Battery pegged back through late goal against NYRB

The Charleston Battery conceded a late goal that denied them three points on Saturday against the New York Red Bulls II.

Romario Williams’ return to action also saw his regular strike partner Attaula Guerra in the starting XI. While Tah Brian Anunga  would slide into a more defensive position to cover for the injured Quinton Griffith, meaning Naveal Hackshaw would make the start beside Justin Portillo. 

A great run from Obi Woodbine earned his side a corner in as early as the second minute, though it wouldn’t beat the first man and was cleared away from danger by the travelling defense.

New York’s first look at goal looked to be coming in the 13th minute, when an attacker found himself with a slight window to shoot at Odisnel Cooper’s goal, but Woodbine would come across and shut down the man, and the shot went wide.

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On 20′, an unfortunate bounce from a Forrest Lasso challenge spelled trouble again for the home side, bouncing into the box with a man bearing down on goal, but Cooper was there to make himself big and claim at the striker’s feet.

Three minutes later, it was the Battery who were knocking at the door. A long throw had looked to be dealt with before Maikel Chang latched onto the second ball at the top of the box, flicked the ball past a marker and had a pop at goal. It looked to be destined to cause trouble for the goalkeeper at least, before a defender swung his boot at the ball to clear for a corner, though it was wasted.

Cooper was in trouble again on the half hour mark. A through ball would allow for a shot that went just wide of the far post.

Then, five minutes before half time, the Battery were given a free kick on the left edge of the box roughly 20 yards out. Justin Portillo would be the one to take, wafting the ball in toward the center back, Lasso. He’d get up above his man and whip a snap header toward goal, but couldn’t put in on target and it went over the bar.

Obi Woodbine was then booked for a bit of follow through after losing the ball late on in the first half, and would have to watch himself as the game went on.

But then, finally, the breakthrough. An inch perfect ball from Portillo found Attaula Guerra going through on goal, having stayed onside. Guerra then gave the ‘keeper a bit of the eyes before lifting his head up and seeing an onside Romario Williams at the far post, who controlled and slotted the ball home to put his side in front with his 15th goal this season.

That, in essence, is the composure the Battery have lacked in both player’s absence. Guerra being the creative force behind a team that for a long time led the league in goals scored before the recent barren run, and in Williams, a forward with a nose for goal to put them in, showing just how, with one on the field, they’re in good shape, but with both, they’re a force to be reckoned with.

And that’s how the first half ended. The Battery up 1-0, but they were in need of a second to put distance between themselves and a visiting side who were, at the very least, plucky, giving you no sense they were out of the game whatsoever.

On 48’ the Red Bulls ‘keeper would punch a corner clear, only for Maikel Chang to pick up the second ball and fire at goal. A mix up in communication would lead to a sliced clearance behind for a corner, though the ball looked to be going straight to the ‘keeper. The Battery couldn’t capitalize on their stroke of luck though, as the set piece was cleared.

Guerra was then unlucky not to latch onto a through ball that would’ve left him 1 on 1 with the ‘keeper, the pass this time just being a little over hit

With an hour gone, it was nearly disaster for the home side. A short pass was well under hit by Obi Woodbine, which put the defense under pressure as it went straight to a visiting attacker. The defense would scramble, but it would be Forrest Lasso to clear behind for a corner, which was dealt with well and cleared away.

Four minutes later, a corner was given to the Red Bulls, and, though cleared away, a second ball produced what could’ve been a difficult cross had it not been over hit and out for a goal kick.

On 68′, the Red Bulls took another corner, this time played short, and then into the box on the ground, which created a bit of space for the attacker to have a shot that didn’t trouble Odisnel Cooper.

But on 72′, a bit of luck fell the visitors’ way, when a blocked shot fell to the feet of Stefano Benomo, who shot on the half volley across the goalkeeper Odisnel Cooper and gave him no chance as it nestled into the side netting.

You couldn’t really blame the ‘keeper, as a fortunate bounce off a leg created the chance in the first place, but the Battery had had chances to put the game beyond their opponents, and didn’t take them, which allowed the Red Bulls back into the game as it went on.

The Red Bulls forced a corner two minutes later, but nothing would be made of it.

Five minutes from time, the Battery would earn a free kick, and the big bodies would go forward, including Heviel Cordoves, who replaced Kotaro Higashi as the whistle blew for the set piece. However, it would be dealt with by the defense, and time was running out.

On 87′, Obi Woodbine went in for a challenge, and appeared to have gotten the ball, though the referee was coming from behind the play and adjudged the player to have taken the man, and issued Woodbine a second yellow, which meant the Battery would have to play the remaining three minutes, plus stoppage time, down a man.

The ensuing free kick would lead to naught, but eventually recycled and Justin Portillo was called for a handball from a blocked shot, giving the visitors a free kick just outside the box. It would go straight into the wall and back out as a quick pass found Romario Williams ready to lead a break, but the Red Bulls dispossessed him by way of a kick as it broke down. Williams would then have to receive treatment, but was okay to continue.

