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

 

 

 

Williams Leads the Way as Five Star Battery Thump Rochester

Romario Williams was the talk of the town Saturday night as his hat trick and assist led the Charleston Battery to an emphatic 5-0 win over the Rochester Rhinos.

Three goals in 12 minutes for the center forward had the Battery comfortably in front inside the first half an hour, before Williams and Attaula Guerra would expertly combine to send the Battery into half time 4-0 up. Odisnel Cooper would have to make some good saves on the other side of the interval before Maikel Chang‘s first goal of the season would serve as the icing on the cake with just under ten minutes to go, giving the Black and Yellow their first win over the Rhinos in three years in great fashion.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There were four changes to Mike Anhaeuser‘s lineup tonight. Kotaro Higashi and Tah Brian Anunga would make their full debuts for the Battery, while Obi Woodbine returned from suspension and Odisnel Cooper was in goal ahead of Alex Tambakis as he and Mikey Ambrose would suit up for Atlanta United against Montreal in MLS.

The Battery came out with a plan to press high up the pitch, as getting the first goal would be vital if the Battery were going to get anything from the game, given the Rhinos’ tendency to rely on their usually stout defense if they found themselves in front. The tactic worked just as they planned it, and they gave the returning Obi Woodbine a chance to launch a ball into the box off a throw in toward Forrest Lasso, whose snap header went just wide in the third minute.

Just before 10′, Romario Williams almost intercepted a soft header back to the goalkeeper, who would just reach for the ball seconds before the ball’s bounce could leave the striker in on goal.

The home fans were up in arms seconds later, as Attaulla Guerra would connect with Williams on the through ball, leaving the striker one on one with the goalkeeper, and he tried to ’round him before the forward would go down under apparent contact. The referee wasn’t impressed however, and gave a goal kick.

But Williams would by no means be disgruntled, as five minutes later, he would get the ball on the edge of the box and use his strength to muscle his way past three defenders before poking the ball into the back of the net.

It was Williams’ second goal of the year after his strike against Charlotte on the way to a 2-0 win in the season’s first Southern Derby, and given the previous result, the hope was that tonight would be the same.

And to that end, he wasn’t done. It was Superhero night at MUSC Health Stadium, and on 25 minutes, Williams would channel The Flash as he would win a footrace with a defender that left him one on one with the goalkeeper, and Williams would calmly slot the ball into the bottom corner to double the Battery’s advantage.

Two minutes later, it was three. Obi Woodbine would cap his return from suspension with an assist as his throw in high up the pitch would look for Williams in the box. The throw would make a defender bite and the unsuccessful clearance would only leave the striker wide open. He would take a touch and slot ball home into the opposite corner, giving Williams the hat trick, and the Battery a 3-0 lead.

And yet, somehow, they still weren’t done. This time, Williams would play provider, controlling the ball on the right wing before cutting in and playing Attaula Guerra. The two would play a couple of give and go’s before Guerra found himself on the edge of the box with his back to goal. He wasn’t to be denied though, using his strength to stand his man up before creating space to turn and shoot toward the opposite corner, with the ball dinking off the inside of the post and finding its way into the net.

The goal was the Battery’s fourth on the night, and Guerra’s second in three games. He seems to be thriving in a more advanced role, playing just off the Striker, with Williams and Guerra building a pretty successful partnership, combining this season for a total of six goals so far, which is a welcome statistic, given that the team were reliant on the midfield pair of Justin Portillo and Maikel Chang for the creative spark for much of the previous campaign.

However, the Battery couldn’t rest on their laurels just yet, as right before half time, an over-hit cross was headed back toward Cooper in the Battery goal, but the ball took a dangerous bounce and left the shot-stopper in a bit of bother with a Rochester forward racing in, though he would meet the ball half-way and turn his back, retrieving it safely.

And so, the Battery went in at half-time well on top, in stark contrast to last week, when they didn’t take the chances they created, which came back to haunt them in the end.

Just after the second half began, Williams could’ve easily had a fourth. He latched onto a well placed long ball, and as the goalkeeper came out to try to claim, the hat trick hero’s attempt to lift the ball over his head was successful, but would fall into the side netting for a goal kick.

