Battery fall to Atlanta in Open Cup despite spirited display

The Charleston Battery have been eliminated from the US Open Cup after a 3-2 loss to Atlanta United. The game was delayed roughly three hours by heavy storms, but both teams were able to get the game in in what turned out to be one of the ties of the round, living up to its pre-match hype.

The Battery went in front as early as the third minute, when Forrest Lasso connected with a deep Obi Woodbine throw in to ping a header off the post, before Kevin Kratz would equalize at the other end with a well-placed shot at the near post on the half hour mark.

The Battery would quickly be in front again though, as almost straight from kick off, a Dante Marini shot from distance took a deflection off of Miles Robinson and found its way into the net.

They could’ve had a bit of insurance on the stroke of half-time, when the referee awarded the Battery a penalty for a foul in the box after a cross would ping itself around the area. The man who claimed the assist for Lasso’s opener, Woodbine, would step up, deputizing in place of the missing Justin Portillo, but he would sky his effort, giving the home side momentum going into the second half.

Atlanta would capitalize on that shortly after the interval, when Josef Martinez would find an equalizer in the 48th, before Brandon Vazquez would find the winner inside the final 20 minutes.

The Battery were what could be called a full strength team, given what pieces were available for the Black and Yellow. Romario Williams was missing through international duty for Jamaica, giving Heviel Cordoves the chance to start in his place. Ricky Garbanzo would continue to deputize for the injured Attaula Guerra behind him, while Naveal Hackshaw would come in for Portillo, who picked up a knock and was forced to the subs’ bench.

The Battery would start brightly, forcing Atlanta to defend and not giving them time on the ball, which helped Dante Marini earn a throw in in the third minute that fell on Obi Woodbine’s shoulders to launch into the box with his trademark throw in. The throw found Forrest Lasso, who rose above Miles Robinson and headed the ball off the post and in for 1-0.

It was just the start the visitors would’ve wanted, but they couldn’t rest on their laurels. Going ahead so early, especially against a side like Atlanta, can be dangerous, and the onus was still on them to break down the onslaught that would likely come.

But the Battery had another dangerous look on 13′, when a corner was forcibly cleared by ‘keeper Alec Kann, and sent back in menacingly, only to find no one there.

The home side would slowly come back into the game, and on 23’, a Brandon Vazquez shot would redirect and find its way to Martinez, but Odisnel Cooper would claim, and the striker would have been offside had he scored, as the flag went up.

A Miguel Almiron shot from distance went wide of Cooper’s goal three minutes later, though the Battery would have to do a better job of closing down space for the attacking midfielder, who’s the focal point of Atlanta’s attack, and one of the surprise packages of MLS so far this year.

Shortly after, Cooper would claim a cross and look to start a quick counter, though Kevin Kratz would intercept and play to the striker Martinez, who would take a touch to sell a defender and shoot, but wide.

With 30 minutes played, the pressure would tell. A Jeff Larentowicz shot would take a wicked deflection and force Cooper to palm the ball around the post, and the corner which followed would go all the way out to the other end of the box, be crossed back in, and find Kevin Kratz, who beat Cooper at his near post with an unstoppable shot.

Cooper would perhaps be unhappy with the goal he conceded, yet couldn’t be blamed as he was unable to get down in time to the close range shot. The scores were level, and it was up to the Battery to go again.

And parity only lasted the better part of 30 seconds. Almost straight from kick off, Dante Marini would unleash a shot from long range, which would deflect off of Miles Robinson and into the back of the net. With the Battery up 2-1, the stage was now set for them to kick on once more.

And with five minutes remaining in the first half, Ricky Garbanzo had a great chance to add to the scoring when his great run was flanked by Marini. A pass from Garbanzo intended for the winger would deflect back to him, and the striker took the shot on, only for the ball to fizz wide of the post.

The Battery had another chance on the stroke of halftime, when Quinton Griffith would beat Anton Walkes down the line to a ball and earn a corner, which would bounce around in the box before a foul was called after a collision and the referee would give a penalty.

Justin Portillo, the Battery’s normal penalty taker, was on the bench for the Black and Yellow tonight, meaning that Obi Woodbine would take responsibility. But his shot would be skied over the bar in what surely was a momentum swinger for the home side.

The Battery went in at half time with the lead, but would be aware they had to keep composed if they were going to get anything from the game.

But Atlanta had other plans. They took the shift in momentum by the scruff of the neck, quickly finding an equalizer just three minutes into the second half, when Kevin Kratz’s cross found an on-rushing Josef Martinez to level the scores.

And so the Battery found themselves in a sticky situation. Was it stick or twist? Keep going and press for a third, or sit back and soak up pressure and play on the counter?

The home side would choose for them. Clearly winning more and more battles in midfield after two half-time subs, the Battery were pressed back along their box for most of the second half, but did indeed keep their shape well, continuing their disciplined approach that has boded well for them in the past.

Kevin Kratz would play a cheeky 1-2 with Juilian Gressel, before the former would have a pop at goal that went wide on 52′.

Mikey Ambrose, one of a group of players who’ve spent time on loan with the Battery this season through the affiliation between the two clubs, would set up Martinez on 66′, but his shot was high over the bar.

Kotaro Higashi would replace Ricky Garbanzo shortly after, as he went into that role just behind Cordoves, one that may be slightly unfamiliar to him as he’s spent a large amount of time out wide in his first year, but Garbanzo had just about run out of steam, making the sub an obvious choice.

But on 72′, things would get worse for the visitors. Miguel Almiron would set up some great passing movement from Atlanta which fell to Mikey Ambrose, who played across to Brandon Vazquez to finish from close range and put the home side in front.

The Battery would have to pick themselves up again, but you got the feeling there were chances in this game yet, and all it took was one.

And in the 81st minute probably came their best. A Battery corner was played deep toward the back post for Forrest Lasso unmarked, but he caught the ball as he was headed back down from the header attempt and couldn’t quite stoop to get enough contact on the ball as it went wide.

On 86′ Lasso would try to atone for his error with a 30 yard drive that went high and wide over the bar.

A minute later, a Battery corner would be cleared by Alec Kan, but only to be reset and sent back in, and while Kann would drop the ball, the referee would adjudge Forrest Lasso to have fouled him and award a free kick to Atlanta.

In the 93rd minute, the Battery would earn a corner at the death. The ball however would be played too deep for anyone to get a real connection on it, and while Odisnel Cooper, up from the back, would try and keep the ball in play, he could only redirect a header wide.

And so ends the Battery’s run in the 2017 edition of the US Open Cup. After going ahead twice, they would feel aggrieved they lost the match, but from their standpoint, they now look to set things right by kicking on in the league.

It doesn’t get much easier for them, however, as they find themselves on their travels next on Saturday, June 17 to face FC Cincinnati. Kickoff is at 7PM, and you can stream the match on the club’s website or watch it on MyTV Charleston.

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