Battery fall to Atlanta to close CCC

The Charleston Battery closed out the 2017 Carolina Challenge Cup with a loss, their first to an MLS side in the tournament, against Atlanta United on Saturday.

Yamil Asad gave Atlanta a fourth minute lead. Connecting with a pinpoint Mikey Ambrose cross with a diving header that bounced off the post and in.

The Battery came back into the game though, especially in the last 20 minutes of the first half, with Romario Williams capping off that good work with a goal on the stroke of half time to equalize.

But Atlanta were desperate to win the game ahead of their first league game of the season just seven days away, and brought on Miguel Almiron and Hector Villalba late on to find a winner, and they did just that as the two subs combined in stoppage time to give Atlanta the win.

The tournament was settled with the evening’s first match, however, with the Columbus Crew beating the Seattle Sounders with a late goal of their own to finish on seven points, earning their second Carolina Challenge Cup title, after winning the very first CCC title in 2004.

Atlanta were on top early in the night’s second game, Jacob Petersen looked threatening in the first minute, when a ball was played through to the former Sporting KC striker. However, the ball was just beyond the foward’s smart run, with Odisnel Cooper there to collect as the ball was going out.

But Atlanta were quickly on the attack again. Some well worked play found the feet of Mikey Ambrose, whose cross was almost perfect, avoiding defenders before Yamil Asad would lay out with the diving header to put it on frame, which Cooper in goal was helpless to stop, giving the visitors the lead.

The Battery could’ve had a leveler only a minute later, as Attaula Guerra found himself some space, but his shot from distance was easily saved by Atlanta ‘keeper Kyle Reynish.

Four minutes later, Forrest Lasso would have some work to do after some dangerous buildup play from Atlanta found its way into the box, but the defender did well to clear.

The Battery threatened again after a quarter of an hour, when Obi Woodbine‘s quick throw in caught out the Atlanta defense as it rolled to Dante Marini, who used his pace to get to the byline and tease a ball toward Heviel Cordoves, before the ball was cleared before an onrushing Romario Williams snatched his shot on the rebound just wide.

Yamil Asad sent a promising Atlanta free kick over the bar on 20 minutes, failing to reassert their diminishing dominance on the match.

The Battery had a half chance in the second ball following a corner after the ball was cleared first time. A ball was sent in by Justin Portillo whilst the big men were still piled in the box for Charleston, but the flag went up for offside.

Petersen was on the end of another good ball on 37′, but Taylor Mueller did well to tackle the ball clear. The ensuing corner went out for another, which was cleared from danger.

Forrest Lasso sent a lumping ball forward on 41′, which was brought down by the striker Williams, who played Dante Marini in, who made a cut inside before having a crack at goal, but his shot lacked power and went safely into the ‘keepers arms.

Marini again was involved a couple minutes later, making a good run and creating space before passing to Justin Portillo, who found Heviel Cordoves with a pretty good cross, but the center forward had to take the ball down on his chest, which took too long, and the ball was cleared away before he could get a shot on the volley.

But then, on the stroke of half time, Romario Williams would receive the ball roughly twenty yards from goal. He used his strength to get away from his man, before turning and taking aim at goal. His shot beat Reynish in the Atlanta goal and nestled into the bottom corner before the half time whistle blew, levelling the scores as we went into half time.

The score was perhaps warranted, as Atlanta owned the better of the early goings before the Battery came back into it as the first half ended, and both teams knew what was required of them in the second half.

A chance for either team came in the first five minutes, each coming through nice one-twos, with Andrew Carleton combining with Jacob Petersen for Atlanta first, but the striker’s shot was wide. Maikel Chang was then on the end of a similar move for Charleston, but like his Atlanta counterpart, his effort was wide.

On 57 minutes, Obi Woodbine would turn on the jets down the left before crossing the ball in, which was dummied by Taylor Mueller, which fell to Williams, but his shot was high over the bar.

A loose touch by an Atlanta defender following the ensuing goalkeeper almost gifted Maikel Chang a 1v1 with Reynish, but the winger couldn’t control the ball and it rolled harmlessly back to the ‘keeper.

