This week was somewhat kinder to local teams than last: the ASA Chesapeake Charge winning twice, ACF Torino getting their first goals and their first win, and Braddock Road getting their first standings point. The Washington Spirit Reserves dropped their first standings points of the season but remained comfortably atop the W-League’s Northeastern Conference.
ASA Chesapeake Charge
Chesapeake continues to roll, albeit with their characteristic difficulties in scoring early. On Wednesday night on their home field at Arundel High, they took on the Lion Soccer Club, the southern Maryland team that last year went 0-9-0 with a -57 goal differential. You’d think the rout would be on from the opening whistle, but instead the Charge seemed to come up with every possible way not to score. Shots went high, wide, off the crossbar, off the post, or were saved by goalkeeper Paige Gray, who did some excellent work to keep the ball out of the net. Crosses were behind the runner, too far in front of the runner, or right at the runner so that she tripped over the ball. When the first-half whistle blew, the score remained 0-0.
They must have eaten their spinach at halftime. Even though the Lions kicked off, Chesapeake forward Cheyenne Skidmore got through inside of the first minute and put the ball away. In the 54th minute, Skidmore and Marisa Kresge executed a tidy give-and-go to give Kresge an open shot that she put away to the lower left. Three minutes later, Skidmore brought the ball up on the right, turned to the middle, drew the defense, then passed to Kresge on the right who had space to get to the goalmouth and put the ball in the upper left corner.
There was a brief lull in the scoring, then in the 71st minute Amira Walcott found Sofia Read on the left, who maneuvered for some room, then lofted a ball that went in from about 30 yards away from goal.
In the 83rd minute, a perfectly placed feed right at Alex Doody’s feet let her run in without a break in stride and put the ball away. I was tweeting that information and heard a cheer from the crowd. I looked up to see Doody and Katie Watson running away from goal high-fiving each other. That one was also credited to Doody, with an assist from Watson.
The seventh and final goal was scored by Ali Andrzejewski in the 86th minute. She’d been working hard all night and finally succeeded when she sent in a seeing-eye ball through traffic from about 20 yards out that snuck into the lower left corner. Her shout of “Finally!” could be heard from the pressbox.
Then on Saturday the Charge headed north to face the Jersey Blues of the Tri-State Division. Unsurprisingly, it took them until the 77th minute to score, Kresge putting away a cross from Skidmore. They’d add an insurance goal in the 85th minute with Kresge feeding Riley Barger for the goal.
After the match, Kresge tweeted, “We are most definitely a second half team and right now I am loving every minute of it!”
Whatever the key is, it’s working. The ASA Charge have won all six of their WPSL matches and are one of only three teams in the league with unblemished records. And that doesn’t seem likely to change anytime soon, as their next game is the other half of the home-and-home series with the Lions, next Wednesday at 6:30 pm down in Prince Frederick.
ACF Torino USA
Torino, meanwhile, had a mixed week. On Wednesday, they went on the road to face FC Bucks. The trip up proved to be horrible, with traffic tie-ups so bad that most of the players arrived right around the scheduled kick-off time, and some arrived even later. They were given fifteen minutes to warm up, but it wasn’t enough. They gave up two goals while scoring none and reportedly generated very few scoring opportunities.
Their fortunes changed on Saturday, though, as not only was it their turn to face the Lion Soccer Club, but the Lions were only able to field nine players. Still, the first half was not as lopsided as it should have been. Torino scored in the 4th minute and the 43rd but were stymied in the interim. In fact, they were fortunate on a few occasions as the shorthanded home team had some real chances, most notably in the 7th minute when Alex Freesland – the Lions’ most dangerous attacking player – found some room at the top of the box off a deep throw-in and fired a shot that just missed the upper right corner.
The Lions’ defensive strategy was primarily keyed off maintaining a very high line – frequently with all the defenders standing on the midfield stripe – and defying the opposition to break through. This worked repeatedly in the first half to an almost ludicrous extent, with several offside calls coming when a Torino attacker was no more than a step or two into the attacking end.
The visitors composed themselves at halftime and came out with a better strategy for the second half. This led to a hat trick from Lauren “Lo” Badalamente in ensuing 21 minutes, plus a capper goal in the 78th minute from Rachel Lindenfeld to make the final score 6-0.
The good news is that Badalamente scored three goals. The bad news is that that’s as many goals as the entire rest of the team has scored this year. I pointed this out to her.
“I do agree with that,” she said, “but we are improving. We just need a little more time, then we’ll click and we’ll blend. So hopefully it will come together. Everyone needs to improve on their skills and their abilities, so it’s just going to take some time and some trusting.”
Overall, though, she’s happy with the team. “As long as I’m playing and I’m with good company, strong people who are caring and loving, that’s all you can ask for on a team.” The battery on my recorder started giving out at that point, but she went on to agree with every other Torino player I’ve talked to about how happy she was with their new coach, Fabio Diletti, and the style of soccer he was encouraging them to play.
On the Lions side, I talked briefly with Asia Fort, who despite being all of 16 years old was their standout player, repeatedly wreaking havoc on the Torino attack from her central defender position. She was a key player last year as well but just rejoined the team for this summer and is working on getting comfortable with the team and improving her skills. For the long term, she said, “I’m really looking to play for a Division I team like Pitt or North Carolina.” (Just for the record, the last time I watched a teenager play and thought, “That’s someone to remember,” it was back in 2004, and the player’s name was Ali Krieger. I’m not saying they’re necessarily comparable, just that I’m looking forward to seeing how high young Miss Fort can rise.)
Torino’s next game is their “real” home opener, on their regular field at the Riverdale Sportsplex this Saturday at 7, when they’ll play the other half of their home-and-home with the Lions.
Washington Spirit Reserves
The Reserves have been scalped of players at both ends of the age spectrum. Their best young players – Andi Sullivan and Brittany Basinger – are in France with the U-20 national team, while their best college graduates, Kelsey Pardue and Jennifer Skogerboe, are up with the professional team.
Quite possibly because of that they dropped their first points of the season, playing to a scoreless tie on the road against the Long Island Rough Riders on Saturday. Their scoreless stretch extended another 60 minutes in the next day’s game at the North Jersey Valkyries, but then they were awarded a penalty kick on a handball in the box. Lina Granados stepped up and put it away. They added on a goal from the run of play – the only one of the weekend – in the 84th minute when Melissa Downey one-timed a Katie Yensen cross into the net.
The Reserves next game is officially a home one, though it’s at the Howison Soccer Complex in Woodbridge, VA, rather than at the Soccerplex. That’s this coming Wednesday at 7:30 pm, and it’s a rematch with Braddock Road, the only team that’s managed to score on them so far this year. Following that, they’re back to the Soccerplex at 3 pm on Saturday where they’ll face the New York Magic as the first part of a doubleheader with the pro Spirit taking on the Portland Thorns afterwards.
Braddock Road Stars Elite
Braddock Road also had two road games up north, also faced Long Island (on Wednesday), and also played to a tie for the first standings point in the team’s history. Marie Shine scored for the visitors in the 61st minute, but the Rough Riders’ Susan Weber tied it up in the 85th.
On Saturday, they faced the New York Magic and fell, 3-1, with Rachel Moore scoring their lone goal.
Their next match is the aforementioned one, against the Spirit Reserves on Wednesday at the Howison Soccer Complex.