Jess Hnatiuk (right) got the game-winning goal for the Charge (file photo courtesy of Ken L. Harriford)
I started attending ASA Chesapeake Charge games with their second season in 2011. My lingering memory is of sitting in the stands at Arundel High watching them come up with every imaginable way not to score. This match, alas, was very reminiscent of that era.
The Charge controlled the run of play for most of the 90 minutes, but they regularly got bogged down in the final attacking third, keeping possession but moving the ball around without finding a good look until someone would get frustrated and fire a ball from 30 yards out that either went high or wide or right to the goalkeeper.
Midfielder Riley Barger: “I feel like that’s happened to us in all of the games so far, we’ve always had a lot of chances in the beginning. I think we need to work on finishing and putting them away, to prevent games like this from happening.”
It was all Charge for most of the first ten minutes, but then the Lancaster Inferno put on a spurt. In the 9th minute, Tesa McKibben got around defender Jess Hnatiuk on the right but from a tough angle her shot went high. Shortly thereafter, McKibben got a through ball to Kelsey McDonald, but her shot went just barely wide right. Then someone I didn’t identify fired a shot in from the left that Chesapeake goalkeeper Erin Quinn could only block. The Inferno collected the rebound and sent a high ball in, but Quinn managed to snag that one.
The Charge rebounded after that, led by their speedster midfielder Cheyenne Skidmore, who got in dangerous-looking crosses in the 13th and 17th minutes that weren’t taken advantage of. In the 20th minute, she took matters into her own hands, or I suppose I should say feet, as she zoomed in around the defender on the edge, came toward the box from the right, and fired the ball into the far left corner.
Cheyenne Skidmore (left) scored the opening goal for the Charge (file photo from 2012)
The home team would continue to dominate the rest of the half, but as previously stated shots went wide or high or right to goalkeeper Sarah Leiby.
Lancaster introduced a secret weapon early in the second half, flip throwins from forward Jade Flory. But though they looked impressive, the Charge defense managed to clear them all out of danger.
The visitors managed an equalizer off a fortunate bounce in the 54th minute, as a long shot/cross was sent in from the right. Second-half goalkeeper Lyndse Hokanson tried to jump and snare it but missed. The ball bounced off the crossbar and right to McKibben, who headed it in easily to tie the match.
Chesapeake seemed to have a golden opportunity in the 57th minute with Alexis Prior-Brown not only through but having dodged her way clear of the goalkeeper. But a defender managed to get a head on her shot and send it just wide. Lancaster had a similar opportunity three minutes later, with Hokanson lured way out of the goalmouth for an incoming ball only to have it sent to the left for an open shot. But the Charge had two defenders in the way and managed to block that effort.
In the 71st minute the Inferno earned a corner kick. The ball looked to be headed in for a sure goal, but the Charge defender at the far post headed it back out.
Come the 89th minute and Lancaster was taking their time on a goalkick, apparently happy with a tie. Chesapeake, meanwhile, was still fighting for the score. They got a chance in the 91st minute when forward Nia Walcott was taken down just outside the right edge of the penalty area.
Central defender Jess Hnatiuk, captain the previous two seasons and one of only three players to have been with the team for its entire existence, stepped up to take the kick. “I tried to bend it into the near corner around the wall, the outside girl I tried to bend it around her shoulder and into the corner.” It travelled exactly as advertised. Goalkeeper Leiby looked to be in good position to snare it, but it bounced off her hands and into the net. The whistle blew a minute later, and the Charge had a nailbiter of a win.
“I feel pretty good,” said Hnatiuk afterwards. “It was great to come out and get a win. They played us really tough, with a lot of heart. They pressed us, they got that goal to make a tie, and we were really pushed toward the end.”
Barger liked the way the team continued to compete. “I think we did a good job of really digging deep since it was so hot out here. I know it’s really tiring, but we did a good job of pressuring and getting that last goal in.”
I mentioned to Hnatiuk my frustration at this match being so similar to the ones two years ago. “I agree with that. I hope that a game like this doesn’t happen again. Hopefully we’re able to capitalize on our opportunities. Two years ago, it was unfortunate, we were in every game. I feel like we should have won more games than we did, we just couldn’t finish. Hopefully this doesn’t become a tell-tale of the season.
“We had a ton of opportunities in the first half and the second half, unfortunately, we weren’t able to capitalize. But I’ve got to give it to our team, we continued to battle and battle even though chances didn’t happen, and eventually one finally went through. Sometimes in soccer that’s just how it is, you press and press and press, and eventually things will break, it’s just when.
“I feel like we work on shooting all the time in practice. Because there could be 20 opportunities, and you are going to miss some, but if you continually practice and practice and practice, those opportunities will be easier, and you’ll finish more. And we’ll score more. ”
The ASA Chesapeake Charge have a bit of a break, then will look to maintain their perfect season so far with a rematch against the Lions Swarm on Wednesday, June 12, at 7 pm, at Arundel High, as usual.
The Lancaster Inferno, meanwhile, return to Maryland on June 8, when they take on ACF Torino USA in Fairland Park at 6 pm.