Down at the other end after 48′, Odisnel Cooper was forced into his first real save of the evening as Forrest Lasso was beaten to a ball which left Cooper one on one, but the goalkeeper would save at the near post and then proceed to clear his own rebound into the stands. You could say it’s much easier to take chances such as leaving your goal unattended when you’re up four goals, but when you do, you have to be commanding, and he was in this instance as the ball went out for a throw in.

Maikel Chang was still on the hunt for his first goal of the campaign, and would nearly find it a couple minutes later. Some great build up play led to a dangerous position on the edge of the box. Chang found himself as the extra man, and tried to curl an effort past the goalkeeper into the opposite corner, but the effort was saved.

On 53′, Cooper was forced into another good save, steering a shot wide of his left post before the ensuing corner was cleared.

Justin Portillo would put a shot wide left after finding himself on the edge of the box, though unable to find his way through the backline.

The 61st minute saw the end of the night for Obi Woodbine, who after three games out, deserved a rest after a good night’s work. He was replaced by Skylar Thomas, another debutant, picked up from Toronto FC II in the offseason.

Maikel Chang would again be involved on 68′, when his ball toward Kotaro Higashi was taken down well, but the bounce of the ball after a good first touch left too much for the midfielder to do as it would roll to the ‘keeper.

With 15 minutes to go, Chang would maneuver through three defenders, but unlike Williams before him, he couldn’t convert the chance as the ball bounced up on him just before he took a shot and it went high.

Romario Williams would exit the game shortly after, his hat trick and assist in the first half more than enough to warrant the standing ovation he got from the Battery faithful. His hat trick taking his goal tally for the season up to four, already nearly half the ten in all competitions last year. Coming on as his replacement was Heviel Cordoves, who would make a mark on proceedings himself as the game went on.

A great cross by Quinton Griffith found Higashi in the box, but the winger, easily the shortest man on the pitch, couldn’t quite direct his header on frame as it went wide.

Justin Portillo would try and redirect another tasty looking ball on target after 78′, but the effort went high and nearly hit the scoreboard behind the goal.

But the Battery still weren’t finished, and Maikel Chang was not to be denied. With nine minutes of normal time left, a pass by the substitute, Thomas was flicked on at the near post by Cordoves, and the ball found Chang on the right side of the box, just behind the penalty area. The playmaker took a touch to settle himself before calmly dispatching the ball into the net, reminiscent of his earlier shot, but with better results, to make it 5-0.

The goal was Chang’s first of the regular season, having scored only one goal in the pre-season in the first scrimmage against the College of Charleston, and so surely would’ve lifted a bit of weight off his shoulders for a player who’s normally involved in goals, whether scoring or providing, on a weekly basis. His game was much improved tonight, however, and now he had a goal to show for it.

With five minutes left, Ricky Garbanzo would replace Attaula Guerra, who earned his own high praise after a solid performance.

And that’s how the game ended, with the Battery running out emphatic 5-0 winners, earning their first win against Rochester since 2014. Romario Williams took home the match ball after a standout performance, with his hat trick and assist for the fourth a big reason for the win.

The Battery next travel to Florida to play the Tampa Bay Rowdies on April 22nd. Tampa have started well since arriving in the league following a mass migration from the NASL, and will be formidable opponents for the Black and Yellow. Kick off is at 7PM, and you’ll be able to watch the match on MyTV Charleston, or stream it on the club’s website

TOP IMAGE: ROMARIO WILLIAMS CELEBRATES ONE OF HIS THREE GOALS ON THE EVENING. HE WOULD TACK ON AN ASSIST LATER TO CAP OFF AN INCREDIBLE PERFORMANCE, NOT JUST INDIVIDUALLY, BUT FROM THE TEAM AS A WHOLE.

PHOTOS CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY

 

 

 

 

 

Late Hertzog goal steals points as Battery fall to Riverhounds

The Pittsburgh Riverhounds took all three points away against the Charleston Battery after Corey Hertzog’s late header stunned the home side, handing them their first loss of the season.

The match started wonderfully for the hosts. Attaula Guerra opened the scoring early as he squeezed a shot from just outside the box past the ‘keeper at the near post. That got the tails up for the Black and Yellow, but they couldn’t take their chances, and let the opposition come into it, forcing Alex Tambakis to make some great saves before the dam finally broke and they conceded half way through the second half. Roles were reversed by time Corey Hertzog got his head to the winner late on, but a touch and go offside decision from the referee cancelled out a late equalizer, meaning the Riverhounds took all three points.

