Battery thrash Harrisburg in final home game of regular season

The Charleston Battery’s front four were firing on all cylinders Saturday night as the Black and Yellow beat the Harrisburg City Islanders by a score of 4-0.

Heviel Cordoves continued his hot streak with a brace, as Attaula Guerra sandwiched a goal in between from his strike partner. Maikel Chang put in what was arguably his best performance of the season, notching three assists, with Kotaro Higashi on tap for the other, and to top it off, Quinton Griffith would score his first goal in his five years at the club in the last minute of normal time to give the Battery an important win as they look to lock up a Home game in the first round of the playoffs.

Despite the final score, it was the home side that conceded the first chance, when Odisnel Cooper had to smother quickly and carefully to cut out a 1-on-1 with a Harrisburg forward in only the second minute.

From the distribution that followed, a flick on in midfield found Attaula Guerra, who went looking for Heviel Cordoves with another quick pass, but he was given offside.

A Harrisburg corner on nine minutes only led to a Battery counter through Tah Brian Anunga, who ran at the defense with deceptive speed, but got the ball stuck under his feet and the attack would break down.

A great takedown from Cordoves on 12′ would find Justin Portillo in the middle on the edge of the box, who would try a touch pass inside for Attaula Guerra, but would put the ball just out of reach.

But then, the home side would finally take the lead the early pressure deserved three minutes later, when Maikel Chang’s impressive through ball to Cordoves left him 1-on-1 with the ‘keeper, and he would keep composed to take it around him and fire the Battery in front.

 

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And so, knowing that the game was a must win in order to earn a home draw for the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal, the pressure would ease just a little bit as Cordoves continued his great late-season run.

The next five minutes could’ve seen the Battery score just as many goals, as just two minutes after his opener, Cordoves could’ve had his second. A great cross from the right by Chang found the striker, and he was able to toe-poke the ball on frame and past the goalkeeper, only to be given offside by the linesman at the far side of the pitch.

Not more than a minute later, Kotaro Higashi would stand up his man on the far side and wiggle enough room at the byline to get a ball across, before a shot went wide as the Harrisburg defense tried their best to get as many men at the near post as they could.

Next, The Battery had a corner on the far side that was swung in, and Cordoves would rise highest, only for his header to clang off the bar. The onrushing Higashi was too close to get to a rebound, and the chance was gone.

A ball in from Higashi on 23′, once again using a bit of fancy footwork to get past a defender before passing off to Cordoves, but the striker would get the ball stuck under his feet and the chance was cleared.

But just before the half hour mark, the Battery would indeed have another, when Higashi played Guerra after some sublime one touch football in and around the edge of the box, and Guerra shot between the diving defender’s legs toward the far corner to add to the lead.

Only a minute later, Maikel Chang would find himself free on the right of the box and send a curling effort just wide of the far post.

But three minutes later, Skylar Thomas, in for the suspended Forrest Lasso, would misclear a ball off his toe and out for a corner, but did well to atone for his mistake and was involved in ultimately clearing from danger from the set piece.

Three minutes later, Guerra and Chang would combine to create another chance, but this was again sent wide as the Battery were still searching for more.

And on the stroke of half time, Cordoves found himself in space with room to run at the Harrisburg defense. He had Attaula Guerra in space, but played the ball slightly behind him, which slowed the run of play. Nevertheless, Guerra would slide the ball to his left and force a save from the ‘keeper, and the rebound would be forced out for a corner, which came to nothing.

So, in what was the Battery’s final home game of the season, they seemed determined to send the fans home happy, with two goals to their name and feet still firmly on the gas pedal.

On the other side of the break, it was Cordoves again who would threaten, before he shot just wide, though the flag would eventually go up for offside.

On 58, the Battery would find a third after a great give and go between Maikel Chang and Heviel Cordoves, Cordoves using pace and power to get past a man before playing off to Chang and continuing the run inside, and then slotting past the ‘keeper at the far post on the return. The goal was important as it did again relax the team more and more, and will hopefully only give the team confidence going into what will still be an all important final week of the season.

Kotaro Higashi was then replaced by Nico Rittmeyer on 67′, and while the winger opposite him in Chang did more on the stat sheet, Higashi still put in an impressive display, getting himself an assist and continuing what’s been a debut season that’s gotten better and better for him as it’s progressed.

Heviel Cordoves would make way with just over 15 minutes to go, and received a well-deserved standing ovation from the Battery faithful after a brace as he was replaced by Patrick Okonkwo.

Tah Brian Anunga then was replaced by Jeffrey Otoo with ten minutes left, after having picked up a knock that had him limping. Despite not getting on the score sheet, Tah covered almost every blade of grass and was excellent in the air, while allowing Justin Portillo more license to get forward and create while he sat back and was the typical defensive midfielder. He would also receive a rapturous applause leaving the pitch, a player of his type and caliber being something that Battery have needed for quite some time.

