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.

Defense stands strong as Fleet prevail in inaugural match

Charleston’s newest sporting edition, WPSL’s Charleston Fleet took home the spoils of their inaugural match, winning against the Carolina Rapids by a score of 1-0 thanks to a goal from Sarah Cardamone.

The first match in the club’s history took place at the Charleston Battery’s MUSC Health Stadium, with whom they are affiliated with as part of the Battery’s “’93 Night” promotion. The match started at 4PM, before the Battery kicked off at 7, and saw the women’s side make history with their first win at the first opportunity.

The goalscorer Cardamone was on the front foot straight away, as she got the ball just past midfield and turned toward goal in hopes to find a through ball forward into space for a run on, but it would be collected easily by the Rapids goalkeeper and the chance was gone.

The vistors would then have a corner in the 11th minute, but it was cleared away by what would remain a staunch defense for the Fleet throughout the day.

And then, in the 14th, came the breakthrough. An errant pass back gave Sarah Cardamone the chance to pounce, and though the ball got to its intended recipient in the shape of one of the center backs, Cardamone didn’t give her a moment’s peace, stealing the ball and going clean through before taking a touch and slotting the ball into the bottom corner.

It was history for the Fleet, as it was the first goal in team history, and surely one to remember for Cardamone herself, as a goal such as that isn’t something you forget easily.

Nearly ten minutes later, it could’ve been two. Cardamone was the danger again, latching onto a through ball that just forced her slightly wide and away from goal, before she squared up and went around her marker, but her shot from a tight angle went into the side netting.

The next real chance came for the Fleet again on 37′, when a shot from distance from Amber Adams would find its way onto the crossbar after beating the ‘keeper, but the effort would eventually be cleared.

And so, the Fleet would go in at half-time a goal to the good. They had had the better running in the first half, with the home side creating most of the real chances.

Though it could’ve easily been level just after the break. In the 47th minute, an errant pass out of the back led a Rapids striker clean through, but Fleet goalkeeper Sandy Maciver set her feet well and got behind the effort to parry the ball away and clear.

Maciver was perhaps one of the most interesting players to watch, very comfortable with the ball at her feet, especially for a goalkeeper and able to pick a pass, while being assertive coming off of her line and not afraid to get herself involved if she felt the need to intervene, applying what many refer to as being a “sweeper-keeper” in order to break up the opponent’s attacks and start one for her own side.

She was part of a defense that to that point had only allowed that one notable chance, and the Fleet would hope that would continue.

And with seven minutes to go, the Fleet could’ve had a second goal to put the game to bed. when a free kick from the left was headed down at the back post and into the ground, but lacked direction as it bounced just wide.

And that was how it finished. The Charleston Fleet would edge out a 1-0 win in their first match thanks to Sarah Cardamone’s 14th minute goal. It’s a quick turnaround for the new side though, whose next match is against the Lake Norman Eclipse on Sunday, June 4th. Kick off is at 1PM at Patriot’s Point.

Battery pegged back by Louisville in 8 goal Thriller

The Charleston Battery drew with Louisville City FC on Saturday night sharing the points in a 4-4 goalfest. The Battery took three two-goal leads at different points in the evening, but lady luck would show its hand against the Battery throughout the night, as two goals off of wicked deflections and an OG from Forrest Lasso gave Louisville a way back into the match at different points, while Brian Ownby would play a part in what was, from a visiting perspective, a great fight back.

It was a now almost regular starting XI for the Black and Yellow, who were a part of MUSC Health Stadium’s second live match of the evening, after WPSL side the Charleston Fleet would win their inaugural game, defeating the Carolina Rapids by a score of 1-0.

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Odisnel Cooper kept his place in goal, while Skylar Thomas was in for regular starter Quinton Griffith, while Forrest Lasso and Taylor Meuller were the center backs, alongside Obi Woodbine at right back. Justin Portillo and Tah Brian Anunga continued in front of the back four, while Maikel Chang and Kotaro Higashi were on the flanks. The only other change being Heviel Cordoves under Romario Williams up front, after Williams’ usual strike partner, Attaula Guerra was out through a groin problem picked up in the Battery’s 1-0 win over Jacksonville in the US Open Cup.

An early foul gave the visitors a chance in the first minute, but while the free kick looked dangerous, it went straight into the wall.

