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As the only representative of the United Soccer Leagues (USL) W-League to ever play in the USASA National Amateur Championship, the Washington Spirit Reserves had a lot riding on their performance Friday evening at Arundel High School in Gambrills, Maryland. Washington did not disappoint as Ashley Herndon and Kara Wilson each scored to defeat the WPSL champion representative Real Salt Lake Women 2-0 in the tournament semifinal.
As dipping temperatures and brisk winds dominated the late spring evening, the Spirit Reserves asserted themselves early by charging forward on an offensive surge in the opening minutes. Though sometimes chaotic, Washington’s pressure pushed Salt Lake back into their defensive third. Midway through the first half, the Spirit Reserves settled into calmer, more controlled presence, however Real Salt Lake found their attack and launched several counters themselves.
The Spirit Reserves defense held solid however, thwarting any serious Salt Lake opportunities and maintaining a tight control in the back. Washington forward Herndon would decide things in the 32nd minute when she found herself on the receiving end of a pass across Real Salt Lake’s box. Herndon’s shot ripped past kepper Becca Ritchie untouched for the eventual game-winner.
Richter redeemed herself moments later when Herndon again found a way through the Salt Lake defense and blasted a shot destined for the net. The athletic Ritchie smothered the point-blank shot to keep the score 1-0 at the break.
Washington wasted little time doubling their lead at the start of the second half on a nifty goal within the first minute. Spirit Reserves forward Morgan Reuther broke free down the left side and left the ball for trailing teammate Wilson, taking her defender with her. Wilson deftly cut left and parried right to find herself through alone on the Salt Lake goal. Wilson calmly tucked her low shot past keeper Ritchie into the side netting for the 2-0 advantage.
The remainder of the half seemed to closely resemble the first with Washington maintaining a slight edge on the run of play. Spirit Reserves keeper Adelaide Gay coordinated a solid defense to earn her clean slate for the evening at the final whistle.
Washington faces the Houston Aces on Sunday afternoon to determine the US Soccer National Amateur Championship title. The 2013 USASA Open Cup Champion Aces nipped the Chesapeake Charge in penalty kicks following an overtime 1-1 draw to advance themselves into the finals. Match time is slated for 1:00PM at Arundel High School in Gambrills, Maryland.
The Spirit Reserves continue their W-League season on the road for a pair of away matches in two weeks. On Saturday, May 31st, Washington faces the New Jersey Wildcats before following up the next day against the New York Magic. The Spirit Reserves return home June 7th for a rematch against the Wildcats. Match time is set for 7:00PM and will be held at Liberty High School in Bealeton, Virginia.