A Battery free kick inside the last ten minutes wasn’t cleared, bounced around and eventually found itself in the net, but the offside flag would again go up.

With three minutes left, Odisnel Cooper made a flying save to his left to deny a stinging drive on the counter after a run up the right.

And on 89′ came the sweetener. Quinton Griffith would receive the ball on the right before running up the touchline and playing Maikel Chang, who initiated another give and go as the right back would continue the run and slot home at the near post for the Battery’s fourth.

The crowd would go mental as Griffith celebrated what was his first goal for the club in his five years in Charleston, and his team mates surrounded him to commemorate the occasion.

And that was how the game finished. The Battery would close out their regular season home schedule with an important win against the Harrisburg City Islanders.

With a win and a Rochester loss to Pittsburgh, the Battery could’ve secured a home draw in the playoffs this evening, but the second half of that scenario didn’t come to fruition after Rochester picked up full points against the Riverhounds.

However, as it stands, with Louisville beating Charlotte and San Antonio and Tampa Bay sharing the points, it means that a draw would be enough to see the Black and Yellow gain an all important home game in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, but it is important to note that a scenario without the Battery in the top four positions to end the season is still in play.

With the win, the Battery were crowned inaugural Old Guard Shield winners, a separate league tournament, not unlike earlier runnings of the Southern Derby Cup set up between fans of the oldest members of USL, which came down to the final day.

The Battery conclude their regular season away to the Charlotte Independence on Saturday October 14th. Kick off is at 7:00PM, and you can watch the game on MyTV Charleston, or stream it on the club’s website.

TOP IMAGE: HEVIEL CORDOVES, ATTAULA GUERRA AND MAIKEL CHANG SHOW OFF THEIR MOVES FOLLOWING GUERRA’S GOAL IN THE 28TH. PHOTOS CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY

 

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Subs shine as Battery earn late point against Riverhounds

Maikel Chang‘s 83rd minute equalizer meant the Charleston Battery took a point from the final game of a three-match road trip Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.

The visitors would open the scoring when Miles Robinson climbed highest to meet a Justin Portillo corner early on, but Victor Souto would respond with a back post volley on 20′. Corey Hertzog would expertly bend one into the top corner from an improbable angle midway through the second half, before Chang would set up a give-and-go with Attaula Guerra, eventually slotting home with seven minutes left.

Miles Robinson would come into the side after replacing Forrest Lasso near the end of the loss in Tampa, while Skylar Thomas would slot in at right back. Quinton Griffith and Maikel Chang were on the flanks, while Portillo and Tah Brian Anunga were in the middle. Up top was the pairing of Naveal Hackshaw and Ricky Garbanzo, one that seemed a little odd, but showed effectiveness at times throughout the night. Last week’s standout Lagos Kunga was on the bench, as was Jarad van Schaik and Attaula Guerra, having both overcome injuries to feature in the 18. Heviel Cordoves and Kotaro Higashi rounded out the substitutes, meaning there was no shortage of viable options as has sometimes been the case this year.

Acclimatizing to the turf proved a bit tricky in the early goings, when Romeo Parkes would beat his marker Robinson to the ball and volley toward goal with an unorthodox over the head effort that went narrowly wide in the 6th minute.

A couple minutes later, it was Hertzog who would create a chance as he clattered the bar after holding his run up and staying onside, leaving the defenders confused, but the Battery would survive.

And not too long after, they found themselves in front. Another expert cross from a corner by Justin Portillo connected with Miles Robinson, who rose highest to power a header into the back of the net.

The goal perhaps came against the run of play, but having scored their first goal in three games after going scoreless in losses to St. Louis & Tampa, they weren’t too bothered. The assist for Portillo was his sixth of the year, breaking a tie for the team lead with Maikel Chang on five.

But unfortunately, the lead wouldn’t last. The game got a bit bogged down in midfield until Pittsburgh would force a corner of their own in the 21st. The set-piece got a little flick on before finding Victor Souto at the back post unmarked to volley home.

The defense were asking questions of each other, but would have to take joint responsibility for poor marking. In the end, no matter the confusion, someone has to mark the man, and leaving someone open at the back post was something that would frustrate coach Mike Anheuser to no end.

The Battery could’ve been back in front a few minutes later however, when a Portillo free kick again found Robinson drifting at the back post, but this time he was coming down by the time he latched onto the ball, and the shot lacked power.

The ball would ping itself into a dangerous area for the home side just past the half hour mark, which would eventually fall to a Riverhounds attacker, but his shot on the turn from just outside the box would be right at Tambakis.

Maikel Chang led a counter on 33′ where he could’ve taken a shot himself, but instead sprayed wide to Quinton Griffith, who laid off for the onrushing Justin Portillo. His effort toward the bottom corner was saved, as it seemed as if the Battery’s recent struggles to find the perfect pass were settling back in.