Deep into stoppage time, the Red Bulls would have the last chance. Both teams were hoofing the ball up the pitch in hopes of a knock down and shot, but it was the visitors who were the ones to threaten. A long ball across to the left was headed down, and the ensuing shot looked to have beaten Cooper, but thankfully for the Black and Yellow, went wide of the far post.

In the end, it may have been a fair result. There was much huffing and puffing from both teams, but not much in the way of creativity barring the Battery’s goal. The Red Bulls were a bit lucky with the bounce of the ball that led to the equalizer, but as the Battery have benefitted from similar situations before, the visitors kept themselves in the game, and it just shows that anything can happen if you do so.

The Battery play their first of three games away from home against Rochester Rhinos on Saturday August 19, with kick off scheduled for 6:05. You can watch on MyTV Charleston or stream at the club’s website.

ROMARIO WILLIAMS, AIDED BY GREAT PASSES FROM BOTH ATTAULLA GUERRA & JUSTIN PORTILLO IN THE BUILDUP, SCORED HIS 15TH GOAL OF THE YEAR. All photos credit Ross Almers Photography

 

 

 

Battery’s failure to convert leads to loss in Toronto

The Charleston Battery can count themselves unlucky Saturday evening, having lost to Toronto FC II. They had the majority of chances in the game, but were unable to put away their opportunities and were made to pay for it, as a goal at the start of the second half for the hosts was what separated the two teams.

Visa problems meant the Battery were without key players Obi Woodbine, Maikel Chang and Romario Williams, while Jeffrey Otoo was also unavailable. This meant there was another reshuffle in the XI for the Black and Yellow. Odisnel Cooper was in goal, with Skylar Thomas replaced Woodbine at left back, with Tah Brian Anunga, Justin Portillo, Naveal Hackshaw and Kotaro Higashi in midfield, Higashi dropping into his more natural wide position to make up for the loss of Chang, and Attaula Guerra would partner Ricky Garbanzo up front, as the striker Williams would again have to wait for his full return from the Gold Cup after having previously come on as a sub in the previous match.

The game took awhile to get going, and it wasn’t until the 25th minute that the Battery had their first chance of the match. A long ball looking for Garbanzo would eventually fall to the feet of Attaula Guerra, who put a curling effort agonizingly wide of the top left corner.

Three minutes later, Naveal Hackshaw would turn a quick 1-2 on the edge of the box before receiving the ball back on the right of the box, but his low ball across was cut out by the goalkeeper.

Skylar Thomas would earn a corner on the half hour mark, but the set piece was quickly cleared.

On 37′, Garbanzo was involved again, this time playing an inch-perfect ball into Naveal Hackshaw, who would control well but shoot straight at the ‘keeper.

After 42’, Odisnel Cooper looked troubled as he was sent sprawling to his left after an attacker would cut in and have a pop at goal. The ball went wide in the end, but clearly, Cooper was taking no chances.

Kotaro Higashi looked to create on the stroke of half time, holding off his marker on the far touchline before getting to the edge of the box and finding Attaula Guerra, but he couldn’t get the ball out of his feet before swinging his foot toward goal after missing the ball completely and having the chance cleared away.

And in stoppage time in the first half, Higashi would create again, this time finding Quinton Griffith on the overlap, who created space for a shot and forced the goalkeeper into a good save at his near post to keep the scores level.

And so, to end the half, the Battery were the more creative of the two sides, though they would have to put away the chances if they were to get anything from the game.

They came out again on the front foot to start the second 45. Ricky Garbanzo latched onto a ball and created some space for himself on 48′, but his shot was wide of the target.

A minute later, Attaula Guerra would shoot from an angle, but his effort would again drift wide.

And then, the Battery would pay for their failure to convert, as a ball from the middle got in behind the defense, and Shaan Hundal would latch on, taking a touch before slotting the ball home past Cooper in goal.

The ball forward was not unlike Garbanzo’s ball to Hackshaw in the first half, but a better finish was applied, and most would say the goal came against the run of play, with the Battery having finished the opening half, and beginning the second half, creating chances for themselves. In this instance, however, they would learn the importance of taking chances

Shortly after, on 58′, Cooper was forced into a save to deny Toronto insurance, after another long ball fell to Hundal, and Cooper saved at his near post.

The game then began to get bogged down in midfield, with the Battery having most of the possession, but very little chances until they would pile on the pressure late.

The Battery would earn a corner with nine minutes left, which was played in at the back post for Garbanzo, whose curling effort toward the far corner was saved expertly by the goalkeeper and out for another corner, only for the same to happen again, Garbanzo making the run at the back stick, but this time the ball was cleared.

In the 93rd minute, Justin Portillo’s semi-desperate shot from distance would bounce towards the ‘keeper as time would look as if it were running out, but they would get one more chance.

