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.
Braddock Road Stars Elite vs. Washington Spirit Reserves
The Reserves have given up exactly two goals this year, one in their opener and one in this game, but both scored by Braddock Road captain Marisa Park. Fortunately for them, they’d already scored three by the time she put hers away, so they kept their undefeated streak intact.
Despite it being officially a home game for the Spirit, the venue was the Howison Homestead Soccer Complex in Woodbridge, Virginia, rather than the usual Maryland Soccerplex. It was also the hottest day of the year so far, with temperatures well into the nineties and probably more than that on the field’s artificial turf.
Possibly because of that, the first half wasn’t of quite the quality the coaches would have liked. “We were a little sluggish in the first half, really didn’t find our way,” said Reserves assistant coach JP Sousa.
Still, in the 17th minute Washington was awarded a free kick deep on the right. Ashley Herndon took it and sent a driven, head-level ball into the goalmouth. Central defender Meghan Cox leaped up and headed it into the netting. There was nothing goalkeeper Jessie Ferrari could do but watch. But that was it for the scoring and even pretty much for the chances.
By the time the second half started, the sun was behind the trees, the temperature reached bearable levels, and the soccer improved. Sousa again: “We made a couple of adjustments at halftime, thought the second half was certainly better. We were more active in the midfield, better defensive shape.”
They indeed looked very composed. A friend watching the game with me leaned over and said, “You know, I think the Reserves are better at one-touch passing than the professionals.”
It took only ten minutes for the improved play to pay off, the Spirit scoring again off what looked like an instant replay of the first goal, although from the run of play this time. Midfielder Katie Yensen found some room on the right and sent a strong cross in. This time it was Kara Wilson’s turn to run onto it and head it into the net.
Come the 69th minute, and in a battle for the ball at the edge of the Stars Elite box it fell at the feet of second-half substitute Aaran Parry, who took a quick touch to settle it and then fired it into the upper right netting.
Braddock Road never yielded, though. “They didn’t sit back,” said Sousa. “They went at us. They tried to play their game.” That paid off in the 78th minute when midfielder Kahla Seymour found Park in traffic in the Washington box. Park maneuvered across the goalmouth and then sent the ball into the net past goalkeeper Adelaide Gay.
The final score was 3-1, a mild improvement numerically over the 4-1 of their season-opening encounter but a big improvement on the field by both teams.
“I think our youth was coming out in our first game, and our inexperience,” said Park. “We still have young players, but what you saw today was a lot more organized.”
I pointed out that she’d scored the only two goals the Reserves had given up, but she deflected any credit for that. “Our team when we can connect passes together can be dangerous in front of goal. And that goes for everyone up front. It’s not me, specifically.”
Braddock head coach Larry Best, as always, took the long view. “This is such a valuable lesson for them to learn, what it’s like to play against college players. We’ve got young players out there and each game they’re getting better and better and better. I thought we were really organized, and I thought our confidence was good. We didn’t see that in the first match.”
Both sides were missing their U-20 national teamers, but Braddock Road’s contingent – Carlyn Baldwin and Kaleigh Riehl – are far more a core part of their team than Washington’s is. “They’re still high-school age, but they’re experienced. They’ve played at the international level. And they’re in key positions – one’s a center back, the other’s a midfielder.”
Sousa when prompted noted the missing talent on the Spirit over the past weekend, when they dropped their first standings points of the season. “It was, but we’ve got a lot of talent on this squad. So it was a good opportunity to have other players perform. We didn’t give up a goal over the weekend, but yeah, we didn’t get six points, we got four. I think it was a good learning experience for the group, even for [head coach] German and I to see who we could count on in different situations. That’s how we approached the weekend, and I think we took some positives out of it.”
I pointed out that they went through a 150-minute scoring drought and only got one goal from the run of play in the two-game road trip. He acknowledged that, then said, “So we were certainly happy to get three tonight, to get back into that rhythm.”