They would keep applying pressure though, as, soon after, Ricky Garbanzo won the ball high up the pitch in a tackle before laying off to Naveal Hackshaw, who perhaps had a little more time, but dragged his shot wide.

On 41′ Tambakis would do well to claim a dangerous ball in the middle of the box before a Riverhounds attacker could pounce, as the end of the first half went started to go back and forth.

A couple minutes later came a chance at the other end as Quinton Griffith sent a bouncing through ball to the feet of Ricky Garbanzo, who sent it just inches over the bar.

And that’s how the first half ended. It was an entertaining first half, and there was much to play for. The Battery could be happy that they’d ended their mini goal drought, but there was still work to do.

The second half started as the first one ended, the home side creating little half chances, Washington sending the ball dangerously across the face, but no one would claim. While at the other end for the visitors, Taylor Mueller would snap a stooping header toward goal, only for it to narrowly go wide of the far post.

Corey Hertzog forced a handball on 56′, but the ensuing free kick would be cleared out of danger.

However, Hertzog wasn’t to be kept quiet. A throw in on 61′ wasn’t dealt with defensively, and the striker took advantage of the ‘keeper expecting a cross to fake him out and bend one into the far corner and in.

Whilst the defending was slack in trying to close the man down, no one would’ve expected a shot like that, partially because it requires a ball to be so well struck to attempt it. But nevertheless, the Battery were behind, and had again to pick themselves up.

The boss’s response to this was to throw on the big guns. He made a double switch not too long after, bringing on Attaula Guerra and Heviel Cordoves.

Guerra would quickly make his mark on proceedings, linking up play quicker and getting into better spaces on and off the ball, which is something the Battery had missed since he’s been out with a recurring thigh problem.

On 76’ came a great chance, when Guerra would turn his man and play an incisive ball in toward Cordoves, who couldn’t stretch out enough to make contact to equalize.

Three minutes later, Guerra would again create, getting a flick on from a Battery Free kick, which was saved.

Chang would receive the ball and take a shot from the left shortly after, but it wouldn’t trouble the ‘keeper and went wide.

Kotaro Higashi would be the Battery’s final sub, replacing Tah Brian Anunga with 10 minutes left. The thought being that perhaps Guerra would go further forward to partner Cordoves, while Higashi would go wide, and Chang more central to become a little more creative. It made sense given the Battery’s predicament, and it was surely all hands on deck for the visitors.

Tambakis was forced into an important save from distance on 82, but conceded a corner that was eventually cleared.

And it was possibly made more important by what would happen next. Maikel Chang and Attaula Guerra would play a 1-2 at the top of the box, which resulted in Chang going free of his marker and smashing it in far post for the equalizer.

A breath of relief seemed to sweep through the side as two of the main attacking influences would combine, but the work wasn’t done just yet.

Chang had a shot blocked and forced clear with roughly three minutes to go, as the Battery looked for a winner now at the death.

But the home side would force a corner, which was taken short and played in only for Tambakis to collect with two minutes of normal time to go.

Three minutes of stoppage time were signaled by the referee, and Pittsburgh would earn another free kick in the 91st, but the set piece was again collected by Tambakis.

Shortly after, the final whistle blew. The Battery can be pleased with the result, having stopped a two-game losing streak, and playing much better than they had in the two previous games, with more possession and more creativity.

The Battery next return home Saturday, July 29 to play Orlando City B. Kickoff is at 7PM, and you can watch the match on MyTV Charleston or stream it at the club’s website.

TOP IMAGE: MAIKEL CHANG’S 83rd MINUTE EQUALIZER GAVE THE BATTERY A POINT IN PITTSBURGH TONIGHT. PHOTO CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY PHOTO

Battery amongst five to compete for Old Guard Shield

The Charleston Battery will compete for the Old Guard Shield in 2017, a fan competition set up between The Regiment and fans in the league’s four other oldest clubs, and the brainchild of Pittsburgh’s Steel Army’s Dan Yost.

The Flower City Stampede of Rochester, Richmond’s River City Red Army, Pittsburgh’s Steel Army, and Harrisburg’s Capital City Crew join The Regiment in this new fan-run competition which will commemorate the tradition set by the five oldest clubs in the USL.

Yost began mentioning it to the supporters clubs around Thanksgiving, with Harrisburg joining the fun not long after, and a website and a 20 game schedule was soon launched, opening on 4/8 when Harrisburg visit MUSC Health Stadium and ending on 10/7, with Rochester visiting Pittsburg and the Battery host Harrisburg again.

The Shield comes to fruition in the year that the Battery celebrate their 25th anniversary, and so it’s fitting that we’re involved in something that’s all about tradition.

The Battery and the Regiment will still be a part of the Southern Derby Cup, and the dates for that competition will be announced very soon.

You can follow the Old Guard Shield on twitter here and look forward to the first year of the hunt for the shield in 2017.