With 20 minutes left, Odisnel Cooper was forced into a save after a shot from distance had him sprawling, but he saved well and the crisis was averted.

On 73 minutes was a moment that has many fans talking, as Andrew Carleton breezed past Quinton Griffith on the turn with great close control, creating space and leaving a few others in his wake before taking a shot from distance, but his effort was over the bar.

Charleston’s trialists have impressed for large parts of the preseason so far, and a name that’s stood out for Battery fans in particular has been Kotaro Higashi, who, with three minutes to go, found full back Reed Norton. His cross from the left found forward Akeem Roach, who got his head to the ball, but couldn’t keep his effort on frame.

They would live to regret the wasted chance though, as Miguel Almiron, who came on as a sub for Atlanta after standing out in the first two matches of the tournament, found fellow sub Hector Villalba with a great cross at the death. Villalba stood his man up before turning and having a pop at goal. The effort nestled in the back of the net, thus giving Atlanta the 2-1 win with just about the last kick of the game.

It was a hard way to lose a game for the Battery, until now unbeaten against MLS opposition in the CCC’s history, but they can be proud of how they performed in the tournament as a whole. Most of MLS have been together a full month, with a week to go until their season begins. The Battery have only been together a fortnight, with their season not starting until the 25th of March.

Atlanta begin their season next Sunday, March 5th, at Bobby Dodd Stadium against New York Red Bulls. The Battery begin their season on the 25th of March, against FC Cincinatti. Their next preseason game, however, is a visit to North Carolina FC on the 4th of March.
TOP IMAGE: BATTERY SCORER ROMARIO WILLIAMS FIGHTS FOR A BALL IN A LEAGUE MATCH LAST SEASON. Photo Credit: Ross Almers Photography

 

 

 

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Battery hold on for well-fought draw against Columbus

Matchday Two of the Carolina Challenge Cup took place on Wednesday, with the hosts Charleston Battery opening the night against the Columbus Crew.

The Battery and Crew share a little bit of history, as well as the same colors, but the Battery were in Black and White as part of a commemoration of their 25th anniversary, while the Crew donned their Black and Yellow away strip.

The Battery again gave a good showing, and opened the scoring on 25 minutes, when a Justin Portillo corner skimmed off the head of Forrest Lasso and into the bottom corner. The Crew began to press a little more in search of an equalizer toward the end of the first half, but it wasn’t until the second, and an Own Goal on the hour mark from  Tah Brian Anunga that Columbus found the telling equalizer.

Defender Harrison Afful created the first chance of the evening after six minutes, when his cross sought out Frederico Higuain. Higuaín scored two goals in the Crew’s opening match, but couldn’t add to his tally here as his shot of the volley was deflected.

A Dante Marini handball led to a free kick about 20 yards out, but the dangerous set piece was sent over the bar.

Jeffery Otoo was involved in a lot of good things tonight, and his first involvement of the night was to play Romario Williams in for a 1v1 with the ‘keeper, but he tried to place it and hit the shot wide.

But the hosts would make the early pressure tell as Justin Portillo was at the controls of a corner kick on 25’. His ball into the mixer found a rising Forrest Lasso, who aimed a header down low and into the bottom corner.

The Battery, on the scheme of things were probably the better side up until that point, and could say that their lead was deserved, but the Crew would come back at them.

The Right Back Afful was very much a threat in the first half, and was involved again as his cross on 24 caused a bit of havoc in the back. The cross was cleared by Forrest Lasso, helping out this time at the back, and the shot on the rebound was then wide.

Romario Williams would then do very well on the edge of the box to slip in Attaula Guerra, but the linesman put his flag up for offside, cancelling out the 1v1 in which the attacker rounded the ‘keeper.

The Crew would have a succession of corners close to half time, but nothing came of the set pieces, and the battery would go in at halftime with the 1-0 advantage.

Romario Williams would set up a counter on 47’, but his cross would be cut out.

A Dante Marini ball would find Williams on 53′ but his shot would go over the bar.