A free kick was given just outside the center circle in the Toronto half, and all the big bodies would go forward. The ball was launched in toward the back post and into the melee of rising bodies in what was probably the best dead ball service of the afternoon. In amongst the bodies, the goalkeeper would come out with a fist to punch, but mistime it, and the ball would roll into the net. However, substitute Nico Rittmeyer would be called for a foul, adjudged to have impeded the ‘keeper’s jump as the ‘keeper fell over Rittmeyer on the way down. This was somewhat strange, as both players were going for the ball, and Rittmeyer was dwarfed in the jump by the ‘keeper, who got a fist to the ball, but mistimed it completely. Given that fact, it remained to be seen what exactly the referee saw himself, but the Battery can feel aggrieved to have been on the end of such a bad call.

Nevertheless, the bad call was necessarily the reason they lost the game, having failed to convert so many chances,  but at such a crucial time in the match, it was the difference between one point and none, and even those can be important at the end of the season when all is said and done.

The Battery next return home to face New York Red Bulls II on August 12th. Kick off is at 7PM, and you can watch it on the club’s website, or on MyTV Charleston.

TOP IMAGE: QUINTON GRIFFITH TRACKS DOWN A BALL IN THE PREVIOUS MEETING BETWEEN THESE TWO SIDES THIS SEASON. CREDIT: ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY 

 

 

Battery share points with Louisville in tense draw

In a top of the table clash in the East on Saturday night, the Charleston Battery were made to settle for a point against Louisville City FC in what was a tense 90 minutes.

The Battery drew first blood midway through the first half as Justin Portillo converted a penalty, only for his side to be pegged back a few minutes later after Ilija Illic cleaned up a rebound from a shot that careened off the post following a corner. The second half saw both sides go back and forth with separate spells of pressure, but neither were able to break the deadlock as they shared the spoils.

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Two changes were made from the team that prevailed against Tampa last week. Romario Williams is currently on national team duty with Jamaica, meaning that Heviel Cordoves was given the start up front. Attaula Guerra re-aggravated an injury in last week’s win, and so Kotaro Higashi played in behind Cordoves.

The away side started the brightest, and could’ve easily been in front in the first minute, when a bouncing ball wasn’t claimed by Odisnel Cooper before it fell on the right for a shot that hit both posts and bounced away before being cleared.

Taylor Mueller was left wanting one back in the eighth minute, after a corner was played toward the center back at the far post which left him with an open header that he completely mistimed. The ball fell in the box and there was still danger before it was cleared away.

And then, after 11 minutes, a Louisville free kick led to a counter for the Battery that initially looked dangerous before breaking down and heading the other way. Cooper was forced into a save to his left as the visitors would surge through the right wing and cut in before having a pop. The ensuing corner was wasted, and we remained scoreless.

However, that would soon change. A Maikel Chang cross from the right searched for Dante Marini in the box, but the winger was taken down in the box, and the referee was quick to point to the spot. Justin Portillo was the man to step up, quickly dispatching the spot kick to give the Battery the lead.

It was their first real chance of the evening after starting rather sluggishly, but they weren’t fussed. It’s the mark of a good team to be clinical, especially when you don’t create a lot of opportunities.

But Louisville were by no means deterred. Looking dangerous straight from the restart and earning themselves a corner in the 27th minute. It was swung in from the right, and a Louisville player rose highest, redirecting the ball onto the post beyond Cooper, before bouncing back into play and being slammed in by Ilija Ilic for the leveler.

It seemed like a bit of a cruel joke at that point, with Louisville hitting both posts earlier in the game, only to be helped by the post in a certain sense to knot the game up again, but while Cooper in goal had already produced a couple of good saves on the evening, he was helpless for the goal itself, having been forced to watch the ball go onto the post, and then taken out of the play completely on the rebound.

Just past the half hour mark, it was Cooper again forced to save to his right, with the Battery seemingly on their heels a bit after previously having been in front, though the defense did well to clear the corner that followed.

A Battery free kick was then easily claimed by Ranjitsingh on 36′, that was wafted in too high for anybody to get on the end of.

And that’s the way the first half would end. A little like last week, both teams lacked a bit of that cutting edge in the final third, which could make or break the game for either side in the end.

Again it was Louisville coming out the strongest in the second half, though they would waste an early corner, and the Battery would come into it a little bit more soon after.

Kotaro Higashi would power up the left wing with some intricate footwork on 51′, though he would go down before being able to get in a cross. The referee would blow his whistle, but not to point to the spot, to book the winger for diving.

Five minutes later came the ever-dangerous Obi Woodbine long throw from the right, though the ‘keeper would claim and avoid danger.

On the hour mark, the Battery would threaten again down the wings, this time on the right, when a Maikel Chang ball flashed across the face of goal, only to not find anybody making the late run into the box to make anything of it.

A corner in the 68th would eventually be cleared by Louisville, as it looked as if the Battery were beginning to turn the screw in search of a winner.

Though Obi Woodbine would get himself into trouble after committing a foul to the right of the box just a minute later, allowing an in-swinging free kick to find its way into the area, but only to be wasted and for the Battery to regroup.