The Black and Yellow were in front from just about their first real attack, as on 8′, Dante Marini’s short pass found Attaula Guerra in space, and Guerra, who’s played in a much more advanced role so far this season and been much improved for it, took a touch to control before looking up and having a crack at goal. The ball somehow found its way past the Riverhounds goalkeeper and into the back of the net. The ‘keeper looked unsighted by the effort, initially going to his right before trying to scramble back to his left, which left him a flat footed mess as Guerra got his name on the scoresheet for the first time this season, in stark contrast to last campaign, where he had to wait for his first goal until late in the season in a mid-season friendly with Rangers, before tallying one goal in the league later on.

After 16′, Forrest Lasso got his head to a free kick that was played in deep, but he was adjudged to be offside.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A minute later, a Battery free kick looked dangerous before being headed behind for a corner, which was taken short, crossed by Marini and cleared off the line before it could be turned in on the doorstep.

The Battery were creating chances, mostly from set pieces, but with the likes of Justin Portillo and Maikel Chang at the controls, and with the aerial threats that they possess, it was to be expected.

With just over half an hour gone, a Battery counter led to a shot by Chang which was deflected behind, leading to a succession of them, but the ball was eventually headed over the bar.

Six minutes later, on 37′ the visitors were given a free kick which was cleared. They recycled the chance after winning possession again back around to the opposite side of the pitch and looked about ready to threaten before the offside flag went up.

Just before half time, Guerra would continue his solid first half display playing a great ball to Romario Williams, which the striker took wide in an effort to beat his man and cut inside. When that avenue was cut off for him by stout defending, he played the smart, dangerous ball across the face of goal, but had no support as Pittsburgh would counter and go down the other end, eventually creating a 1 on 1 with Tambakis in goal and forcing a great save to tip it around the post, and the ensuing corner was also well collected as half time descended upon the teams.

All in all, it was a good opening first half for the Black and Yellow, yet couldn’t be called stellar. They would need to keep continuing to create, and take at least one chance to try and put the game to bed. The longer the scoreline stayed the same, the longer Pittsburgh would know the had a chance.

And Corey Hertzog created the first chance of the second half after some good buildup play for the visitors, but his shot went wide as the slender lead stayed intact.

On 51′, Romario Williams took a ball out of the air, turned, and played a one-two with Guerra before his shot, which forced a save from the Pittsburgh ‘keeper, lacked power and the chance had gone.

Four minutes later, Taylor Mueller was the last line of defense as Pittsburgh got a man free before the Battery captain’s last ditch tackle forced the interception and the ball was eventually cleared.

But then, just before the hour mark, Marshall Hollinsworth would find his way through the defense and in another 1 on 1 with the ‘keeper before slotting home and levelling for the visitors. The goal had been coming, and was a consequence of the Battery not taking their chances, for which they only had themselves to blame.

But the Battery could’ve been in front again shortly after. Justin Portillo seemed to have pushed himself up into an attacking position more and more as the home side looked to retake the lead. He found himself with the ball at his feet on the edge of the box before shimmying himself some room for a shot on his left foot toward the opposite corner that the midfielder just looped over the bar.

Maikel Chang took a little bit more initiative as well as he created his own chance on 71′, when he cut in on his left before having his own shot at goal. But like Williams’ effort before him, the shot lacked power, and while looked destined to be going into the opposite corner, was an easy save for the ‘keeper.

A minute later, a Battery free kick would find the ball pinging around the box, but nobody was able to put the ball on frame and the ball was cleared.

With 74 minutes played came perhaps the most guilt-edged chance to put the home side back in front, as an overlapping Quinton Griffith’s cross toward the back stick was laid up for an onrushing Heviel Cordoves, who had replaced Williams just a few minutes earlier, but somehow, the free header went narrowly wide at the far post as the striker tried to simply nod the ball on target. One would think that if the striker had come at the ball more and powered his head through the effort instead of just simply trying to redirect the ball on, the chance may have been taken, but we remained level.

And with nine minutes to go, a Battery corner that looked initially as if it were too flat appeared to strike the hand of a defending Riverhounds player, but the ref wasn’t phased by appeals and instead gave a free kick to the visitors for an apparent push.

