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.


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.




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.