A Maikel Chang free kick in similar position would be wasted in similar fashion when it found its way to the goalkeeper, as time began to run out.

But the Battery had perhaps their best chance of the second half on 77’, when another Obi Woodbine long throw would cause trouble. The throw would be punched away by the goalkeeper, who would collide with the head of Forrest Lasso. The ball itself would ping around the box before falling to Maikel Chang, whose effort seemed destined for the back of the net, only to be cleared off the line by a defender.

Louisville had the chance to steal it a couple minutes later down the other end, when a run all the way down the right wing wasn’t defended well and eventually would force Cooper into a sprawling save to keep the scores level.

Another Woodbine throw wouldn’t cause much trouble with five minutes to go, and so eventually after three minutes of added time, both team would have to settle for the draw.

The result wasn’t the worst for either side. The Battery remain top of the East with 35 points, while Louisville remain 6 points behind them in second place, but with two games in hand. The Battery, of course, will have to look at those two games in hand as wins for Louisville until they’re played, but from Louisville’s standpoint, they’d rather have the points now than have the two extra games.

The Battery next face St. Louis FC on Saturday, July 15th at 8:30PM. The game will be televised on MyTV Charleston, or streamed via the club’s website.

 

TOP IMAGE: FRESH OFF TWO ASSISTS LAST WEEK, MAIKEL CHANG WAS AGAIN IMPRESSIVE AS A FOCAL POINT IN THE BATTERY’S ATTACK IN THEIR DRAW AGAINST LOUISVILLE. ALL PHOTOS CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY

 

Battery’s late push the difference in win over Rowdies

It was a war of attrition for most of the evening, but two goals in the last 20 minutes were what separated the Charleston Battery and the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Saturday night.

It was Odisnel Cooper in goal again, with his normal backline of Quinton Griffith, Forrest Lasso, Taylor Mueller and Obi Woodbine in front of him. Justin Portillo and Tah Brian Anunga were in the middle, with Maikel Chang and Dante Marini on the flanks. Attaula Guerra made his first start since injuring his groin against Jacksonville Armada in the US Open Cup, giving Romario Williams his usual strike partner back again.

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It was a battle between the first and third placed team in the Eastern conference respectfully, and there was much anticipation from fans going into the match. The first meeting between these two sides ended in a tense 3-2 win for the Battery, and both sides expected a similar contest tonight.

The Battery had a corner cleared as early as the first minute, though despite the home side pushing in the opening minutes, much of the first half was a back and forth in which there was a lot of effort, but not many chances.

Quinton Griffith cut inside from the right wing and had a shot toward the far corner in the 17th minute, only to watch it go well over the bar without troubling the ‘keeper Perkins.

Then, in the 25th, a corner cleared by the Battery defense led to a counter led by Maikel Chang, who powered his way up to to the edge of the box before playing toward the striker Williams, only for the ‘keeper to intercept before any immediate danger was caused.

Five minutes later with a half an hour gone, Attaula Guerra would play the ball into the box for Williams, but the first touch let him down, and his shot from the left foot would be deflected by a defender harmlessly into the goalkeeper’s arms.

Tah Brian Anunga would lead a counter on 39’ that he took all the way to the byline on the right before having a shot that would be saved by the ‘keeper, only to rebound into the path of Attaula Guerra, who seemed certain to mark his return to the starting XI with a goal, but he couldn’t control the ball and the effort lacked power and was saved somewhat easily by the sprawling goalkeeper again.

Tampa’s first real sight at goal came on the stroke of half time, when a free kick in a dangerous position went high over the bar without posing much trouble to Odisnel Cooper in goal, and we would eventually go in at Half Time scoreless.

While it wasn’t what you would call a sleepy first half, given that there was much in the way of aggression between the two sides, there was much to be had in the way of being clinical in the second 45. Both teams seemed content to let the other come at them, and neither had really gained a foothold in the game as a result. Both sides knew they would have to improve if that were to change.

Kotaro Higashi would replace Attaula Guerra at half-time, and there was one or two signs that he had re-aggravated the groin injury with that late first half chance. One would hope the sub was just precautionary, though Higaashi had his own set of tools to bring to the game, and he would hope to make an impact off the bench.

Though it was Tampa that were the first to threaten. Midfielder Darwin Jones would power his way into the box and around two defenders before forcing Odisnel Cooper into a good save toward his left. While the save may have looked routine, it was made difficult by the Battery shotstopper leaning the other way and having to contort himself to come back to the left as the attacker looked to have given him the eyes, and was made even better by the fact that the arm to the left was powerful enough to force the ball out of a place of immediate danger, preventing a chance rebound from any Rowdies players following in.

With 55 minutes gone, the Battery had a free kick wafted in at the back post that would lead to a corner, though they were unable to force a chance out of the set piece.

