backups on I-66 and 29, but at least it was a good result. And per the attendance report 537 other people seemed to think it was worth the trip as well, though one hopes most of them had a shorter commute.
It took only six minutes for the Reserves to get on the scoreboard. Right flank defender Danielle Hubka drove to the end line and earned a corner kick when a Valkyries defender cleared the ball over the end line. Hayley Siegel took the kick, which was initially cleared easily. But left flank defender Jennifer Skogerboe got the ball and brought it in on her side, then lofted a ball in that Katie Yensen volleyed over the goalkeeper from about eight yards out.
Nine minutes later, right flank midfielder Amber Stobbs took a hopeful long shot from the right that Valkyries goalkeeper Lianne Maldonado fumbled out-of-bounds for another corner kick. Again Siegel’s initial attempt was cleared, but this time Stobbs sent it back in from the near side and midfielder Monica Mendes slid a low ball past Maldonado.
Or maybe it should be Katie Yensen, with two goals and an assist
Around the 37th minute, after doing nothing dangerous for the match up until that point, the North Jersey side gave the Spirit a few nervous moments. First goalkeeper Didi Haracic had to rush to clear a backpass ahead of an onrushing forward. Then about a minute later the Valkyries sent a free kick that bounced in the box. One of their forwards ran onto it but sent it off the top left corner of the woodwork. A minute after that, they got a nice cross off that landed right at the feet of one of their attackers in the box, but she couldn’t get anything on the shot, and it trickled wide.
Washington countered almost immediately by springing Stobbs behind the line. She charged in and sent in a beautifully placed shot that Maldonado had to leap to send over the crossbar. For the third time, the initial corner kick was cleared but the ball was brought back in down the flank. This time it was Skogerboe again but on the right this time, and again she sent a cross to Yensen for the score. Skogerboe was understated about her role in the scores: “I played Katie Yensen on both goals. She was in the right spot. I just got behind the defenders, found her, and she got two big goals.”
Meanwhile, head coach Mark Parsons somewhat sheepishly admitted that they’d gotten a lot of practice with just the circumstances that led to the goals, though not deliberately. “We haven’t been as clean directly from a corner. We actually worked yesterday on trying to get that perfect header and win the ball. And because we haven’t been as successful, we actually spent a lot of time on the second ball wherever it drops and lands, especially the times and deliveries when they haven’t got loads of pace, so whoever wins the header we know it’s not going far, so we just try to surround the ball on the second ball, and it paid off a little bit today.”
Yensen got another shot in before the half, but that was tipped over the crossbar, and for once the ensuing corner kick was cleared without resulting in a goal. The score at the half was 3-0 in favor of the Reserves, and uncharacteristically Ashley Herndon wasn’t involved in any of them.
That looked to change early in the second half. Just two minutes in she lofted a good-looking cross, but it went to Valkyries second-half goalkeeper Kate Courter. Seven minutes later, Mendes stole the ball and started a play that ended up with a Hubka cross to Herndon’s head, but it was a little wide and easy pickings for Courter. Shortly thereafter Herndon got the ball again on the left, totally faked out her defender to get some space, but shot just high.
In the 55th minute Washington had some nice possession passing that eventually found Stobbs making a run on the right. She found an open Tiffany Brown in front of the right post with a low ball, and she sent the ball into the left side netting.
Rising young University of Maryland star Ashley Spivey came in for Herndon in the 61st minute but didn’t diminish the quality of the attack in the least as she got three shots off in the next five minutes.
The goal of the match came in the 65th minute. It was a team effort as several players, initiated by Siegel, made a series of quick one- and two-touch passes around the top of the penalty area that eventually led to a wide-open Stobbs in front of the right post, who had no problems putting it away. Yensen had the last pass and therefore got the assist, but in fairness there should be three or four names in parentheses for this one.
Not surprisingly, coach Parsons was pleased with that effort. “It was fantastic to watch. Moving the ball, one-, two-touch, is definitely what we’re very proud of, what we’re trying to do. The longer we’re together, the more games we play, that’s only going to improve, and hopefully – we’re not always going to score – but we can put more plays like that together. That’s something we see in training almost every day, that type of soccer. It’s nice to see it come out here.”
You can also make a case for Jessica Van Dyke, here scoring her second goal a mere 11 minutes after being subbed in
In the 68th minute and with the score up to 5-0, Parsons cleared his bench, sending in Jessica Van Dyke for Yensen and Morgan Reuther – a new signee who got league clearance almost literally seconds before kickoff – for Tiffany Brown. Ten minutes later the subs would team up as Stobbs sent a well-timed lob over the back line that sprang Van Dyke, who slipped it past the goalkeeper and into the net. Just a minute later Van Dyke would get her second goal after stealing the ball from a defender and putting it in.
That would both conclude the scoring and give the coach cause to ponder. “The players who came in off the bench really gave us something to think about because they came on and nicked some goals.”
And an honorable mention to Jennifer Skogerboe, who had two assists on the day
Parsons was pleased with the result but put it into context. “We’re building momentum right now. My aim – and the girls agreed – our aim is, we’ve got to peak just before the playoffs because they’re going to be really tough games just before. They’re going to be must-wins if we’re going to get into the final two. And if we can be peaking there, that leaves us with three-four games at our peak, playing strong, and I know that’s everyone’s objective. But that’s how we’ve set up, we’ve prepared, we’ve got objectives each week, keep moving forward and hopefully have some more goals like we did today.”
That being said, this was a big win and in fact leads one to wonder if – despite the loss of players like Lianne Sanderson and Joanna Lohman, who are now playing professionally – this team is better than its predecessor, last year’s DC United Women, who never managed a 7-0 smackdown. And lest you think that the opponents were the W-League equivalent of the Lions Swarm, the Valkyries finished second in their division last year with a very similar roster.
Just-signed Morgan Reuther made her case for playing time with a strong performance as a late sub
And the Reserves managed it without two of their marquee players, U-20 national teamer Alex Doll and U-17 national teamer Andi Sullivan, both of whom are still dealing with school obligations.
The next match for the Washington Spirit Reserves is back at the Maryland Soccerplex on Saturday, June 15, at 4 pm, as they take on the New Jersey Wildcats three hours before the pro team takes on the Western New York Flash. So show up a little early, and you may see some stars in the making.
*The W-League Washington Freedom played an exhibition match at RFK Stadium in June of 2008 in order to promote the forthcoming Women’s Professional Soccer league and team.
Photos courtesy of Larry J. Clark/Soccer-Shots.