The Washington Spirit Reserves were recognized at halftime of the NWSL match for winning the US Women’s Amateur Championship.
Even though the DC-area amateur teams went undefeated over the weekend, there were still highs and lows. The high was the first-ever victory for the first-year Braddock Road Stars Elite. The low was a disappointing tie by the Washington Spirit Reserves. And meanwhile, the ASA Chesapeake Charge just keep rolling along.
Washington Spirit Reserves vs. New York Magic
The first time these teams played, on the Magic’s home turf, the Reserves scored in the 4th minute on their way to a 7-0 romp. This time New York bunkered in, didn’t allow an early score, and basically hung on for 90 minutes.
“They sat back and defended,” said assistant coach JP Sousa. “They just wanted to sit behind the ball and disrupt things and make it difficult for us for as long as they could. Luckily for them it worked out for 90 minutes. But credit to them, they came with a plan, and they executed it.”
Washington helped them along by not being particularly sharp or inspired. “We just came out flat,” said Jennifer Skogerboe. “Things just weren’t flowing today,” added Maddie Huster, whose older sister Tori is a mainstay on the pro team.
Even the best efforts of Satara Murray and Amber Stobbs weren’t enough to get the ball in the net. (Larry J. Clark)
Sousa elaborated. “We weren’t ready for what they gave us. We had a pretty big result against them a couple of weeks ago. We knew they were going to get a little bit more, that that wasn’t going to happen again. But we just didn’t step up to that challenge. First half, we were really disconnected. We didn’t work as hard as we probably should have. We missed a couple of early chances that would have set the tempo of the game for us.”
The best early chance was in the 35th minute, when Katie Yensen was pushed down from behind in the box. She stepped up to take the penalty kick but sent it right down the middle at goalkeeper Samantha Depken. The ball rebounded to Ashley Herndon, who from about 8 yards out skied her shot. The Reserves would never get a better chance the rest of the match.
Sousa described it as “A lot of individual stuff happening, but we really weren’t coming together and combining and finding a little bit of magic where we needed it in the attacking third. It was like we’d let one player go and say, all right, we hope something good happens, instead of working together to create something better.”
And what to do about it? “We just need to work a little harder in training this week to prepare ourselves, because we’re going to see stuff like this again, so we need to be able to creatively break people down.”
Sometime NWSLer Jennifer Skogerboe in action against the Magic. (Larry J. Clark)
I also took the time to ask Skogerboe about her call-up to the professional team. “It was surreal to be able to play with some of the best players at the highest level,” she said. “It was just enjoyable to be there. It gave me confidence that I could play at that level, to work hard. And when I’m out with the Reserves to try to step up and make an impact.”
Maddie Huster made her first start today, so I talked with her as well. Like Tori, she grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and went through the Ohio Elite Soccer Academy for a decade. “Soccer was pretty much every week, every weekend. Every trip and vacation was soccer-oriented. Lots of conversations about soccer all the time. The TV was always on soccer. It was fun, though. Nice to get to play with her and practice with her when I was growing up. We still do that now.”
She’s away from home for an extended period for the first time in her life, and it’s the first time she’s played for a team at this level. “First time here. I’m staying with Tori and Toni Pressley, so that’s kind of fun.”
“So what are you getting out of it?” I asked.
“Well, they make me sleep on the couch.”
“I meant more like out here,” I said, gesturing at the field.
She guffawed. “Oh. They’re very disciplined at home. They all have their routines, their schedules. They eat well. They know what they need to do before games, before practices. So it’s a good model for me to emulate.”
She thinks that’s the main thing she’s getting out of the experience. “I think it’s just the discipline aspect of it. Take care of myself. I’m not with my parents any more. I have to get myself ready for games, make sure I’m on time, get my own meals, that kind of stuff.” It should do her good stead when she heads to Wake Forest in the fall for her freshman year.
Asked about her first start, she said, “It was exciting! My parents got to come, got to see me play. Then we’re going to stay and watch Tor.”
She was disappointed about the result but optimistic about what they could do about it. “Got a lot of stuff to work on before our next game on Wednesday. Really quick turnaround, we just played them last Wednesday. But we’ll be okay. Just got to figure some stuff out, come back stronger next week.”
The Reserves’ Maddie Huster poses with her big sister Tori of the NWSL Spirit.
Video of interview with Maddie available here.
The Reserves next play the Braddock Road Stars Elite on the Stars’ home field at Robinson High School this coming Wednesday at 7.
Braddock Road Stars Elite vs. New York Magic
The Magic had a quick turnaround to face Braddock Road the next afternoon. This time, though, the home team was as sharp as a Lauren Holiday spin move. The core of the team is based on the players born in 1995 who won the U-16 national championship in 2012, but they’d been missing their two best ’95ers, Carlyn Baldwin and Kaleigh Riehl, who have been in France with the U-20 national team. They were available for the first time all season, and it made a significant difference.
Said defender Natalie Larkin, a fellow ’95er teammate, “They obviously bring a lot of energy and experience to the game. Since they played on our ’95 team, they know how we like to play. So it helps to have players who understand our ideology.”
It also meant that players who had been playing out of position could return to their normal ones. The new setup took only 4 minutes to pay off, as Marisa Park crossed a low ball in from the right that Kristen Meier tapped into the lower left corner. The youngsters had managed in 4 minutes what the Reserves couldn’t do in 90.
“Scoring that goal early really gave us a pick-me-up,” said goalkeeper Jessie Ferrari. “It helps the momentum of everything when your team has the lead.”
The team had been behind on the scoreboard for all but 48 minutes of its first five matches, and suddenly it was ahead for the first time.
The Magic fought back. In the 16th minute Ayaki Shinada sent a beautifully aimed corner kick into the box, but it was headed high. Five minutes later Corinne Brady fought to get deep on the right and got off a cross, but the resulting shot was easily saved by Ferrari.
Overall, though, the Elite were passing the ball and maintaining possession with a poise and maturity belying the youth of most of their players. Their play resulted in a spectacular attempt in the 23rd minute, Park scooping a ball off the end line and sending it in where Allie Wisner’s Wambach-esque diving header sent the ball in with power but right at the near post where goalkeeper Depken was waiting.
Kahla Seymour gave Braddock another good chance in the 45th minute with a beautiful, shoulder-high cross from the left that somehow made it all the way past the goalmouth untouched by anyone.
The half ended with the Stars Elite holding a 1-0 lead.
That lasted less than a minute, though, as a poor turnover in the Braddock Road midfield gave the ball to New York’s Sara Sanau Ruiz, who chipped the ball over Ferrari before she could retreat to defend properly.
“Just miscommunication,” said Braddock head coach Larry Best. “It was a turnover in the midfield. And the keeper was off her line. First, it was the mistake in the midfield that hurt us. That’s inexperience at times. That’s a young player, a high-school-age player, and the game gets quick for her.”
It didn’t seem to faze the home team much. “I think we deflated a little,” said Ferrari, “but then we picked it up right after that, and we thought, ‘Okay, we’ve got to just go back for it because we can win this game.’”
They looked to do so in the 55th minute, Rachel Moore sending a perfect through ball to Meier, but her shot was right to Depken. Four minutes later, a poorly executed Braddock Road short corner gifted the ball right to a New York defender, who raced down the field for a 2-on-1 break. She crossed it to the open forward, but the ball went right through her legs.
The deciding score came in the 63rd minute, Park maneuvering through traffic on the left to get off a through ball to Wisner, who fired it into the upper right corner.
In the waning 20 minutes or so, both teams seemed to tire and lose their shape. A lot of space opened up in the midfield, and it seemed as if another goal was likely. New York got players through in the 67th and 72nd minutes, but on both occasions the shots were off target. The final whistle would blow with Stars Elite claiming their first-ever W-League win.
Best attributed it to having a full roster at last. “It was about putting close to our top group on the field. I think we’ve been good all season, but we’ve been missing a little something. And you add two U-20 national team players in, and add in our older players gelling in with everybody, it was good. We played really well. And we have the ability to play that way, but when you have players playing out of position, it’s tough in this league.”
Looking ahead to facing the Washington Spirit Reserves – for the third time already this season – he had no plans to change strategy. “They’re one of the best teams in the country, and we’ll just continue to play like we play. We haven’t really changed. Our philosophy never changes. The personnel have changed to allow us to be better at what we want.”
Defender Natalie Larkin and goalkeeper Jessie Ferrari.
I asked Ferrari and Larkin about facing the Reserves again. “I think we just need to go into it acting like we’re going to win,” said Ferrari.
“Believe – to achieve,” added Larkin, with a laugh echoed by Ferrari that suggested it was some sort of catch phrase.
Again, the Braddock Road Stars Elite host the Washington Spirit Reserves at Robinson High School this Wednesday at 7 pm. Given that both teams should be at close to full strength for the first time, it should be quite a match.
ASA Chesapeake Charge vs. Buxmont Torch FC
While I was watching Alex Morgan and the Portland Thorns annihilate the Spirit, the Charge were winning comfortably against division rival Buxmont, 3-1, on goals by Cheyenne Skidmore, Marisa Kresge, and Katie Ponce – all in the second half, of course.
The Charge next take a break from their WPSL schedule to head down to Florida Thursday-Sunday for the USASA Women’s Open Cup, where they’ll compete against 7 other WPSL teams for the title. (W-League teams are also invited to participate but none chose to.)
Their next league match isn’t until Wednesday, July 2, at 4 pm, when they take on the LVU Lady Sonic
ACF Torino US
Torino was originally scheduled to play the Lion Soccer Club this weekend, but that team was dropped from the league, so they were idle. They next play on Saturday, June 28, at 4 pm against FC Bucks.