It seemed as if the game was headed for a draw, and wasn’t until 20 minutes from time that we would see the Battery attack really come to life. Winger Maikel Chang would intercept an errant pass on the right, and Romario Williams would spring into action, calling for a pass already on the back shoulder of his marker, and staying onside with a well timed run and an equally well-placed through ball that put him one-on-one with the goalkeeper, who he rounded before rolling the ball into the empty net for his 14th goal of the season to give the Battery the lead.

It was as if a large weight was lifted off of the fans and players alike as Williams’ teammates would all surround him, continuing a great few days personally for the striker, having received a call into Jamaica’s 23 man CONCACAF Gold Cup Squad this week as a reward for his recent stellar form., which starts next week. The Battery will be unhappy to lose a player of his caliber, yet obviously glad that he was able to get a go-ahead goal in such a big match as a going away present.

Williams would be replaced a short time later by Heviel Cordoves, who would most likely be the next man in in his absence, but who hadn’t yet been able to find the back of the net so far in the campaign.

But he wouldn’t have to wait much longer. Maikel Chang was involved again, winning the ball back after Joe Cole was too hesitant with the ball at his feet before placing another perfectly weighted ball into the feet of Cordoves, who took the ball graciously and finished first time with the inside of his boot to double the Battery’s advantage at 2-0.

The monkey was finally off his back, having scored with his first touch of the evening. The goal was eerily similar to Williams’ opener, the difference being that Cordoves got past his man on the inside rather than the outside with which Williams found space. The defenders could only blame themselves for the errors though, and the Battery were very gracious to pick up the spoils.

But the visitors had fight in them yet. The Rowdies would engineer themselves a corner that was played in toward the front post before being headed away by the Battery defense, only to be sent back in and flicked on by Joe Cole at the in what looked to be an attempted pass that took Cooper in goal out of the equation and nearly found itself nestled into the opposite corner, only to bounce harmlessly wide. The Battery still found themselves two goals ahead, but with three minutes of normal time, plus stoppage time to go, had that gone in, it would’ve set up a tense finish for the Black and Yellow.

And in said stoppage time came the final chance of the evening. A free kick on the left approximately 25 yards from goal had Justin Portillo and Obi Woodbine interested, and it was the latter who took it. The effort was put on frame, forcing the goalkeeper into a save to his right after being hit low and hard toward the bottom corner, though it perhaps was too close to the ‘keeper to really trouble him as he got across well down to the ball.

And shortly after, the final whistle blew. The Battery dug deep, but would eventually prevail through the late showing. Two assists from Maikel Chang would tell the story, but perhaps Cordoves would be happiest, having finally opened his account for the campaign, and Williams will be pleased that although he’s leaving for at least the next two games, that he was able to be a difference maker in his final game before taking his leave for international duty.

The schedule doesn’t let up for the Black and Yellow, as they next face Louisville City FC. It’ll be a matchup between the top two in the East, with the Battery in first with 34 points, and Louisville just behind them on 28. Kickoff is at 7PM, and you can watch it on MyTV Charleston or online at the club’s website.

TOP IMAGE: MAIKEL CHANG CLAIMED THE ASSIST ON BOTH GOALS ON SATURDAY NIGHT. ALL PHOTOS CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY AND ZACH BLAND

Battery run rampant over Toronto in big win

The Charleston Battery prevailed against Toronto FC II Saturday behind two goals each from Romario Williams and Dante Marini, while goals from Forrest Lasso and a great free kick from Justin Portillo capped it off as they ran out 6-1 winners on the night.

Odisnel Cooper was in goal, with his normal back four of Quinton Griffith,  Forrest Lasso, Taylor Mueller and Obi Woodbine in front of him. Whilst Portillo and Tah Brian Anunga sat in front of the backline. Marini and Maikel Chang were on opposite wings, with Kotaro Higashi playing in behind Williams up front in what was a new role for him. A welcome sight was Attaula Guerra on the bench, who hadn’t featured since picking up an injury in Jacksonville during our 3rd round US Open Cup tie the better part of a month ago.

The Battery once again came out the blocks flying, and could’ve been in front as early as the first minute. Maikel Chang went down the right before a low cross found Kotaro Higashi who couldn’t get any purchase behind a shot which was blocked, but would eventually fall to the feet of Romario Williams, who seemed certain to score.  However, he looked to have rushed his shot, and it was fluffed into the arms of the ‘keeper.

A few minutes later, a pinpoint cross from Obi Woodbine would find Chang in the box, but he couldn’t direct a header on target and the ball would go out for a goal kick.

The home side would come straight back on the attack though, when Toronto’s ‘keeper was pressed by the striker Williams and gave up possession, before the ball would eventually find its way to Justin Portillo, whose effort was blocked and went behind for a corner.

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The TFCII defense had three men on the line, something a little unorthodox, but was perhaps necessary given the fact that their goalkeeper wasn’t the tallest, and they would be called into action when the first corner, played into the front post was cleared for another, before the second corner was cleared off the line after it was redirected toward the top corner at the front post.

