Katie Watson came in and scored a goal for the first time after not playing for three years. (Ken L. Harriford)
The ASA Chesapeake Charge cruised to their third straight win in WPSL play, winning 4-0 over eastern Pennsylvania’s FC Bucks off two goals from the run of play and two goals off penalty kicks awarded from handballs in the box.*
With the Charge, there’s little worry that they’re going to get scored on by typical WPSL teams, and this game was no exception – I’m not sure that goalkeeper Lyndse Hokanson had to make a single save the entire match. She certainly didn’t have any challenging ones. Whenever the opposition seemed to have a promising attack going, either Jennifer Gillette or Jess Hnatiuk – the two central defenders, who were both faster and stronger than anyone on the opposition – would swoop in and steal the ball, clear the ball, get in the way, or otherwise stifle the play.
On the other hand, there always seems to be a wait until they get on the scoreboard themselves. This time it took 38 minutes before a trademark Chesapeake goal, Cheyenne Skidmore getting through on the right and from a tough angle getting the ball over goalkeeper Bree Benedict.
That was it for the first half, though. Then eight minutes into the second half a Bucks defender hit the ball clear with her elbow, and the referee pointed to the penalty spot. Nia Walcott stepped up and fired it into the lower right corner. Fifteen minutes after that, in the 68th minute, another FC Bucks defender brushed the ball with her raised arm, and it was PK time again. Jess Hnatiuk took this one and authoritatively sent it into the upper left corner. It was a striking change from the limp attempts the Charge mustered against the Houston Aces in the USASA tournament.
Things started getting a little chippy in the 71st minute. Katlin Ojert tripped Nia Walcott in midfield and earned a yellow card. Two minutes later, Ojert took Walcott down again and hit her in the face. Walcott took a retaliatory swipe and earned a yellow card for that. She was quickly taken aside by a teammate and then almost immediately subbed out. In the 79th minute, Alex Doody got taken down in the box by Erin Lafferty, then when there was no call on the play took a swipe at Lafferty. There was no call on that, either, but then Lafferty got carded for yelling at the referee. Marissa Green of the Charge also got booked at about the same time. And Benedict got a yellow card after the second PK, presumably for unsportsmanlike conduct.
On a more positive note, veterans Katie Watson and Ali Andrzejewski, who had been subbing in and out for each other, took the field at the same time when Watson came on in the 75th minute. They ended up teaming up for the final goal just before second-half stoppage time as Andrzejewski sent a long ball from the right side of midfield toward the left post. Skidmore collected it there, threatened to shoot, then rolled it across the goalmouth as Benedict committed to her. Watson had an easy tap-in into the open net to make the final score 4-0.
Ali Andrzejewski made the play that led to Watson’s goal and supported the Charge attack. (Ken L. Harriford)
Sucker for nostalgia that I am, I had to talk with the two veterans after the game. My first question was when they’d last played together. After some back-and-forth, they agreed that it was in 2007 for the then-W-League Washington Freedom – a team that went on to win the league’s championship and which has close to half-a-dozen former members currently playing in the NWSL.
“I’m so happy to have her back,” said Andrzejewski.
“Yeah, it’s fun to play again together,” added Watson. “We’re a lot older now.”
Katie wasn’t sure when she’d last scored, but figured it had been about three years since that was the last time she’d played.
Asked how the team was coming along, they were both positive. “”It’s getting better. It’s like every game we get a better feel for each other,” said Watson.
Andrzejewski elaborated, “I think that’s the main thing because every year on a team like this you have new players who come in. You’re always adjusting and learning what people like. Like I like the ball [REDACTED**]. Other players like through balls. Other players like to sit back and attack. You’ve just got to figure out what everybody does, and when you know what everyone’s tendencies are you know better how to play them in and look for them.”
I said jokingly that of course they remember each other’s preferences from seven years ago, but they said it was true. “I feel like we do,” Watson said.
“We were talking about that,” Ali added. “Katie came in the game, and she passed it to me right away. I was like, ‘Yes!’”
Andrzejewski went on unbidden to compare the style of play of the Freedom and the Charge. “The difference between this team and the Freedom, the Freedom was very methodical. Everything was very well scripted. When the ball’s in one place, everybody’s expected to be in a certain spot. Occasionally, you’re allowed a run forward or creativity within the system. But you have to stay within the system. And the difference is on this team people have a lot of freedom and creativity, and it’s not as methodical. Sometimes we find each other because we’re thinking that kind of methodical way.”
“You’ve been programmed,” I offered.
“Yeah, we’ve been programmed,” she laughed. “But neither way is better. They’re both good ways of play. It’s just different.”
The Charge are off until next Wednesday, when they take on the Lion Soccer Club of southern Maryland at 5 pm, again on Arundel High School’s Carroll Field.
*The referee must have been borrowed from the NWSL.
**”You can’t tell anyone that,” she said immediately after that revelation.