Three minutes of stoppage time were given, and by this time, the game was much more open than anyone would’ve liked. Both teams were going forward and looking dangerous, but this time it would be the Riverhounds finding the defining chance. A ball found its way down the wing, leading to a cross into the box for an unmarked Corey Hertzog, who got himself to the ball and stuck it into the back of the net. It was a bit difficult on Tambakis in goal, who had made some real quality saves in the first half to keep his side in front, only to watch helplessly as they would ultimately be in vain.

Though going behind didn’t exactly dampen the Battery’s spirits. Even with the late goal, they had time, as it had come just as we went into the three minutes added on. A Battery corner in the 93rd minute, right at the death, refused to be cleared and was eventually recycled before Dante Marini got his head to the ball to stick it into the back of the net, but he was adjudged to have been coming back from an offside position, and the goal was ruled out.

On further inspection, you can see just how tight the call was. The replay showed on TV and the video board at the stadium looked to point toward the linesman’s decision being correct, but looking at the replay from another angle, it looked to show Marini just a shade onside before the ball was played back in. Nevertheless, the referee stood by his assistant’s decision, and the offside was given.

The result means the Battery were handed their first loss of the season. They next face the Rochester Rhinos, which will also be their first match as part of the inaugural Old Guard Shield supporters’ trophy on Saturday April 15. Kick off is at 7, and the match will be on MyTV Charleston, or can be streamed at the club’s website.

TOP IMAGE: NAVEAL HACKSHAW WINS A BALL IN THE AIR AS THE FIRST HALF WORE ON. PHOTO CREDIT ROSS ALMERS’ PHOTOGRAPHY.

Battery prevail in Charlotte behind second half goals

The Battery took all three points on their travels as they won this season’s first Southern Derby against the Charlotte Independence.

It wasn’t easy, especially given a bit of a slow start for the visitors, who found it difficult to possess the ball in the early goings. The failure to possess led to some early half-chances for Charlotte, but the two sides went in at half time all square. It wasn’t until the second half, and a bit of individual skill from Romario Williams, that the deadlock was broken. The center forward failed to get on the end of a sailing Quinton Griffith cross, but stayed lively in the box as it was passed to him after the ball stayed in on the opposite side. He beat his man with strength and a little swivel before slotting the ball home on the turn.

Shortly after, the Black and Yellow would double their lead, as Attaula Guerra would draw a foul about 25 yards from goal. Justin Portillo would send in a trademark ball to Forrest Lasso, who snapped a header toward goal that was too much for the ‘keeper to handle, even getting a hand to it before the ball would nestle its way into the top corner.

But the game could’ve just as easily gone down a different path. Despite some early nerves, it was the home side who had the better of the opening chances. Alex Tambakis was forced into action after 18 minutes, when Jorge Herrera turned eventual goalscorer Lasso on the edge of the box and forced the goalkeeper into a smart save down to his left at the expense of a corner, but it would be cleared.

Herrera would again be on the end of things on 28′, but this time from a crossing position, when his ball flashed across the six yard box, only to come out the other end and be cleared.

But the Battery couldn’t seem to ease the pressure, when on 34′, Forrest Lasso would have to stretch to clear a cross away with a striker in the middle, though the corner that followed was wasted by the home side.

Lasso would find his head on the ball at the other end three minutes later as he was the target of a free kick, though his effort went wide, and the linesman’s flag went up, meaning it wouldn’t have stood even the chance had gone in.

Romario Williams had what was probably the Battery’s best chance of the first 45 with four minutes left, getting on the end of a great ball on the right side and beating his marker, but clearly had blinders on as he took the shot and skied the effort over the bar, even though he had a man that he could play the ball to on his right. He couldn’t really be begrudged the attempt though, given that he was showing a typical striker’s instinct in that his first thought would be to go for goal. In a derby, and especially the way the game was going, that was a welcome sight, even though the shot was off target, as it meant that the Battery weren’t afraid to have a go given the opportunity.

Having said that, the scores would remain level as we went into half-time, and the Battery still hadn’t created much. They would have to make adjustments during the break if they wanted to gain anything from the match.

And an early second half chance created by Dante Marini and laid off to Naveal Hackshaw would force the Charlotte ‘keeper into a save, and however easy, it signaled a shift in intent that would be crucial as the game went on.