With quarter of an hour gone, it was Obi Woodbine’s chance to have a pop, after the home side began to get a little inventive with their set pieces, sending a corner out short to the full back, known to have a great shot from long range. His curling effort would initially look troubling for the goalkeeper, but eventually found its way over the bar.

And on 19′, the Battery were nearly left to rue their missed chances. A great through ball left an attacker in space before the ball fell to Uchello before Odisnel Cooper was forced into his first save of the match. Toronto would recycle the chance though, and a cross came in from the right and led to a free header in front of goal that was put just over the bar.

On 23′, a dangerous looking TFC corner was cleared and led to a Williams-led Battery counter following a well-timed Chang header, with Anunga streaking ahead of him, but Williams took too much time on the ball and the chance would go begging.

The home side continued to pile on the pressure when on 25′, some good build-up from the left eventually fell to Quinton Griffith in the middle, who despite being known for blasting his shots, was able to keep this one down and had the goalkeeper sprawling, but the effort slowly drifted wide.

However, they wouldn’t have to wait much longer, finally making their pressure tell,when a corner by Chang on 31′ was played low toward the front post into the box and flicked on goal by Williams and found its way into the opposite corner to put the home side in front, adding to his already impressive 11 goals on the season.

They could’ve had a second just a short time later on 39′, when Tah Brian Anunga would step in and intercept a pass along the backline before having a shot at goal, but it was straight at the ‘keeper and posed no threat to his goal.

The Battery earned another corner with four minutes to go in the first half. This time on the left and taken by Justin Portillo, again played low and flicked on by Taylor Mueller before being settled and controlled on the edge of the six yard box by his center half partner Forrest Lasso, who turned and shot into the bottom corner to double the lead.

It was what the Battery deserved, albeit a bit later than they would’ve liked, having started the game off so well. The home side’s main men were once again involved, having been the tandem to earn them a point last week at Cincinnati, they gave their team a bit of insurance late on in this week’s match.

And they didn’t seem done there. A long ball found Williams with a minute of normal time to be played in the first half, who flicked on in the direction of Higashi, though the ball was just beyond him and he was unable to control.

But the Battery’s last chance of the half came with just about the last kick. A ball from the right supplied by Quinton Griffith found Williams at the edge of the box. The striker seemed certain to add to his tally, but was slipping as he took the shot, though he still got it on target and had the goalkeeper sprawling again to tip it around the post.

And so the Battery went in at half-time 2-0 up. But despite their lead, they would’ve learned from previous games, especially the 4-4 draw with Louisville, that a team was never dead and buried. So the obvious message from coach Mike Anheuser in the changing room would be to go for the throat.

And they did just that. They started the second half as they did the first, on the front foot from the off. The always dangerous long throw from Obi Woodbine on 47′ looked to cause trouble for the defense, but petered out as the ball went out of play.

A minute later, Taylor Mueller would allow an attacker to slip in behind him, but Odisnel Cooper would remain alert and claim before there was any danger.

And as we headed into the 50th minute, Dante Marini would pass the ball into Romario Williams, who would control the ball and try to turn against his marker. The defender would go to ground to try and clear it from Williams’ feet, only to see his attempted clearance ricochet against the striker’s legs and into the net, past the goalkeeper, who was slightly off of his line, having expected to have to deal with an incoming shot.

And so, the score was 3-0. It was perhaps unclear how much Williams knew about that as opposed to his earlier strike, but he would be the first to tell you that they all count, and the Black and Yellow would start the second half as they ended the first.

And then, just before the hour mark, Justin Portillo had a free kick in a dangerous area about 25 yards from goal to the left of the box. The ball was initially cleared before finding the feet of Dante Marini, who created space, looked up, and had a pop at goal. The ball would seemingly look to take a slight deflection off of the back of a TFC defender, and would nestle itself into the opposite bottom corner for the Battery’s fourth.

Marini, a longtime fan favorite, would run straight over toward the fans in E-1 as the crowd went mental, having finally gotten a goal to show for his impressive start to the season.

And then, just a short while later, Kotaro Higashi could have put his own name on the score sheet, after some great build up play on the edge of the box fell to the first-year attacker on the edge of the six having taken the ‘keeper out of the equation and basically giving him and open goal to aim at. However, he seemed to take his eye off the ball, and fluffed his lines completely as the ball went behind for a goal kick.

TFC then looked to get back into the game, after having made a couple changes in tactics and even a sub at half-time. It was on 64′ that they made that tell.

The winger, Teifer, on the left wasn’t closed down, despite Maikel Chang and Quinton Griffith both being back to try and deal with the danger, and a cross toward the back post found Camargo at the back post, who ghosted past Obi Woodbine to provide what at first glance looked to be a consolation for the visitors.

Odisnel Cooper would most likely be unhappy with his defense for giving up the clean sheet, and even more so to a goal that so easily could’ve been avoided, but it was a sign, that with just under a half hour left, the game wasn’t quite dead and buried.