Some good build up play eventually found Nico Hanson in the box, who had the goal at his mercy with the onrushing ‘Keeper, but the shot hit the post. ‘

A Justin Portillo free kick on the left wing near the hour mark would bounce through and hit the post before being cleared by the Crew defense. The ball set up a counter that led to a Crew free kick after Taylor Meuller fouled Justin Miram.

The free kick was powered toward the middle, and in his attempt to hastily clear, Tah Brian Anunga would send the ball on frame and into his own net.

But four minutes later, a great first touch by sub Kotaro Higashi would play in Guerra, who was unlucky as his shot hit the post.

Around the 68th minute, a worrying sight for Battery fans came as Maikel Chang would come off injured, but he’d be replaced by Nico Rittmeyer.

Heviel Cordoves would come on in the second half. and would take down a free kick well on 83 and shoot on the turn, but his effort was saved as it was destined for the top corner.

Four minutes later, the Battery had some good buildup fall to Cordoves again, who played in a pass for the overlapping run, but the ball wouldn’t trouble the defense as it went over the bar.

More late heroics may have been on offer as the Battery got a free kick late on in stoppage time, but the ball didn’t trouble the ‘keeper as it was cleared.

And so, the Battery finished their 2nd game of the tournament with two points in the standings, but they can be pleased with the way they’d performed so early in the season, and will be hopefull of continuing such form as they go into the season proper.

The second match of the evening between Atlanta and Seattle ended 4-2 after Atlanta took a quick early lead through first half goals from Josef Martinez, a penalty from Miguel Almiron and a third from Hector Villalba before Martinez added to his tally with a tasty chip for 4-0 early in the second half, though Seattle would answer with two of their own, making the final score 4-2.

The Carolina Challenge Cup concludes this Saturday, when the Columbus Crew take on the Seattle Sounders, before the Battery and Atlanta United finish out the tournament.

TOP IMAGE: FORREST LASSO RISES HIGHEST ON A CORNER KICK TO PUT THE BATTERY AHEAD. ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY PHOTO

 

Atlanta United groups take CCC by storm

When Atlanta was announced in 2014 as part of the next wave of expansion teams for Major League Soccer, a sleeping giant awoke. Now, two years later, Atlanta United are on the eve of their first season as a club. To prepare for their first season in the league, Atlanta are part of the 2017 edition of the Carolina Challenge Cup, and their fans are showing exactly why there are such high hopes for one of the newest teams in America’s top flight.

We spent time at the Atlanta fans’ tailgate, which comprised of the club’s four fan clubs, Terminus Legion, Resurgence, The Faction and Footie Mob. According to Terminus member Gail Carr, the groups had filled up three hotels in the local area, by far being the most represented of the three MLS sides at the tournament.

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Fresh off of a 4-0 win in their first ever match against Chattanooga FC, the atmosphere was electric, and the anticipation (and perhaps the expectation) was high. There was food, as well as merch booths for fans to purchase Atlanta United products, and of course, a stereo blasting music by Atlanta based music artists.

After 30 to 45 minutes at the tailgate, which also had a mingling of hosts, The Regiment, and the travelling Columbia branch of the American Outlaws, the time came for Atlanta’s first ever “competitive” match. After all, it was pre-season, but there was still silverware on the line. The party continued in the stands, with the drumline for the Atlanta faithful leading as they turned songs by Atlanta rapper Ludacris into Football chants.

ATL UTD boss Tata Martino had apparently gotten the silverware memo, putting Atlanta’s first choice team out, and thus treating the match as if it were a competitive fixture.

Atlanta started well. They set a high press and the defense was solid. All this was made easier by the fact that Chris McCann picked off a ball in midfield, passing to Josef Martinez, who laid off the ball before receiving it again on a diving header that put Atlanta ahead against the Columbus Crew in the sixth minute. Columbus came into the match more as time went on, but Atlanta went in at half time with their 1-0 lead still in tact. The midfield was definitely running things, with Chris McCann being a great anchor in front of the back four, and Miguel Almiron being at the center of everything.

