Coming into this Tuesday evening match (July 7) I didn’t hold out much hope for ACF Torino. So far in the season they were 0-2-3 against the 3 new teams of the South Atlantic Division. Meanwhile, the Charge were an undefeated 6-0-0 against those same teams, with most wins by 3 goals or more.
Due to a combination of a bad cold followed by an ear infection along with spending lots of time watching the Women’s World Cup, I’ve scarcely posted any updates on how the DC-area amateur teams have been doing this summer. So this post is going to cover a lot of territory.
Washington Spirit Reserves
Following the previously reported disappointing 2-2 draw at home against the Atlanta Silverbacks, the Reserves got back on track with a 7-0 demolition of the Braddock Road Stars Elite, also at home.
They then faced the most challenging part of their season, with 3 away games in 4 days against the teams at the heart of the Southeastern Conference. That ended up more like Sherman marching through Georgia, with Washington notching wins in all 3 matches. On Friday, June 12, they downed the Charlotte Lady Eagles, 3-2, with 2 goals from Midge Purce and 1 from Imani Dorsey. On Saturday, Atlanta proved to be no obstacle with the Reserves getting 4 goals from 4 different players enroute to a 4-0 victory. The trip concluded with a 2-1 win on Monday over the Carolina Elite Cobras.
Cheyenne Skidmore scores the game-winning goal in the Charge’s home opener (photo courtesy of Ken L. Harriford).
In addition to our two local W-League teams, one in northern Virginia, the other northwest of DC, there are two local WPSL teams, both based east of DC, the Anne Arundel County based Chesapeake Charge, and the Prince George’s County based ACF Torino.
In contrast with the W-League, the WPSL is exploding. It’s expanded to 82 teams this year from 72 last year and includes at least 4 teams affiliated with professional NWSL teams. (The Spirit Reserves are the only W-League team associated with an NWSL team.) It’s reportedly the largest women’s league in the world.
The downside from a journalistic perspective is that the WPSL is comparatively lackadaisical about providing information. I know all about the W-League playoffs. All I know about the WPSL playoffs is that just one team from the South Atlantic Division will qualify, the conference finals will take place in New England the weekend of July 18, and the league finals will take place in Houston the weekend of July 25. But just try to find any of that information on the WPSL website.
South Atlantic Division
The South Atlantic Division is living more up to its name than in previous years, when it included teams from Pennsylvania and New Jersey. This year it has five teams from Maryland and Virginia. The Maryland teams are familiar, ACF Torino and the ASA Chesapeake Charge, while the Virginia teams are all new: Chesterfield United (south of Richmond), Fredericksburg FC, and Virginia Beach City FC. Torino assistant coach and midfielder Elise Bender is happy with the smaller geographic footprint. “Thank goodness, we’re just Virginia and Maryland. The farthest game for us is Virginia Beach, so that’s not so bad.”
Guatemala National Team player Diana Barrera on the pitch at her former high school in Kensington, MD.
One of the great joys of following lower-level women’s soccer as I do is when a player you’ve known breaks through to a much higher level: Watching Ali Krieger go from a promising teenager in an exhibition match with what’s left of the professional Washington Freedom to the W-League Freedom to one of the best defenders on the planet. Keeping up with Lori Lindsey for years as she toiled in the shadows as captain of the Washington Freedom Reserves, eventually breaking through to get national team callups and become a key player for her WPS team. Seeing Becky Sauerbrunn go from playing for the Reserves to likewise becoming one of the best defenders in the world.
And this year there’s Diana Barrera. I’ve known her for some time as a forward for the Maryland Capitols/ACF Torino of the Women’s Premier Soccer League, a team I’ve followed for the last three years. (You can find an interview I did with her in 2012 on YouTube here.) Last Monday, though, she took to the field at RFK for World Cup qualifying as part of the Guatemalan national team.
“I can’t believe I’m here,” she said when asked what it felt like. “I’m usually the one in the stands cheering for DC United. But to be able to walk underground, go into the locker rooms…. [“Where Mia Hamm and Julie Foudy have been,” I offer.] Yep, they’ve all been there. And even after our game walking past the United States, it was another good feeling. It was awesome.”
Four of the year’s best players: Spirit Reserves’ Sam Lofton and Ashley Herndon battle Braddock Road’s Allie Wisner while Marisa Park looks on. (photo by Larry J. Clark)
1. Washington Spirit Reserves
2. ASA Chesapeake Charge
3. Braddock Road Stars Elite
4. ACF Torino USA
Veteran Ali Andrzejewski is leading her ASA Chesapeake Charge into the playoffs.
With the regular season coming to an end and the playoffs looming, the two local brackets – WPSL and W-League – couldn’t look more different, with one completely settled and the other very much up in the air.
Katie Watson sends a ball in while Sarah Bonney looks on. (photo by Ken L. Harriford)
What was hotter, the ASA Chesapeake Charge or the weather? It was well into the nineties and humid, but the Charge demolished the middle-of-the-pack LVU Lady Sonic, 8-0.
Sam Lofton and Ashley Herndon of the Spirit Reserves battle Braddock Road’s Allie Wisner for the ball while Marisa Park looks on. (Photo by Larry J. Clark)
It was a good week for local women’s soccer fans. The professional Spirit got back on a winning track. The flagship Washington Spirit Reserves won three games in five days and clinched first place in the W-League’s Northeastern Conference. The Braddock Road Stars Elite got their second win. The ASA Chesapeake Charge went 3-0 in the group stage of the USASA Women’s Open Cup, then lost narrowly in the finals to the New York Athletic Club. On the other hand, ACF Torino USA fell, 2-1, to the New York Fury.
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.
Rival goalscorers Marisa Park and Meghan Cox face off. (Larry J. Clark)
There were two local soccer matches this past Wednesday between area teams, one a hard-fought battle and the other a lopsided romp that seems to have led to a team being removed from their league. Fortunately, I made it to the better match and will talk about that one first.