On 68′, it was time for the Battery’s first substitution. Kotaro Higashi would be replaced by Attaula Guerra. Higashi would probably be disappointed to miss those couple chances he had at goal, especially the one in the second half, though after such a long layoff, Guerra needed the minutes, and despite not scoring, Higashi did put in a good shift, having played in a position that he hadn’t featured in all season.

Toronto could’ve gotten a second goal back to really put the cat amongst the pigeons shortly after the sub, when Obi Woodbine slipped and allowed his man to get past him, though unable to cut inside toward goal, he would have to play the ball back across, which went painstakingly for both sides all the way over to the other edge of the area and wouldn’t cause any immediate danger.

On 71′ Romario Williams found himself again charging at the defense as he was on a hat trick, and though it would’ve been easy to go alone, as perhaps is the striker’s instinct to do, he showed great awareness to pick his head up and see Dante Marini on the shoulder of the last defender, playing a perfectly weighted through ball in for a 1-on-1 with the goalkeeper, which Marini would slot into the back of the net with the minimum of fuss, making the score 5-1.

This is the second time this year that the Battery had scored 5 goals, after a 5-0 win over Rochester earlier in the season. What’s more, with Marini’s second and Williams’ pass through, it meant that both players had two goals and an assist each to their name, stealing the show on what was another great night to add to the list of such performances for the Battery so far in 2017.

Williams would be replaced by Heviel Cordoves with just over 15 minutes to go, meaning he would be unable to get his hat-trick, but he could, like Higashi, be pleased with his night’s work. After building on his goal tally for the season and proving provider, the hat-trick would’ve been nice, but Cordoves was in dire need of a goal himself, and what better way to help him get one than in a 6-1 thrashing?

With nine minutes left, the ball refused to be cleared on the left before a Toronto winger would just drop the shoulder and force Cooper to come off his line and claim.

On 84′, Dante Marini would be replaced by Skylar Thomas, meaning he, too, wouldn’t get his hat trick. Meanwhile, Thomas would face his former teammates, with whom he started his career before moving to the Battery at the start of this season. He would go straight into that left wing position, slightly further forward than we’ve seen him so far, as he’s a natural center back that has been asked to fill in at full back at times when giving Woodbine or Griffith some time off.

In the 91st came the cherry on top for the Black and Yellow when a free kick on the right edge of the box from roughly 23 yards left Justin Portillo at the controls. He would hit the ball with his right as it went up and over the wall and into the opposite corner, spinning away from the goalkeeper and giving him no chance and made it 6-1, with Portillo going over to some family members in the crowd.

And that proved to be the last kick of the match. The Battery remained top of the Eastern Conference, going six points clear after Louisville lost against Harrisburg. The Battery next face the Tampa Bay Rowdies on July 1st. Kick off is at 7PM, and you can watch the match on MyTV Charleston or stream it on the club’s website.

TOP IMAGE: ROMARIO WILLIAMS CONGRATULATES TEAM MATE MAIKEL CHANG AFTER CHANG’S CORNER SET UP THE BATTERY’S FIRST GOAL OF THE EVENING. ALL PHOTOS CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY.

 

Second half goals earn Battery a point in Cincy

The Battery went into Saturday looking to make amends for a midweek Cup loss to Atlanta United, but with FC Cincinnati the opponent away from home, it wasn’t going to be an easy task. The match would be up and down throughout, eventually finishing 2-2.

There were three changes to the side that lost in Georgia in midweek, with Tah Brian Anunga filling in at right back and Quinton Griffith replacing Obi Woodbine at left back.  Justin Portillo was back in midfield, after a knock kept him out of the Cup match on Wednesday, while Romario Williams returned following international duty with Jamaica.

The two teams would start slowly before a free kick was given to the hosts in the third minute, setting up the first chance of the evening from about 40 yards out on the right. Cincinnati would send the big bodies forward as an in-swinger was wafted in at the back post. Odisnel Cooper came to claim the ball, but an attacker would just nick the ball on wth a flick header before Cooper could reach for the ball, which would fall to striker Djibi Fall to head into the empty net.

There may have been a hint of offside about it, as the attacker looked to be behind Naveal Hackshaw when receiving the ball. The header on that beat Cooper would’ve made that another phase of play, in which the attacker did seem to drift offside. The goal was given though, and the Battery found themselves with an early deficit.

The visitors were lucky to not be two down after 10′, when Danni Konig flashed a shot wide of Cooper’s far post, which is a chance he seemed certain to finish having been in solid form coming into the game.

Ricky Garbanzo and his strike partner Williams combined for a slick one-two just a short while later, but the goalkeeper, Mitch Hildebrandt, was there to intercept before a proper chance could be fashioned.

Dante Marini would win the ball back on the right flank and slide the ball into Kotaro Higashi at the top of the box, and the winger would just try and wrap his foot around the ball in a curling effort, but his shot would go straight to the ‘keeper.

Patient buildup from the Black and Yellow found Romario Williams in the box a short time later, but the Battery’s leading scorer couldn’t direct his header on goal.

