After scoring seventeen goals in their previous three games, the Washington Spirit Reserves struggled for 90 minutes to find the net in the eventual 0-0 tie with the North Jersey Valkyries Saturday afternoon in Wayne, N.J. Washington had its chances throughout the day, but were ultimately unable to break threw the North Jersey back line.
It was the Valkyries that nearly ruled the day with a potential game-winning shot in injury time that clanked off the woodwork and landed just outside the goal line.
The single point maintains a share of the Northeastern Conference top spot for the Spirit Reserves, as the Virginia Beach Piranhas grabbed a 4-1 win over Long Island. Both teams still face Long Island and New York on the road before facing each other in the final match of the regular season.
Washington appeared uncharacteristically lethargic and at times shaky throughout much of the first half. Though maintaining a lion’s share of possession over most of the pitch, the Spirit Reserves continually surrendered control to the unyielding Valkyries in the North Jersey defensive third.
Washington showed significant improvement in the second half, but the North Jersey defense remained up to the task.
Late in the match, the Spirit Reserves had consecutive golden opportunities to break the deadlock. Washington defender Kelsey Pardue struck a beautiful blast from distance that beat Valkyrie keeper Katherine Courter only to glance off the crossbar and out. Moments later, Washington substitute Morgan Reuther dribbled through two defenders and found herself with nothing between her and keeper Courter. Reuther launched a burner on frame, but directly into the midsection of Courter who held the shot.
An errant pass at midfield almost doomed the Spirit Reserves during stoppage as North Jersey forward Stefanie Scholz found the ball at her feet and nearly through the Washington defense. Scholz deftly cut inside the Washington defender and crushed a shot over the outstretched reach of Spirit Reserve keeper DiDi Haracic. The ball loudly careened downward off the crossbar, leaving the visitors with no time to pray where it landed. Thankfully for Washington, the rebound bounced outside the goal line before a resulting clear allowed the Spirit Reserves to exhale.
The Spirit Reserves remain on the road next week for a two-game swing through New York. On Saturday night, Washington faces the Long Island Rough Riders in South Huntington, N.Y. at 5 p.m. The Spirit Reserves complete their road trip the following afternoon when they take on the New York Magic at 4 p.m.