Lasso, Portillo Power Battery to opening day win

The Charleston Battery got their season off to a successful start after prevailing against FC Cincinnati by a score of 2-1 thanks to goals from Forrest Lasso and Justin Portillo.

Lasso put the Battery in front on 37′ following a bit of a shaky start for the home side, but they finished the first half strong before Djiby Fall drew things level midway through the second half. However, with 20 minutes left, Romario Williams earned a penalty after being brought down following a slick give and go, giving Justin Portillo the chance to step up from 12 yards. His initial shot was saved by Mitch Hildebrand in the Cincy goal, but he did the right thing, following in as the ‘keeper could only parry and putting it away on the rebound.

Despite the scoreline, it was Alex Tambakis who was forced to make the first save of the evening on four minutes, after the visitors orchestrated a chance on the left side of the area through good buildup play, but it was a tame effort and the ‘keeper collected easily.

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The Battery would cause a few questions at the other end a couple minutes later, as a cross from the left played toward the back stick was looking dangerous, but Hildebrand in goal cleaned up as he cut it out before anyone could get on the other end.

Eventual goalscorer Forrest Lasso would put his defense in trouble a minute later though, as he committed a foul about 20 yards from goal. The ensuing free kick looked threatening as Tambakis in goal looked like he got a late jump on it, but was quick across the line to punch away before it was cleared for a throw in.

On 13′, Romario Williams latched onto a long ball flicked on by Naveal Hackshaw as he would go one on one with his defender for just the first of many times on the night. This time he would earn a corner, but it would be cleared by the Cincy defense.

Atlanta United loanee Mikey Ambrose would concede a free kick on the right which gave Cincy the opportunity to put a ball into the box, though Tambakis would collect.

After 21′, Attaula Guerra would force a save out of the Cincinnati ‘keeper as they began to turn the tide following a shaky start.

On 37’ Maikel Chang caused havoc for the Cincy defense as he drifted past three defenders on a run from the right before passing to Dante Marini on the edge of the box. Marini picked his head up and had a pop at goal, which was saved by Hildebrand at the expense of a corner.

Justin Portillo took the set piece from the left, and the in-swinging ball found Forrest Lasso back post, who powered a header into the back of the net.

The goal was the Battery’s first of the season, and, though perhaps a little bit against the run of play, the home side had definitely been coming back into the match following a sleepy start, and they took advantage of their chance to go ahead.

After 42′, the Battery had another corner played in that initially looked dangerous, but this time the visiting defense would smuggle the ball clear.

And that’s how we went into half time. The Battery came out a bit rusty to begin with, but could be pleased with the way they ended the first 45 minutes of the season.

And just a minute into the second half, a ball was played forward, making Romario Williams show a turn of pace as he latched on to it. But he would get inside the box and square up to his man only to slip on the grass as he attempted to cut back onto his left foot and Cincy would take possession looking to begin a counter.

As the Battery would then attempt to clear at the other end, Justin Portillo would slip, allowing a Cincinnati attacker to have a crack as the ball would bobble to him, but Tambakis would have it covered as the effort on the volley went sailing over the bar.

On 49′ a Cincinnati corner was headed down toward goal but blocked by Maikel Chang and cleared, but Williams would give away a free kick, though it would be cleared before it could cause any danger.

After 52 minutes, a Battery free kick from the right was placed with pinpoint precision onto Romario Williams’ head, but the striker put too much power on the header as it went wide.

Four minutes later, Dante Marini found space on the wing, beating his man and cutting inside into the area, but didn’t look up to see a man free on the edge of the box, instead trying to curl a shot into the far post, which went over the bar.

And on 59′, the Battery would pay for their wasted chances, as Andrew Weidemann would place a cross from the right onto the head of Djibi Fall on the back post, which beat Alex Tambakis and drew the scores level.

The goal came as a consequence for not making their chances count, and the travelling Cincinnati fans were loving it.

But Quinton Griffith would cause problems just a minute later after getting on the end of a switch of play and cutting inside, passing off to Maikel Chang, though his shot was saved.

Williams would be a handful again on 63′ after staying onside and beating his man, but just before he could pull the trigger, the defender would make a crunching last ditch challenge to clear the ball for a corner, which went hopelessly over the bar.

After 69′, Attaula Guerra would set up a tasty give and go with Williams, and before he could return the favor to set up an opportunity, he was taken down from behind, which gave the referee no choice but to point to the penalty spot, and Justin Portillo would step up to take.

Aiming for the bottom left corner, he didn’t quite get his bearings on the effort, and Mitch Hildebrand would save, but could only parry and Portillo would make up for his poor effort by following in and finishing into the opposite corner to put the home side back in front.

The home crowd went mad as the smoke bombs went off and Portillo raced over to the fans in E1 to celebrate, as with 20 minutes, all the Battery had to do was hold on, and the three points were in the bag.

The visitors wouldn’t make it easy though, and would push forward more and more to try and find another equalizer.

The set pieces were especially dangerous, as the Battery were more than happy to break up the fluidity of Cincy’s attack, though at the expense of free kicks. After 81′, it was a free kick that made Battery fans sweat as a header looked dangerous, though it went over the bar for a goal kick.

A Cincinnati corner two minutes from time led to a bit of pinball in the box before finally being cleared by the Battery defense, now with everyone behind the ball to prevent the visitors at any cost.

The allotted three minutes added on time at the end seemed to drag on for the home side, but eventually the final whistle blew, giving the Battery all three points in their first match of their silver anniversary season.

The Battery next travel to North Carolina to face the Charlotte Independence on April 1st. You can watch the match on MyTV Charleston, or stream online at the club’s website or on YouTube.

TOP IMAGE: FORREST LASSO RISES BEFORE PUTTING THE BATTERY IN FRONT WITH A HEADER FROM A JUSTIN PORTILLO CORNER. ALL PHOTOS CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY AND NICKI ACE.

 

 

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A Comprehensive Look at the 2017 Battery

The Charleston Battery begin their 25th anniversary season with a few brownie points in their pocket after a largely successful pre-season campaign. The Carolina Challenge Cup returned, bringing the Seattle Sounders, Columbus Crew and the Battery’s MLS affiliate Atlanta United to the Holy City in what was a very successful week for the club on and off the pitch.

The Battery drew two and lost one in the CCC, as they showed a lot of grit for a team who’d only been together for a few weeks. They earned a draw with Seattle thanks to Kotaro Higashi‘s 90th minute equalizer, and led the Columbus Crew for a majority of the game despite eventually conceding a goal, before coming up unlucky against Atlanta United, earning a taste of their own late-goal medicine.

The loss to Atlanta was one of only two in the pre-season, only losing on their travels to North Carolina FC. The Battery filled out their pre-season with their usual meetings with local college teams, winning seven of their eight non-CCC games despite the loss to their northern counterparts, with Heviel Cordoves, Attaula Guerra, and Romario Williams playing starring roles in more than a few big wins for the Black and Yellow.

Last year ended on a slightly sour note for the Battery after sort of grinding to a halt. They didn’t particularly finish the season well, but did cause an upset of sorts after turning heads by silencing a rocking Nippert Stadium and beating FC Cincinnati away from home. However, they bowed out of the playoffs thanks to a loss to Louisville City in the conference semis, falling to the #2 seed as New York Red Bulls II would eventually win the league title.

Lack of depth was a problem for the Black and Yellow last season, which was a big reason why momentum slowed down toward the middle-to-end of last year, and the Front Office has gone a little ways to correct this in 2017, completing six new signings after a fruitful batch of trials during pre-season, whilst also keeping hold of a large number of last season’s standouts, barring Zach Prince and Shawn Ferguson, who hung up their boots at the end of the last campaign.

The Battery took advantage of partnerships in the PDL by welcoming Nico Rittmeyer and Ryan Arambula into the fold from Tormenta FC and the Myrtle Beach Mutiny respectively, whilst Rittmeyer adds to a successful batch of College of Charleston alums to come through the Battery doors, and both players were involved with the SC Battery Academy early on in their careers.

Tah Brian Anunga is another new recruit after bouncing around at several levels of the USL, commonly used as a defensive midfielder in pre-season, he has past links to Wilmington and the Carolina Dynamo, and has represented his native Cameroon at U-17, U-20, and U-23 levels.

Former first round draft pick Skylar Thomas joins after spending time with Toronto FC II. He had 47 appearances with the Canadian side, and looks to establish himself as the successor to the now-retired Shawn Ferguson. He was also one to deputize at Left Back, given that Obrien Woodbine will be suspended for the first three matches of the new campaign.

Perhaps the most talked about addition is that of Kotaro Higashi. He helped his cause by scoring the equalizer in the draw with Seattle during the CCC, and impressing during the rest of the pre-season on his way to a contract.

Goalkeeper Joe Kuzminski joins after a successful college career at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, where he served three years as a starter and was captain during his senior year. He’ll likely serve as back up to Odisnel Cooper, who returns after a solid 2016. Given his age, you’d wonder if Kuzminski is seen as the one for the future for the club, and in which case, learning from the experienced Cooper, as well as coach Dusty Hudock, can only help his development.

The Battery again take advantage of their affiliation with Atlanta United, welcoming back Romario Williams and Jeffrey Otoo for the 2017 season. Additionally, Alex Tambakis and Mikey Ambrose will be available for Charleston against Cincy, as Ambrose will look to fill the hole left by the suspended Woodbine.

The new season looks to be an interesting one for the Battery, with anticipation being high ahead of their silver anniversary. The fact that six of their first ten matches are at home can only help, as a good start will certainly be beneficial in a season that runs from March 25th until mid-October.

Our first match, at home against FC Cincinnati, will definitely not be easy. Cincy are going into the new season with a new manager, and will certainly have a bad taste in their mouth following their early exit from the playoffs at the hands of the Black and Yellow.

The Battery begin their 25th season this coming Saturday against FC Cincinnati. You can watch the match on MyTV Charleston, or stream it via the club’s website or on YouTube.

TOP IMAGE: THE BATTERY PREPARE FOR A MATCH LAST SEASON AT MUSC HEALTH STADIUM. ROSS ALMERS PHOTO

 

 

Battery inks broadcasting deal with ABC/MyTV Charleston

Announced at the Battery’s season ticket holders meeting, the team have partnered with ABC News 4 to broadcast games for their 2017 season on the MyTV Charleston network (Channel 36 over the air, Channel 13 via Cable), which will broadcast all 32 of the Battery’s matches during their silver anniversary season.

 

This comes following other clubs around the league signing deals of their own, something that will only help the sport grow, especially at this level.

It’s also worth noting the significance of the deal. The Battery go into the 2017 season celebrating their 25th anniversary, having been a major part of the community for many years. This deal is just another big step forward for a club who’ve been setting the standard for clubs not only in the USL, but in American Soccer, since Tony Bakker founded the club in 1993.

Andrew Bell has been the voice of the Battery over Radio and streaming broadcasts since 1999, and will continue in that role as we venture forward into TV. He’ll also be joined by former Battery goalkeeper Kevin Corby for Play by Play, as well as sideline reporter Allie Sender. The Battery purchased equipment for the venture into Television in the off-season, and have been preparing themselves for the step up during pre-season.

The Battery begin their 25th season at home against FC Cincinnati on March 25th, which you’ll be able to watch on WCIV MyTV Charleston, or online at the Club’s website.

USL pushing major fees, disregard clubs’ concerns

As evidenced by many individual announcements, there are clubs in the USL that have signed local TV deals ahead of the 2017 season. This, of course, helps the league gain exposure in those markets as the sport becomes increasingly popular in the United States. However, there is one problem.

The problem is the money involved. In order to broadcast these games, teams need the correct equipment to do so. According to an anonymous league source, the league is requiring all teams within the league to pay thousands of dollars in fees to a company that the league has chosen to loan the equipment for the broadcasts, disregarding that the clubs could find a much more affordable option on their own. It’s worth noting that last year’s “Game of the Week” broadcasts from ESPN 3 were done by each individual club, without the need for special equipment that the league is requesting.

This creates an issue, given that the company the league has chosen is charging thousands worth of fees for the use of their equipment to archive and transmit the broadcast, even though there are cheaper and possibly free options for the clubs to do themselves. The clubs that are being hit most by this development are the clubs that have stuck with the league to help build the game in this country, which are the clubs independent of MLS ownership. This fact has not gone unnoticed by the clubs, and has greatly disappointed the owners.

To add to this, it’s worth noting that decisions which effect the league in such wide range are usually voted on by owners and executives of the clubs. This includes conference alignment, expansion bids, TV deals and so on. The league informed the clubs of this decision without giving them the opportunity to respond with their questions and opinions on the situation. Several clubs have expressed their disappointment with how the situation has been handled, but their issues have fallen on deaf ears. During a recent online broadcast seminar, the league quickly shut down a Q&A session when several club representatives expressed concern over the league’s handling of the situation, with USL even going as far as to try and stifle communications between the clubs.

Given all of the information, all of this seems counter-intuitive to what the USL are looking to achieve. By making the clubs go through a third party to get equipment for their broadcasts, they’re making the clubs spend much more money than is necessary, when it may be cheaper for clubs to find equipment on their own. It also seems as if the league haven’t been very accommodating toward each club’s situation, given the fact that they aren’t allowing clubs to debate whether the deal is good for them specifically.

The situation raises questions going forward about the league, perhaps the biggest being whether the league is concerned about what’s best for its clubs and the growth of the game in the US, or rather more about their own profits.

It is unclear if the league will be reviewing this situation, but we’ll keep you informed on developments.

Battery amongst five to compete for Old Guard Shield

The Charleston Battery will compete for the Old Guard Shield in 2017, a fan competition set up between The Regiment and fans in the league’s four other oldest clubs, and the brainchild of Pittsburgh’s Steel Army’s Dan Yost.

The Flower City Stampede of Rochester, Richmond’s River City Red Army, Pittsburgh’s Steel Army, and Harrisburg’s Capital City Crew join The Regiment in this new fan-run competition which will commemorate the tradition set by the five oldest clubs in the USL.

Yost began mentioning it to the supporters clubs around Thanksgiving, with Harrisburg joining the fun not long after, and a website and a 20 game schedule was soon launched, opening on 4/8 when Harrisburg visit MUSC Health Stadium and ending on 10/7, with Rochester visiting Pittsburg and the Battery host Harrisburg again.

The Shield comes to fruition in the year that the Battery celebrate their 25th anniversary, and so it’s fitting that we’re involved in something that’s all about tradition.

The Battery and the Regiment will still be a part of the Southern Derby Cup, and the dates for that competition will be announced very soon.

You can follow the Old Guard Shield on twitter here and look forward to the first year of the hunt for the shield in 2017.