Louisville continued to pile on the pressure early, as they sent the ball across from the right and forced Cooper to punch the ball away to avoid danger.

But the tables would quickly turn, as Kotaro Higashi would receive a long ball on the left flank before squaring up to his marker and moving the ball inside, dribbling into the box. He would then get some space, looking all the while like he was angling to take aim at goal, before lifting his head up and finding the striker Williams, who, though given a tight angle, would round the goalkeeper and shoot. The effort found its way on target, and despite the best efforts of an on-rushing defender, the ball would squeeze all the way over the line, giving the hosts a 1-0 lead.

The score was perhaps flattering given Louisville’s fast start, but despite the better of possession, only forced the defense to clear just that once before the opener.

It was in the 23rd minute that Louisville would have another dangerous looking free kick, but it would again be blocked by the wall and cleared away.

With just over a half an hour gone, the Battery doubled their lead. Romario Williams was in again, and this time would produce something special. He would receive the ball in midfield and drive at the defense, before doing a cheeky little step-over and winding up from a good 25 yards out. The shot was too powerful for the Louisville ‘keeper and found its way into the back of the net for 2-0.

But the visitors would find a way back into it, and perhaps at the worst possible time for the Battery, right before half time.

A Louisville corner from the right would curl in and then be cleared, though Louisville would reset and look for a ball back in. The cross initially looked flat, but took a wicked deflection and found its way past a sprawling Odisnel Cooper, who was at the near post keeping track of the cross, and though he made his best effort, couldn’t quite get across to keep the ball out.

Though the Black and Yellow went in at half time a goal up, the Louisville goal just before the break would put a seed of doubt in the home team’s mind, and it would be up to them to renew their two goal advantage in the second half.

It wouldn’t take long. Kotaro Higashi found himself at the top of the box on 48’ before laying off to Maikel Chang, who was unlucky not to find space to take aim at goal, but was able to complete a 1-2 with Higashi before receiving the ball again, this time creating a window to shoot before firing past the ‘keeper.

Now at 3-1, the Battery looked to go for the jugular. Chang would trick past his man on the right and play the ball in the box just two minutes later, but it was cleared before it could find its way toward Cordoves in the box.

But then, on the hour mark, Louisville would give themselves another lifeline, after George Davis IV would find himself at the top of the box with space for a shot, and once again, a defender would get his body in the way, though the deflection would only force the ball toward goal and past Cooper for 3-2.

The Battery didn’t at all look dazed by the scoreline, but would have to keep their heads if they were going to hold on.

Three minutes later, the home side found themselves in another dangerous position, as a corner was flicked on at the front post, though no one was there to finish, and the chance would go begging.

Skylar Thomas would pick up an injury and eventually would have to be replaced in the 71st by Quniton Griffith. A change at the back isn’t something that you would like to happen, as it can sometimes mess with the chemistry of the backline, especially at this stage of the game, but given the injury, it was needs must for the Battery.

But two minutes later, the Battery would find their two goal lead once again restored. Obi Woodbine would find the ball after some great buildup and possession on the left before he would run all the way to the byline and pull the ball back for a wide open Ricky Garbanzo, who would convert a tap-in for the Battery’s 4th.

Garbanzo doesn’t score many, and you could see how much the goal meant to him as he celebrated along the touchline in the hopes that he’d put the Battery on the game beyond the visitors.

But still, Louisville weren’t out of it. Bryan Ownby would go on a mazy run through the middle, and wouldn’t be closed down, taking a shot from the right side of the box which gave Odisnel Cooper no chance, once again giving Louisville a way back.

And with nine minutes left, hearts would sink. It started with a Battery corner that was bundled clear, and suddenly Louisville would find themselves on the break. The ball was crossed into the front post, which Forrest Lasso would stick a leg out to clear, but he was unable to get any air on the clearance as it would trickle off his foot and into the goal.

It was unlucky for the Battery, who after going two goals up on three occasions, thought they had the game under control, only for it to finally slip at the last.

And yet, it could’ve gotten worse. A cross from the right went all the way through and seemed to have only required a touch for the visitors to find themselves in front with what could’ve been the last attack of the day, but went out for a goal kick.

