On a hot Sunday afternoon in July, it appeared that the ASA Chesapeake Charge would fall to FC Indiana at home. Indiana held a 2-0 lead late in the game. The result would have been especially disappointing for the Charge as they dominated the run of play throughout the match and had fallen victim to two breakaway goals early.
Thanks to some late heroics, the Charge roared back to tie the game 2-2. With less than 5 minutes left in regulation, Chesapeake’s Riley Barger scored to give her team a chance. Throughout the afternoon, Barger had been the Charge’s best player. She displayed superb vision when distributing the ball and stayed composed under pressure. Thus, it was fitting that she found the back of the net to lead the rally. The memorable game ended in a 2-2 tie. No one performance that day was more memorable than Barger’s.
Barger, 18, finished the WPSL Elite League season with two goals and two assists, but undoubtedly the central midfielder’s greatest contribution to the team was her ball distribution skills. Barger’s superb vision and distribution skills are matched by her tenacity. Despite her standing at a mere 5’3, she is quick to launch herself in the air to challenge players much taller for the ball.
Barger admits that her size “isn’t very helpful” adding that she could work on her speed of play and shooting as well. She considers her ability to keep possession, vision and her final pass, when it actually works, to be her strengths.
Barger got her start in Fallston, Md. youth soccer where her younger sister now plays. “I go to her practices and play around with them a little.” Barger said, “It’s interesting to see how different the little kids are. My little sister is nine. She’s starting to get to really into soccer and understand how to play.”
Barger said she sees herself as a coach in the future.
“Definitely. I think it would be a really good experience especially knowing how much the coaches I’ve had have impacted me and how serious I am about soccer. I would want to be someone who helps kids like I was grow and develop.”
What soccer player did Barger look up to as a young player? Julie Foudy.
“When I was little I always looked up to Julie Foudy for some reason,” she said. “It could have to do with the fact that she was (No.) 11 and I was always 11 growing up.”
Fittingly, Barger’s favorite current player is Lionel Messi, who wears the No. 10 for Barcelona. Barger will wear the No. 10 for the University of Maryland in the fall, when she’ll be a freshman at the ACC powerhouse.
Barger has racked up an impressive list of accolades already. She recently graduated from Bryn Mawr School where she led the team in scoring each year and helped lead her team to conference championships in three of those four years. She is also a member of the U-18 U.S. national team.
Oh, and she won seven-straight state cups with her club team, the Baltimore Bays.
”I played on that team since I was 7, so I played on that team for like 10 years,” she said. “That team was like my second family. I was with them all the time, so many memories. We won seven straight state cups.”
Barger’s Baltimore Bays and later Chesapeake Charge teammate Ashley Spivey joins her at the University of Maryland this fall. Spivey made the decision to attend Maryland before Barger. Spivey then occasionally joked with Barger at Bays practices about Barger attending Maryland with her.
“We would just be talking and she’d be like ‘you know like next year when we’re at school together,’ Barger said. “It was that kind of thing nothing annoying…. And then when I committed, it was really exciting. She was one of the first people I texted (when I made the decision).”
Barger also expressed excitement about playing for Maryland, a team she feels is sometimes overlooked.
“It’s UNC, Virginia, Stanford, everyone looks at those teams,” she said. “We’ll see what happens next year.”
Barger might have a point considering Maryland was the only team that did not lose to Stanford last year. Stanford and Maryland drew 0-0 last August.
Barger has her collegiate career off to a good start. Maryland beat Navy 3-0 in its season opener on Friday and Barger tallied an assist off the bench.