The heads dropped a little and legs certainly got tired when Alec Kann fluffed a clearance which hit Federico Higuaín on the leg and bounced in, but the fans weren’t going to stop singing. You could hear them from minute one until the final whistle, as they certainly gave a good account of what’s to come as they enter the league ahead of the new season.

Though their team ended up losing on the night, Atlanta’s fans certainly enjoyed themselves, and gave fans in Charleston a taste of what’ll be on offer at Bobby Dodd stadium, and will be at Mercedes Benz Stadium come summertime, which will only help the matchday experience.

TOP IMAGE: ATLANTA UNITED AND BATTERY FANS MINGLE BEFORE THE CAROLINA CHALLENGE CUP BEGAN ON SATURDAY NIGHT. PHOTO CREDIT NICKI ACE 

 

Stoppage time equalizer earns Battery draw to start CCC

The Charleston Battery were known for their late drama last year, and it was a similar story tonight, as they earned a draw against the Seattle Sounders in their first match of this year’s Carolina Challenge Cup, when trialist Kotaro Higashi bundled the ball over the line with the last kick of the match in the 92nd minute.

Seattle took the lead with just over a half an hour gone. Full back Jovein Jones sent a low cross into the box, which bounced off of Battery center back Taylor Mueller and past the helpless Odisnel Cooper in goal. Both teams created a few chances for themselves as the match went on, but the score remained the same until Higashi’s equalizer late on.

US National Team star and Seattle striker Clint Dempsey started and played about an hour as he continues his return from fitness following a heart condition that kept him out toward the end of last season, where he also missed Seattle’s run to the MLS Cup title. He played well, and created the first chance of the match, separating himself just enough from defender Obi Woodbine and having a pop from distance after nine minutes. but the effort went well over the bar.

After 11 minutes, the Battery earned a corner after some good build up play as Maikel Chang found Heviel Cordoves, but the set piece was wasted as it was cleared away.

Dante Marini‘s effort on 21 minutes had the Seattle ‘keeper sprawling, but it went high and wide. A minute later, Marini would fight for a ball near the end line, and barely keep it in before it was cleared for a corner in order to stop a cross. This, however, was smuggled away at the second attempt.

Obi Woodbine would register the Battery’s first shot on target a little while later on 26′, cutting inside after Heviel Cordoves played him in. But the full back couldn’t get any power on the shot, which went harmlessly to the goalkeeper.

The Battery attacked well in the first half, pressing the ball and passing well whilst being comfortable in possession, which led to a chance for Dante Marini, who had a shot blocked before it rolled out to  Maikel Chang, who scuffed his effort.

On 31’ came a really unlucky moment for the Battery and Taylor Mueller especially, as a cross from Oniel Fisher came in from the left and bounced its way across. Mueller, in his attempt to clear, redirected the ball past Odisnel Cooper to give the Sounders a 1-0 lead. For the most part, the Battery defended well up until that point, and the OG did belie a defense that had to deal with two International caliber strikers in Dempsey and Jordan Morris.

Four minutes later, the Sounders could’ve had a second, as a Jordan Morris-led counter down the middle of the park. He passed to Alvaro Fernandez on his right, who had a pop at goal from 18 yards out, but Odisnel Cooper produced a quality save to keep the score at 1-0.

On 40 minutes, a long ball forward from the back bounced off of Cordoves into Maikel Chang’s path, but his effort went wide, before Cordoves himself had an effort go wide from distance just before half time.

The Battery went in at half time and could very well be proud of themselves. They were 1-0 down, but were unlucky to have actually conceded through the Mueller own goal, and had created chances against a Seattle side that were always a threat with the likes of Morris and Dempsey up front. They came out in the second half with almost a completely different XI, filled with trialists and a few Atlanta loanees, including Alex Tambakis, Chris Goslin and Andrew Wheeler.

Nico Lodeiro forced Alex Tambakis’ first save of the evening, on 51′, after he was on the end of some tidy Sounders build-up play. Lodeiro received the ball inside the six yard box, but Tambakis stood firm, making himself big at his near post to deny the Seattle playmaker.

