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Recap: Spirit tough out a penalty shootout win versus OL Reign, advance to NWSL Challenge Cup Final

A bit of fortune, a lot of determination, and a lot of Aubrey Kingsbury

Kelley Piper / Black and Red United

The Washington Spirit’s 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup continues after a tough match with OL Reign that ended 0-0 at full-time, then featured ten penalty kicks. Spirit keeper Aubrey Kingsbury was the star of the night, stepping up to the Spirit’s third penalty, making a clutch save after a Spirit miss to extend the shootout, then saving Reign’s tenth to advance to the Challenge Cup Final.

It was a tough game for the Spirit, who faced a different tactic than they’re used to. OL Reign used a low mid-block to disrupt a lot of Washington’s buildup play. Given that the match was the second against the same opponent in three days, Ward didn’t deploy the team’s standard high press and instead tried to keep the game in midfield and pick their way through.

All of these things combined to frustrate both teams, as clear cut chances were few and far between. On the balance of play. Reign had the better opportunities. Aubrey Kingsbury made huge saves from Rose Lavelle in the first half and Bethany Balcer in the second. Overall, eight of Reign’s twenty-one shots were on target and needed to be dealt with.

The Spirit’s best chances of the night came from individual efforts rather than the quick passing they’re known for. In the 34th minute Ashley Sanchez dribbled through a few players into the box, lost then recovered possession to send a cross into Hatch who couldn’t make solid contact. Late in the game, rookie Tinaya Alexander sent the Spirit’s most dangerous cross of the night into the box seconds after entering the match. Hatch and Sanchez couldn’t get clean contact and the ball was deflected out for a corner, which was eventually cleared.

Kelley Piper / Black and Red United

Alana Cook thought she put the Reign ahead after getting the ball in the back of the net in the 63rd minute. Celebrations went on for quite a few seconds before the assistant referee raised their flag for offside. On replay, it was the correct call as Fishlock was offside for the initial touch and the second that sent the ball to her feet before she cut it back to Cook for the strike.

In the final seconds of regulation a corner won by the Reign and taken by Megan Rapinoe was knocked down in the area by a leaping Anna Heilferty. The referee whistled for the end of the game instead of giving the penalty, and was understandably surrounded by Reign players.

The resulting penalty shootout was pure madness.

Spirit and Reign went ten total rounds, with Aubrey Kingsbury taking and scoring the Spirit’s third penalty, and Reign keeper Phallon Tullis-Joyce guessing right on all but one penalty but only being able to save one. After her save of the Spirit’s eighth penalty, Kingsbury had to save the next penalty — and remarkably, did. It came down to Reign’s tenth penalty, which was lined up by Jess Fishlock. Kingsbury guessed right, made the contact and pushed the ball away from goal to send the Spirit to the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup Final.

Spirit: O [Hatch], O [Sonnett], O [Kingsbury], O [Sanchez], O [Rodman], O [Bailey], O [Roddar], X [Alexander], O [Heilferty], O [Staab]
Reign: O [Lavelle], O [Cook], O [Miramontez], O [Rapinoe], O [Balcer], O [Huerta], O [Watt], X [Stanton], O [Hiatt], X [Fishlock]

Cue the chaos, indeed.


Box Score

NWSL Challenge Cup - Semifinal

OL Reign 0

Washington Spirit 0

Lineups:

Spirit (4231): Aubrey Kingsbury (C); Kelley O’Hara (Heilferty, 45), Emily Sonnett, Sam Staab, Camryn Biegalski; Taylor Aylmer (Alexander 66), Julia Roddar; Trinity Rodman, Bayley Feist (Bailey, 45), Ashley Sanchez; Ashley Hatch

Reign (4231): Phallon Tullis-Joyce; Sofia Huerta, Alana Cook, Sam Hiatt, Lu Barnes (C) (Miramontez 90+2); Olivia Van der Jagt (Stanton 81), Jess Fishlock; Angelina (King 81) (Pinoe 90+2), Rose Lavelle, Veronica Latsko (Watt 57); Bethany Balcer

Bookings:

Spirit - Paul Crichton 68, Roddar 87, Rodman 90+1

Reign - Rose Lavelle 18