And that was the way it ended. The Battery were sure to find themselves speechless at the way the game had transpired, but from a certain point of view, were quite unlucky. Two of the goals conceded were from deflections that left Odisnel Cooper helpless, and another was an own goal. Some would find those instances to be avoidable, yet you would expect every player to be prepared to put their body on the line to avoid danger, even if the results had consequences.

The next match is against Richmond at home on June 10th. You can watch the Match on MyTV Charleston or stream online at the club’s website.

TOP IMAGE: KOTARO HIGASHI, WHO EARNED TWO ASSISTS, ONE IN EACH HALF, ON SATURDAY NIGHT, STRIDES AWAY FROM A MARKER EARLY ON. ALL PHOTOS CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY AND ZACH BLAND

Battery fall in New York despite Portillo magic

Justin Portillo‘s excellent free kick was cancelled out by two second half goals from the New York Red Bulls as they went on to lose by a score of 2-1.

The Battery were much changed from the win in midweek against Bethlehem, with Heviel Cordoves coming in up top, replacing leading goalscorer Romario Williams, while Ricky Garbanzo would slot in for Attaula Guerra. Chris Goslin would make his first professional start in midfield beside Portillo, and Jeffery Otoo would replace Kotaro Higashi. Quinton Griffith would come back in after being rested against Bethlehem, but Skylar Thomas would slide to left back and replace Obi Woodbine. Odisnel Cooper would continue his platooning with Alex Tambakis in goal, while Miles Robinson kept his place ahead of Forrest Lasso despite the latter being back from suspension.

An early shot from Brandon Allen forced Odisnel Cooper into his first save of the evening, though it was an easy save for the ‘keeper, down low to his right from the edge of the box.

A free kick given after Ricky Garbanzo was adjudged to have handled the ball from roughly 25 yards gave Cooper a slightly more difficult task as he was forced to save a curling effort, which would eventually go out for a throw in.

Cooper was forced to claim a cross that curled away from him on 20′, which looked dangerous enough to trouble before the goalkeeper claimed.

David Najem would play the ball into a dangerous area a minute later before Cooper would eventually claim, cutting out the danger before it could be turned in.

The Battery would have their first half chance of the match on 26’, when a Portillo free kick was cleared at first, before being reset and eventually falling to Heviel Cordoves, but his shot went wide.

Cooper was pressed into action again a minute later, as some good buildup fell to Derek Ettienne, but Cooper would come out and claim the ball at his feet.

In the 41st minute, a poor backpass from the Red Bulls defense left Ricky Garbanzo one on on one with the goalkeeper, though the ‘keeper would come out and collide with Garbanzo, giving away the free kick, and, though earning himself a yellow card, could count himself lucky that the referee didn’t adjudge his challenge to be worthy of a red card.

But then, the Battery did find the breakthrough. Dante Marini would use his pace as he powered his way through the middle of the pitch before being taken down. And again, the Red Bulls could count themselves lucky as the replay showed that Marini caught a glancing elbow to the head, which was what actually took him off his feet.

Justin Portillo was then at the controls for the Battery roughly 20 yards from goal. The ball looked as if it may’ve been too close to get it up and over the wall and back down, but Portillo sent a curling effort on goal that gave the ‘keeper no chance, and gave the Battery the lead going into half time.

The goal was just about the last kick of the first half, and the Battery went in with their tails up.

But it was the hosts that came out looking the better side in the second half. An early wave of Red Bulls pressure led to a corner for the home side, though it was eventually cleared.

And on 50′, the Red Bulls could’ve drawn level. A cross in found Derek Ettienne, and while Odisnel Cooper would attempt to smother, he would only redirect it into the path of the onrunning Bezecourt, who put his shot over the bar.

The goal was coming though, and the pressure would finally tell three minutes later. Miles Robinson would deflect a Derek Ettienne shot out for a corner, which was taken by Bezecourt. The outswinging ball found Junior Fleming at the front post, who rose above his marker and headed the ball past Cooper to level the scoring.

Despite getting some decent possession to start the half, the Battery would be kicking themselves that they didn’t come out with a better approach, especially having gone in at half time with the lead.

And a few minutes later, the hosts could’ve had a second. Bezecourt led a counter and the Battery defenders couldn’t get a handle on him, before he would shoot wide, not troubling Cooper in goal.