Seattle came close to finding a second goal again shortly after, when on 56′, a bouncing shot hit the inside of Alex Tambakis’ post and rolled along the goal line before being cleared by the hosts.

Will Bruin came on in the group of subs that saw Dempsey come off after an hour, and he got his first chance with roughly twenty minutes to go, getting a pass from the left and toepoking toward the goal, but the shot rolled harmlessly wide.

Chris Goslin did impress with his pace and close control, and on 71′, he jinked his way through a couple of defenders before taking aim at goal. He couldn’t get any purchase behind the shot though, which was an easy save for Sounders goalie Tyler Miller.

On 76′, the Sounders thought they had a second goal through Henry Wingo, who had been dangerous all second half, after he received a nice backheel from Will Bruin. Wingo stuck his chance home and had wheeled away to celebrate with his teammates, but the goal was waved off for offside and the score reained 1-0.

Three minutes later, Wingo was on the end of another ball, this time from Lodeiro, which he put on frame. But this time, Tambakis was able to save.

Despite set pieces for both sides in the last ten minutes, the two teams found themselves headed into two minutes of stoppage time still at 1-0. For some reason, the Battery have made a habit of finding late goals, and tonight they continued the trend, this time getting a throw-in about level with the 18 yard box. The throw was played short, and the ball was crossed in, finding Kotaro Higashi, who chested the ball down, aimed toward goal and hit the post with his effort. Bodies collided in the box before Higashi controlled again and shot into the roof of the net to level the match at 1-1.

The Sounders may be aggrieved that they didn’t put away their chances in the second half, but the Battery did hang in. Some alert defending and a couple of good saves from the Battery kept the score 1-0, and the hosts made good on the best chance they had, and so from their point of view, a draw is surely a fair result.

The Carolina Challenge Cup continues this coming Wednesday, February 22nd. The Battery will face the Columbus Crew, while the Sounders will face Atlanta United. Both matches are set to be streamed on charlestonbattery.com.

TOP IMAGE: TAYLOR MUELLER CELEBRATES SCORING A GOAL IN LAST YEAR’S LEAGUE CAMPAIGN. PHOTO CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY

 

 

How you can help a Former Battery player give back to Children in Uganda

Former Battery player Mike Azira was born in the African country of Uganda before coming to America to attend college. He played for the Battery from 2012-2014, winning a league title in 2012, before playing for the Seattle Sounders and most recently the Colorado Rapids. Despite this, he never forgot where he came from, and has partnered with a charity to benefit Children in his homeland, and you can help too.

The Mengo Children’s Foundation (MCF) helps raise money for food, water and School supplies for orphans and other vulnerable children in Rural Uganda, as well as helping educate those that they serve, (thanks to a school built with prior donations), among other things. Azira, a friend of the foundation, helps with donations, and while playing for the Ugandan National Team, recently donated shoes to the charity for the children it assists.

Local photographer Ross Almers became close friends with Azira during his time with the Battery, and has donated four canvas sized prints for a fundraiser which will benefit the MCF, and starting at $175, the four highest donations will receive one of these four prints. Additionally, those who donate money of any amount will be entered into a draw for one of 20 smaller prints.

The fundraiser began on February 12th and will last until midnight on March 5th.You can find more information on the fundraiser here, where you can also see the prints that have been donated. Please note that all donations are appreciated, and will pay for various things.

We hope that you can donate whatever amount possible to the fundraiser. You can learn more about the charity here.

TOP IMAGE: MICHEAL AZIRA DURING HIS TIME WITH THE BATTERY. HE PLAYED 40 TIMES, SCORING FIVE GOALS, INCLUDING THE WINNER AS THE BATTERY WON THE LEAGUE TITLE IN 2012. PHOTO CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY

Battery announce full preseason schedule, re-sign two players

It was a busy weekend for the Battery, as they announced their full slate of preseason matches, as well as having re-signed two key players from 2016.

The Battery unveiled the rest of their preseason schedule, having previously announced the schedule for the 2017 USL season, and the Carolina Challenge Cup for mid-February.

The Battery will have games before then, however. Their usual preseason meeting with College of Charleston is scheduled for 2/11, which isn’t even a week away at time of writing. They then face the University of South Carolina on the following Wednesday, 2/15, before the CCC gets underway against Seattle three days later, Columbus on the 22nd, before finishing against Atlanta on the 25th.

They start off the month of March against Coastal Carolina on 3/1. before travelling to North Carolina to play North Carolina FC on 3/4. Clemson away is next on 3/10, before returning home to play the University of North Florida two days later on 3/12. We then finish preseason on 3/15, facing Coastal Carolina again, giving us a ten day break before the new year begins against FC Cincinnati on March 25th.

The second piece of news concerns the team itself, having made two important signings for the new year. Center back Taylor Meuller and winger Dante Marini have re-signed for 2017, giving added experience to the team. Meuller will enter his sixth year with the Black and Yellow, already having notched 114 appearances for the club, winning the award for Defender of the year last season.

Marini is entering his fourth season with the Battery, having made 30 appearances last season, the most of any player, and was part of an attack that scored 38 goals. His pace and direct style of play was very important to that attack, and so signing him to a new deal will no doubt be music to fans’ ears.

These two join a list of players returning that includes Justin Portillo, Maikel Chang, Forrest Lasso, Obi Woodbine, Quinton Griffith, Naveal Hackshaw and Ataulla Guerra as the Battery continue their recent streak of keeping a good core group together for multiple seasons, which is always important when you’re looking to challenge.

The preseason matches, with the exception of the CCC, are free and open to the public, as well as some of them being streamed online. The preseason begins Saturday, February 11th.

TOP IMAGE: TAYLOR MEULLER PLAYS THE BALL OUT OF THE BACK DURING LAST YEAR’S FRIENDLY WITH RANGERS FC. Photo credit ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY.

A breakdown of the Battery’s 2017 schedule

The Charleston Battery‘s 2017 schedule is now out in full, and the USL Schedule from late March until mid-October will consist of 30 teams and 480 matches, welcoming teams in from NASL, as well as a few new expansion sides.

As for the Battery themselves, four of the first five, and six of the first ten matches are at home. The Battery had an almost year-long unbeaten streak at home, which ended last season about midway through. If that home form can continue this year, that could prove to be crucial in the latter stages as we look to put together a playoff run late in the season.

After just two away matches from the end of March until mid-May (visiting Southern Derby rivals Charlotte and newcomers Tampa Bay respectively) we have three away games in a week between the 20th and the 28th, with visits to Harrisburg, Bethlehem, and 2016 USL Champions New York Red Bulls II, before returning home to face Louisville City on June 3rd.

The week after that LCFC clash is our first meeting with rivals Richmond Kickers, who also celebrate their 25th season this year, at home on June 10th. After finishing June with clashes against FC Cincy and Toronto FC II, we have two home games against Tampa and Louisville again before another three-game stretch away from home against St. Louis, Tampa and Pittsburgh over 11 days from 7/15-7/26.

August is usually when it gets a little crazy, and will prove vital to our playoff hopes. But with only one home game against NYRBII between visits to TFCII, Rochester and Richmond, we’ll have to make it count.

There’s two home and two away games each in September, when home ties against Charlotte and Richmond are sandwiched between visits to Louisville and Orlando.

A home game against Harrisburg is sandwiched between visits across the border to Ottawa before concluding the season away to Charlotte in October. Of course, it’s a given that we hope our year will continue after that, but only time will tell.

A strong start, given the amount of early home games, is a must for the Black and Yellow. The rivalry games against Richmond, Charlotte, and OCB are definitely also ones to look forward to, and August will be very important, given the tough run of fixtures, and how important the month usually is for playoff hopes. That said, here’s to a successful 2017.

TOP IMAGE: BATTERY PLAYERS CELEBRATE A GOAL DURING THE 2016 SEASON. PHOTO CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY