Atlanta, Columbus, Minnesota set for CCC ’18

The Charleston Battery will welcome Atlanta United, Columbus Crew and Minnesota United in the 14th edition of the Carolina Challenge Cup in February of 2018.

The competition, which has consistently brought some of MLS’ top talent to Charleston over the years, will be held from February 17th-24th, with double-headers over three matchdays in a round robin tournament.

Atlanta return after last year in which they played their first competitive games in the tournament and gave fans in the lowcountry an early look at what has become one of the best sides to watch in the league in 2017, behind performances from Josef Martinez, Miguel Almiron, and Tito Villalba among others.

The Crew, a year after winning the competition in 2017,  are regular visitors to the area through the competition. They were MLS Cup finalists in 2015, and consistently challenge among the top teams in the East. Now under the guidance of Manager Gregg Berhalter, they boast a mixture of young talent and league stalwarts such as Justin Meram, Ola Kamara and Kekuta Manneh.

Minnesota will be visiting the lowcountry for the first time, but boast a few names that should be familiar to fans of the Black and Yellow. Adrian Heath is at the helm in Minnesota’s first season, having previously spent time with Orlando City SC in both USL and MLS, and brought attacking midfielder Kevin Molino with him from his time in Florida.

In addition to hosting the tournament, the Battery and their new Youth Academy will also host the Youth Carolina Challenge Cup, with more information here.

2018 season ticket packages will include tickets for all three matchdays of the CCC, with single day tickets going on sale on October 20th, with prices starting at $35.

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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.

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

 

 

 

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 

 

Why Atlanta United’s SuperDraft picks should matter to the Battery

A new season is upon us, with the Battery set to begin their preseason tournament, the Carolina Challenge Cup, in just under a month.

For MLS sides, the hard work has already begun, with the MLS SuperDraft signaling the spiritual start of the new campaign. Given that the Battery are affiliated with MLS’ Atlanta United, fans should have an eye on ATL UTD’s picks, as they could be seeing them sooner rather than later.

Like with Alex Tambakis, Andrew Carleton, Jeffery Otoo, and a few others from last year, there is a good chance that one or more ATL draft picks could land in Charleston to gain some vital experience.

In the four rounds of the draft, Atlanta United selected a goalkeeper, a defender and two midfielders. Goalkeeper Alex Kapp, out of Creighton, had an 81% save percentage in 18 games in his senior year, and so might be looked upon to be a crucial last line of defense in Atlanta’s first season.

Defender Miles Robinson, who ATL chose with the second overall pick in the Draft, seems like a tall, rangy, athletic sort of defender with an eye for a pass and strength to hold his own in the challenge.

Midfielders Julian Gressel and Anthony Wheeler-Omiunu both show ability in the middle of the park in different roles. Atlanta’s own twitter seems to be highlighting Wheeler’s passing ability, while Gressel seems to be more of an attacking threat, having been the Providence leader in Points during his 2016 season with 15 goals and 6 assists.

The best bet to learn who’s going to be finding themselves in the Holy City would be to look at Atlanta’s roster, at least in a couple of cases. Goalkeepers Alec Kann and the aforementioned Tambakis are the only ones on the books for Atlanta at the minute, so it’s possible that Tata Martino’s staff could send a third choice ‘keeper down for experience and playing time. You may see them rotate for the first couple of weeks to see what works and what doesn’t.

As for Robinson, Greg Garza and Zack Loyd are the ones who stick out at you for center-back, making Robinson a possible third choice and maybe a candidate for playing time in Charleston, but given the fact that Loyd is versatile, and also that Robinson seems to have certain tools that belie his years a little, it’s possible that Loyd may shift to make room for him.

The midfield is a little bit harder to say. Atlanta signed Argentian Hector Villalba as a DP as their first “major signing” and followed that up with Chris McCann. Both of those would most likely hold down spots in the XI for different reasons. Given the fact that there are a few more options in Wheeler’s department, including Jeff Larentowicz, and Miguel Almiron, it’s possible that Wheeler could be headed to Charleston.

Julian Gressel is another possibility, but his numbers may bode well toward his chances in Atlanta. Gressel is seen as a #10 or #8, which fits his style. It’s also worth noting that for the most part, Atlanta’s roster is young, so that’s another thing to put into the equation.

Of course, it’s highly likely that players we saw last year, such as Romario Williams, Tambakis and Otoo could be back this campaign, but it’s still up in the air until official word is given.

So, with a month left until CCC, it’s full steam ahead toward the new season. Stay tuned for more news in the lead up.

FEATURED IMAGE: MILES ROBINSON AND JULIAN GRESSEL POSE FOR PHOTOS AT MLS SUPERDRAFT. SOURCE: ATLANTA UNITED TWITTER/MLS

 

 

 

BYP partners with Dirty South Soccer for 2017

Black and Yellow Post is excited to announce a partnership with Atlanta United blog Dirty South Soccer for 2017.

The partnership will include Battery articles for Dirty South Soccer, as well as Atlanta United articles for Black and Yellow Post.

ATL UTD will of course be participating in this year’s edition of the Carolina Challenge Cup, and thus playing their first matches of their MLS journey in Charleston, as well as having announced an extension of the partnership between the two clubs for the new year, a deal which did prove fruitful enough in 2016.