Team captain Laura Kane – shown in this photo from preseason practice – would score the only goal for the Charge, but that’s all they would need (photo courtesy of Ken Harriford)
So what is it with my teams and not scoring? This week I’ve watched 450 minutes of soccer and seen all of three goals by the Maryland teams. Is this some sort of karma for getting to watch the two top goal-scorers of all time play together for a couple of years?* Anyhow, for the longest time this first-round WPSL playoff match between the ASA Chesapeake Charge and the Long Island Fury seemed as if it were going to be another exercise in frustration like Wednesday’s Spirit matches. It didn’t help that the host Charge were missing two of their key attacking players, as midfielder Riley Barger and forward Alexis Prior-Brown were on vacation.
The home team almost scored off the opening kickoff, getting a through ball to one of their forwards that Long Island Fury goalkeeper Brittany Anghel barely got to in time. But for most of the next few minutes, the Fury were in control. “They were a great team,” said Charge captain Laura Kane. “They had pressed us in the beginning and put us under pressure right out of the gates. I think we adjusted and settled into the game after the first ten minutes.”
Five minutes in, the Fury’s Meredith Speck was through on the left but shot wide right. That would be the Fury’s best chance on the night, though. The Charge came back four minutes later and earned a free kick from less than 25 yards out that Kane sent off the crossbar. There was some sloppy play in the midfield by both teams for a while there, with numerous turnovers and neither side able to mount a sustained attack. Chesapeake earned a corner kick off a long shot from Kelly Whittaker in the 19th minute that Anghel had to tip over the bar. The first attempt was headed out by the Fury, then the second was initially popped up by Anghel but eventually grabbed by her.
Kane would get another chance on a free kick from about 30 out in the 28th minute but sent that one high as well. She got another chance in the run of play in the 32nd minute but sent it wide right.
The Fury would have another chance in the 35th minute off a poor turnover by the Charge, but Jacklyn Rose DiMartino’s shot – which looked to be going high anyway- was tipped over the crossbar by Chesapeake’s first-half goalkeeper, Erin Quinn. The resulting corner kick went long but was sent back in only to be blocked by defender Jess Hnatiuk. On the ensuing shot, Quinn made a soaring grab to stifle the attack.
The Charge’s best chance of the half came when Marisa Kresge got a one-on-one with Anghel after a Long Island turnover, but she sent it into the goalkeeper. Sofia Read had a follow-up shot from distance but couldn’t put it on target.
After her two near-misses, Kane rededicated herself at the half. “I said at halftime, ‘I’m gonna finish.’” Two minutes into the half, she’d get her third free kick opportunity from just outside the box, but she sent this one right into the wall. Whittaker and Cheyenne Skidmore would get off a few crosses for the Charge in the next ten minutes, but it would take Kane herself in the 65th minute to score at last, stealing the ball and putting it away. “They were playing the ball out. I just stepped in front, took one touch, hit it with my left foot, to the back post.”
Chesapeake would have a few more chances after that but be unable to capitalize, while Long Island was completely unable to penetrate the home team’s defense for the latter part of the second half. The Charge would successfully kill the clock in the Fury’s end and come away with a narrow, 1-0 victory.
They’ll play again back at Arundel High tomorrow (Sunday) evening at 7 pm, facing the New York Athletic Club, who downed the Lancaster Inferno, 3-1.
I asked Kane how hard it was going to be to deal with a second match the next day. She referred to the team’s participation in the USASA’s Women’s Amateur Cup, when they played four games in three days. “I think Kansas City prepared us really well for that, having all those games back-to-back. Honestly, I think if we didn’t have Kansas City I would have been fearful, especially being one of the older players it takes me a bit longer to recover. So I think we’re ready.”
With a win that evening, the Charge would host the Eastern Conference Championship, facing the winner of Sunday’s match between the New England Mutiny and the Empire Revs Western New York. Barger and Prior-Brown will be available for that and any future matches.
*That’s Abby Wambach and Mia Hamm playing together for the 2002 and 2003 WUSA Washington Freedom, in case you didn’t know.