I made it a point to talk with Kelsey Pardue, who’d just gotten back from being up with the professional team for two matches. “Exciting!” she said when asked to describe it. “One of the best experiences I’ve ever had. It was definitely a great opportunity to travel with the pro team and get that experience because not many people do.
“Being able to get on the field for the Boston game was amazing. Being able to see the highest-level players and see what I need to work on to get to that level. Just being around them and talking to them and seeing their side of things was amazing.”
And I had to ask her about the spectacular goal she scored in the Women’s Amateur Championship final over Memorial Day weekend, stealing the ball, maneuvering around multiple defenders, then firing off an unstoppable rocket from 30 yards out.
She laughed. “I think I was in a daze when I did it. I just got the ball. I’m a defensive mid, so I don’t get up much. But sometimes I like to go forward and when I got it I just felt like that was the time. I went through a few players, saw my moment – I don’t know where that came from – took a shot, and it went in. It was a great feeling.”
She was optimistic about the Reserves’ prospects. “It’s all about getting to know each other and how each other plays. There are some moments we need to improve on, but I think overall we’re improving as a whole. And hopefully if we get everybody here and at practice every week, then we’re going to be on the same page and hopefully win a national championship. ”
Park was similarly determined about her team, though in the shorter term. “We have a game Sunday, and we are all hungry for a win.”
Both teams expressed their appreciation to the Prince William Courage organization for providing much of the logistical support toward holding the match at the unusual location.
The teams have similar schedules in the near future. The New York Magic travel down to this area this weekend to face each team in succession, the Spirit Reserves on Saturday at 3 at the Soccerplex (prior to the professional match against the Portland Thorns at 6:30), then the Stars Elite on Sunday at 4 at Robinson High School. Then on Wednesday at 7 pm they have their third and final regular-season matchup, this time hosted by Braddock Road.
I believe the U-20 national teamers will be back in time for these matches – certainly Andi Sullivan has returned as she’s been tweeting about her high school graduation. Best tells me his U-20s will be available on Sunday, but Saturday is a mandated rest day, so the Spirit U-20s won’t be playing then.
ASA Chesapeake Charge vs. Lion Soccer Club
When do you decide that a team just isn’t competitive enough for a league? How about when they lose 15-0?
The Lions didn’t make much of a case last year, when they went 0-9 with a -57 goal differential. And this year didn’t start out much better, with them losing their first three matches by scores of 7-0, 7-0, and 6-0.
Then came this game. The Charge took 45 minutes to score the last time they played the Lions. This time they took 13, with Alex Doody scoring unassisted. In the 24th minute, Marisa Kresge scored off an assist from Lacey Smith.
Then in the 33rd minute the wheels came completely off the bus as the Charge scored 9 times in the next 22 minutes of playing time. Once it was 11-0, though, they eased back. One of their forwards admitted after the game that she checked her normally ruthless scoring determination because she felt sorry for the other team.
Still, they scored three more times going into the 75th minute, and then, to complete the debacle, the Lions gave up an own goal in the 85th minute.
Kresge finished with a hat trick. Doody had a double hat trick. Cheyenne Skidmore, surprisingly, didn’t score but had five assists.
The next day the WPSL notified the other teams in the South Atlantic Division that the Lion Soccer Club had been expelled from the league and that all of their scheduled matches, played or unplayed, would be recorded as 3-0 forfeits. No explanation was made available to me, but it’s easy to conclude that it was because they were not fielding a competitive team.
ACF Torino is the first team to be affected by this, as they were scheduled to play the Lions this Saturday on their regular home field at the Riverdale Baptist School Sportsplex. Instead, their next game is now a week later, at 4 pm, still at the Sportsplex.
The ASA Charge will lose much of their massive goal differential, having already played the team twice, not that that matters. They next play this Saturday at 6:30 pm at Arundel High, facing Buxmont Torch FC in their next-to-last regular season home match of the year.