On 57’, Heviel Cordoves would control a quick throw in and shoot from an odd angle on the left, but the shot was easily saved.

Just before the hour mark, the Battery would make their first change as they looked to regain the lead. Maikel Chang would replace Jeffery Otoo as they looked to add some more creative spark going forward.

And he was instantly involved, with some good footwork on the right wing before finding Miles Robinson who had stayed up from a corner that New York had cleared, but the center back’s shot was deflected before forcing the goalkeeper into a good save from close range.

Heviel Corodves would then hit the post on 63′, but was adjudged to be offside after Justin Portillo found him with a great cross from a free kick, and so if the ball would’ve found the net, it still wouldn’t have mattered.

Romario Williams would enter the game for Cordoves in the 69th. The Battery’s leading scorer would’ve liked to continue his day off given the quick turn around from the game in midweek, but needs must for the Battery if they were to continue their unbeaten run.

But it was the home side who would find the go ahead goal. The Battery could perhaps be aggrieved as Dante Marini would look to win the ball on the edge of the area, but the referee was having no complaints as Derek Ettienne would line the ball up. Cooper would set his wall to the left of him, but would be let down as Ettienne would curl a shot into the near post after his wall didn’t jump.

And so the Battery would find themselves behind, and after going in front, despite feeling slightly hard done by with the refereeing decisions. With just over quarter of an hour to go, they had a mountain to climb.

And with just about ten minutes to go, Attaula Guerra would replace Chris Goslin. This meant that the Battery had all their explosive tools on the pitch, after the three subs brought on their three most attacking threats to go along with Portillo in midfield.

With five minutes to go, Romario Williams would have a great chance to level when he turned his defender and found room to shoot, but his effort was straight at the keeper.

The Red Bulls could’ve sealed it shortly after, when the Battery were caught with too many men up field to attack a free kick and the hosts hit them on the counter, with Bezecourt forcing Cooper into a magnificent save to redirect it behind before it was cleared.

The Battery had the ball in the net in stoppage time as a free kick was swung in at the back post and turned in after the ‘keeper would go up for the ball and not claim, but a foul was given and the goal was waved off.

And that’s how game would finish. The Battery would remain on top of the East after Tampa Bay drew on Saturday, though they would slip at the chance to go five points clear.

They next play on Wednesday in the US Open Cup, away against the Jacksonville Armada. Kickoff is at 7:00.

PHOTO CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY

 

 

 

 

 

Williams the difference in battle with Bethlehem

Romario Williams’ eighth goal of the season gave the Charleston Battery  three points in a Thursday brunchtime clash with the Bethlehem Steel.

Whilst the game took a while to get going, Williams’ effort from roughly 25 yards midway through the first half sent the Steel ‘keeper sprawling and kissed the inside of the near post on its way in. The visitors had a multitude of chances to add to the scoring in both halves following the goal, but it was a stout defense that could be given credit for a tough display on the way to a big three points for the Black and Yellow.

There were changes to the Battery side who drew 2-2 with Harrisburg the previous weekend, as they were in the middle of a three-game road stretch, and set for two games in four days. Miles Robinson, on loan from Atlanta United, would deputize for the suspended Forrest Lasso after he picked up his 5th yellow of the season against the Islanders, while Naveal Hackshaw would slot in for Tah Brian Anunga, who received his marching orders during the draw himself. Natural center back Skylar Thomas would slide to right back, replacing Quinton Griffith.

After feeling each other out in the early goings, the Battery could very well have had a penalty in the 10th minute, as Obi Woodbine latched onto a great cross-field ball and nutmegged his marker before being taken down in the box by an on-rushing second defender. Nothing was given though, and so the ball rolled out for a goal kick.

Steel striker Cory Burke would go on a mazy run into the box just a few minutes later, but Thomas would come across on the cover to clear.

Alex Tambakis would be forced into an his first save on 14′ from a tame effort from Burke, getting behind the effort to his right and crouching down on the ball to relieve the pressure and allow his side to reset.

After 28′ came the next big chance, a flick on from an inswinging corner left Skylar Thomas with the opportunity to open the scoring, but the Steel ‘keeper was able to palm the effort onto the bar to keep the scores level.

Bethlehem had a corner just past the half hour mark which was played short and crossed into the hands of Tambakis.

It wasn’t too long after that the Battery were in front. Romario Williams would control a pass in midfield before running across his defender and using his pace and strength just to earn half a yard of space before taking aim at goal and beating the ‘keeper as the ball went in off the inside of the near post. The strike took him level with former Battery player Dane Kelly on 8 goals for the season and gave the Battery the 1-0 lead.

Just a few minutes before half time, it could’ve been two. Maikel Chang lofted a ball toward the back post to a wide open Kotaro Higashi, whose volleyed effort somehow went wide.

And then Williams could’ve had himself a second just before the break, but his effort went wide.

On the whole, the Battery deserved to be in front at half time, though it remained to be seen if the missed chances would come back to haunt them.

And it seemed, for all intents and purposes as if they had acknowledged that fact, after seeing missed chances come back to haunt them in their previous game, as they came out flying for the second half.

A flick on header by Chang fell to the feet of the goalscorer Williams, who squared up to his defender and got himself goal-side, before taking aim at goal again. He seemed destined for the brace, but McGuire in the Bethlehem goal would deny him as the ball went out for a corner. The set piece was taken by Justin Portillo into a dangerous area, but cleared, only for Maikel Chang to pick up the pieces and get a cross off to the far post and for Attaula Guerra to sting the palms of the ‘keeper again, though the ball would eventually be cleared.

A Bethlehem corner a couple minutes later would be cleared, and the Battery looked to be set for a dangerous counter, only for the move to break down.

Bethlehem forward Seku Conneh would then snap a header  wide after a great cross from the left. The header left Tambakis in goal flat footed, and so the ‘keeper could breathe a sigh of relief that the effort wasn’t on frame.

On the hour mark, a Justin Portillo-led counter eventually fell to Maikel Chang, who had his effort saved only for the ball to spill right back into danger again, with Kotaro Higashi running in, but his effort was scuffed as it seemed that he slipped just slightly as he tried to turn his foot to point the ball on frame.

A minute later, a Justin Portillo corner was kept alive by a little bit of head tennis before falling to Attaula Guerra, who stuck the ball in the net from close range, but was adjudged to be offside. Video Replay was apparently in effect, as the referee would call play dead following the whistle to listen in to his earpiece, but the decision would stand, and the Steel would have a free kick.

A Bethlehem corner would cause a bit of trouble in the box in the 71st, but would only pop out on the edge of the box before being blasted over the bar.

Dante Marini would replace Kotaro Higashi a short while later. The first year winger played well despite missing his chances, applying ample pressure and being an out ball for the central players, but will undoubtedly be disappointed that he didn’t help his side double their lead.

Obi Woodbine would be asked to run onto a dangerous looking chance on 74′, as the full back with the famed cannon of a right foot would just try and guide a ball into the top corner, but the effort would go high and wide.

Heviel Cordoves would replace the goalscorer Williams on 76′. Romario played well, putting his side ahead and putting in a good shift, though had run out of steam in the minutes leading up to the change.

And Cordoves’ first real touches produced a chance for the visitors. He controlled a long ball on the right flank before cutting in and shooting, forcing the goalkeeper into yet another save.

The home side were baying for a penalty in the 84th, when Skylar Thomas would muscle the Steel forward out of the way in order to shield the ball out. The referee was having none of the appeal though, and pointed for a goal kick.

Cordoves was then in again on 84′, but foiled once more as he would muscle his way around his marker and in for a 1-on-1, but his guided finish toward the far post was saved. The ensuing corner would be dummied and fall to the debutant Miles Robinson, but his effort would flash wide of the post.

Into 4 minutes of stoppage time we went, and Bethlehem would have perhaps their best chance of the match, cracking the bar from just inside the box, having beaten a sprawling Tambakis, and the ball would eventually be cleared.

And that was how the game finished. The result meant that the Battery go three points clear at the top of the table with a game in hand over second-placed Tampa Bay after they lost against Rochester on Tuesday.

The Battery next play on Sunday at 2PM against New York Red Bulls II. The match will be televised on MyTV Charleston, and available for streaming on the club’s website, or YouTube.

 

TOP IMAGE: HEVIEL CORDOVES HAS A SHOT IN THE PREVIOUS MEETING BETWEEN THE BATTERY AND STEEL AT MUSC HEALTH STADIUM. CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY