When Angel City FC announced they had acquired forward Simone Charley from the Portland Thorns ahead of the 2022 NWSL Expansion Draft, many eyebrows were raised. Charley was coming off a career season with the Thorns, helping the team en route to their second NWSL Shield and an appearance in the postseason. While surprising, it led many to feel like perhaps this was the best thing. A chance with an expansion meant a chance at more minutes, and possibly a bigger role with a new team.
A courtesy glimpse at the stat sheet might have you feeling like this was a down year for Simone, but that's why sports are so much more than the stats we keep track of, because so much of Charley has brought to Angel City this season can't be found on a sheet of paper. It can however, be felt within a club.
Settling into a new club, let alone an expansion side, is tough. Having to settle in, then having tactics, ideas, formations, and play-styles change almost immediately due to unfortunate injuries, makes settling in almost impossible. That's the struggle all of ACFC has had to face to some degree as the team lost several key pieces before a ball was even kicked off, and then lost a couple more shortly into the season, making it hard for anyone to find any sort of rhythm. Even still, Charley hasn't just settled into her role with her new side, but has steadily improved, quickly becoming a player fans can't get enough of.
In 2022, Simone has logged just 985 minutes, with nine starts in 19 appearances for ACFC, having primarily been used as a bit of a super sub for the team. For context, most of the ‘regular XI’ hover around the 1,700-1,800 minute mark, almost double what Charley has seen, yet not many have made the impact she has. Sure, you can look at the stat sheet and see just two goals this regular season, with zero assists and presume she hasn't done much, but you'd be so very wrong and embarrassed when met with side-eyed glares from those of us actually watching matches.
One part of the stat sheet not often looked at, fouls won. Charley has won 14 fouls for her side this year, fourth most on the team, with two of those fouls resulting in penalties and another five fouls occurring within five yards of the box, putting the team in threatening positions to score goals. Unfortunately she doesn't take free kicks or penalties, so she doesn't always benefit from her work in that regard. She has also been tantalizingly close on several occasions this season.
Usually after taking on, and beating several defenders, Charley has found shots either just missing the target or deflecting off defenders in ways that fall right to teammates to clean up. This McCaskill goal below for instance. A great ball in finds Charley, who gets on it, but not enough. Savannah McCaskill — rightfully so in my opinion — isn't about to wait and see if the ball has enough to cross the line, and she comes in to finish it off, taking the credit for the score. Situations like that aren't on stat sheets to show just how often Simone finds herself in the right place, at the right time, doing the dirty work, but just missing out on the glory that should follow.
The best part about covering sports, is going to games, though not for why you may think. Sure, the game itself is fun but for me personally, it’s about seeing what can't be seen on streaming broadcast. Getting a better sense of a player’s responsibilities throughout the course of the match, seeing tactics as a whole, watching players off ball and not just for the three second clips you may catch on your computer screen. Getting to watch players like Simone Charley, show leadership on, and off the pitch.
Angel City all season have done this thing where they, like most teams, will huddle up before kickoff. Presumably to discuss tactics, get focused, encourage one another, etc. However, ACFC also do this at the halftime whistle, as they step onto the pitch for second halves, as well as post match. Almost as if the team are checking-in with each other, getting a feel for how they all feel. In all of these huddles one common image stands out, Charley leading. Not just once or twice, but seemingly every time the team got together, it has been Simone who was one of those to speak and others were listening.
Of course, no players will talk about what is said in those brief private moments, but with how her teammates give her their undivided attention, and with how constant she is in being one of those who are vocal, it's safe to assume she has quickly become a leader amongst the team, which says a lot when you're talking about a player not considered a “regular starter.” Though, it’s hard not to listen to a player who comes in hoping for more than what she has received this season, yet still gives everything she has to a team and city, that has grown to absolutely adore and appreciate her.
See, the other thing a broadcast can't capture, the way ACFC fans have embraced Charley, constantly showing they not only see what she does for the team, but greatly appreciate it. Whether it's chants of ‘Charley, Charley’ that fill the sold-out Banc of California Stadium from time to time, or the uproarious ovation she gets whenever coming on, or leaving the pitch. It’s a love that can only be felt first-hand at matches, but seen on the face of Simone in moments like this, where she scores, the crowd erupts, and the smile becomes impossible to wipe off.
So as the team prepare for their final match of the 2022 regular season, keep an eye on No. 7 for Angel City. Whether she plays the entire 90, or is tasked with coming on for some late-season, second half magic, just know when she hits the pitch chances are high she makes something happen, whether she gets on the stat sheet for it or not.
What do you think of the year Simone has had? Leave a comment below!