On 25’, Williams would win a free kick on the right, which would be taken by set-piece specialist Portillo and find Taylor Mueller at the back stick, only for the defender to direct his header wide, despite doing well to get above his marker and create the opportunity.

Ten minutes before half time, Dante Marini would have a handball claim shot down by the ref, and a promising chance would then break down after too much time was taken around the box.

Shortly after, Williams and Higashi would combine in the box, before a ball across found Ricky Garbanzo, who couldn’t quite turn to get the shot away.

But in first half stoppage time, Jimmy McGlaughlin’s shot after a great run down the left would force Odisnel Cooper to palm a shot onto the post and behind for a corner, though the set piece would eventually be collected and danger would be averted.

And so, the Battery would find themselves down at half time, though it wasn’t for the want of trying. Despite going behind through the early goal, the Battery had the most meaningful of possession, but couldn’t convert that possession into clear cut opportunities, obviously something they would have to work on if they were to get anything from the match.

And the search would continue in earnest when Quinton Griffith would get a shot off on 46′, but his effort would go high over the bar.

In the 50th, a Battery counter was led by Naveal Hackshaw and would fall to Williams on the edge of the box, but he couldn’t find room to get a shot away as two defenders would descend upon him. The striker would eventually be booked after giving away a foul and allowing Cincy respite from the pressure.

Six minutes later, Tah Brian Anunga would go on a great run to the byline on the right, crossing in for Williams in the middle of the box, but he couldn’t get any purchase on the first time shot as Hildebrandt would collect.

On 58′, Tah and Williams would combine again, but the header from the striker would be off target.

Djibi Fall could’ve doubled his tally, and his side’s lead on 64′, when he got behind Forrest Lasso to connect with a cross deep inside the box, but his header would flash wide of the target.

And just two minutes later, he would live to rue the miss. Ricky Garbanzo would find Romario Williams from the right, who would just get ahead of his man to toe poke the ball past the ‘keeper and into the far post, putting the Battery level with his 12th goal of the campaign, continuing his great start to the season.

The goal was deserved for the Battery at this stage, as they continued to pile on pressure in the search for a leveler. Finally, the dam broke, and they found themselves with a goal, and ample time to add to it as well.

Shortly after, Obi Woodbine would replace Tah Brian Anunga, going into the left back position, with Quinton Griffith sliding over to the opposite flank.

But Djibi Fall could’ve put his side back ahead only five minutes later, when he got in behind Forrest Lasso and looked to be 1-on-1 with Cooper before the defender made a great last ditch challenge to clear away for a corner, which Cooper claimed from a Cincinnati header.

The Battery found themselves with a throw in level with the six yard box on the left, which left Obi Woodbine with the opportunity for a long throw into the box on 71’. The ball found the head of Naveal Hackshaw, who flicked it on for Forrest Lasso, who provided the first time finish to put the Battery ahead 2-1.

There’s an old adage that if you wait long enough for one bus, two will come along at once, and the Battery had that feeling after working so hard for the equalizer, only to find themselves with one goal so quickly after the equalizer.

With just under a quarter of an hour to go, Djibi Fall looked to get his head to a cross in the box, but a foul was given before there was danger to Odisnel Cooper’s goal.

And on 78′, another Woodbine throw looked dangerous as it fell in the box, but a shot would be blocked by a horde of defenders before it went out on the other side and was eventually cleared.

The home side would eventually find an equalizer of their own when, with ten minutes to go, the Battery couldn’t clear the ball before it fell to Andrew Weidemann, who took a touch to control, turn and then fire past Cooper all on the volley to level.

It was unfortunate for the visitors, who had worked so hard to be in the position they were in, but especially with a team as dangerous as Cincinnati, when they piled on the pressure, the defense had to remain vigilant, and were perhaps guilty of not clearing the ball away despite the great work from the goalscorer to level.

But there were chances in the game yet.

Heviel Cordoves and Maikel Chang would come on, replacing Ricky Garbanzo and Dante Marini in the last ten minutes, and it was Cordoves who could’ve provided some heroics for his side in stoppage time, rising to meet a cross into the box for a free header, but it lacked power and went straight into the arms of Mitch Hildebrandt.

And that’s how the match finished. A point at a noisy Nippert Stadium, with the atmosphere, and Cincy having just come off of a Cup win against Columbus, wasn’t the worst result, but having come from behind to lead, it was a painful result nonetheless. However, the Battery remained top in the East after Tampa Bay would draw, but Louisville’s 3-0 win over Pittsburgh took them into second place, three points behind us with two games in hand.

The Battery return home Saturday, June 24th, taking on Toronto FC II. Kickoff is at 7PM, and you can watch the match on MyTV Charleston, or Stream it via the club’s website.

TOP IMAGE: THE BATTERY DEFEND A CROSS IN THIS SEASON’S PREVIOUS MEETING WITH FC CINCY. ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY PHOTO

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.