They would build on that early chance when, just a minute later, Romario Williams would latch onto a ball down the line and go one on one at pace with his marker, Bilal Duckett, beating him to the ball whilst being dragged back. There was a slight pull on him outside the box, and then a pull that sent him to the ground inside. The referee would blow the play up after the second pull, but instead of pointing to the spot, he gave the visitors a free kick on the edge of the box, issuing Duckett a yellow card.

Williams and Duckett went at it for the full 90 minutes, Duckett being Charlotte’s captain and an experienced defender against the Battery’s preferred center forward, with pace and strength to boot. However, the Charlotte skipper was lucky not to be in warmer waters than the ref made it out to be, given that the rule pertaining to the situation in question, where a foul starts outside the box and continues into the penalty area, states that a foul beginning outside and continuing into the box should be given as a penalty, and not a free kick in the original spot of the foul, meaning that the referee made the wrong decision.

Regardless, Justin Portillo set the ball up at the left edge of the box in a dangerous area, but would waste the opportunity, hitting the ball into the wall, and the ball deflected off the defenders would be wafted into the box, but to no avail as the ‘keeper would come and punch clear.

But a few minutes later, on 51’, an Attaula Guerra led counter would put the Battery on the attack. He would lay the ball off to Maikel Chang, who would in turn find the overlapping run of Quinton Griffith in a crossing position. Griffith’s cross however, would go begging, a little like the Charlotte chance earlier in the first half.

On 64′, another chance would go untaken as Naveal Hackshaw found himself on the end of a counter on the right edge of the box, before he picked his head up and found Williams at the back stick, but the striker couldn’t get the ball out from under his feet and fluffed his lines.

Two minutes later, the Black and Yellow would almost live to regret the missed opportunity when Yann Ekra, who’s been a thorn in the Battery’s side before, sent a shot bouncing past the far post of Alex Tambakis’ goal. The visitors could thank their lucky stars that Ekra didn’t have his shooting boots on, as he’s more often than not libel to take those types of chances.

But on 70 minutes finally came a breakthrough, and for the visitors, as well as their 30 odd travelling support, it fell the right way.

Quinton Griffith, who had himself a solid game following a little bit of a bumpy preseason, was in a position to cross again from the right. The ball into the box would sail over anybody in a black and yellow shirt in the box, but hold up just enough on the other side for the chance to be recycled. A ball played short to the striker Williams would put him one on one with Duckett once again, and this time Williams would use his strength to shrug his defender off and turn just enough to get room to have a go from about ten yards out, which beat the ‘keeper, putting the Battery in front just before the hour mark, Williams’ individual effort making it a serious contender for goal of the week.

And from the Battery’s next real attack of the match, led by Attaula Guerra from a lung busting counter attack, the Battery would add a little bit of insurance. Guerra’s run would be brought to an end by Bilal Duckett, who injured himself in the process, forcing the Independence to tack on another defensive sub for the one they were already planning. The subs would then be introduced before Justin Portillo would take the controls for the dead ball, but no one was stopping what came next.

Portillo sent an inch perfect ball to Forrest Lasso, who had shrugged off his man and was free in the penalty area, just waiting for the chance to come, and so it did. He connected with the header with a snap of his neck as it found its way toward goal, and though the ‘keeper got a hand to it, it was too powerful for him to keep it out as it found its way into the top corner to put the Battery up 2-0.

The home side didn’t give up after the goal, however, and still were creating through to the final whistle, though their best chance came through Jorge Herrera, who at 36 is still causing problems for defenses at a respectable level. Herrera made his way down the middle of the field as we moved into the 80th minute, and would somehow find his way past three defenders and squirm a shot at goal. It had the ‘keeper, Tambakis, sprawling, but ultimately went wide of the mark.

And that’s how the game finished, with the Battery recording a 2-0 victory against Rivals Charlotte Independence. It was a game of few chances, but the visitors will be glad that they took theirs in a tough game at the very start of the season. The three points mean the travelling Charleston faithful could return home in good spirits as they prepare for the visit of Pittsburgh on the 8th of April. Kick off is at 7PM, and the match can be viewed on MyTV Charleston or at the club’s website.

 

TOP IMAGE: JUSTIN PORTILLO PLAYS IN A CORNER AT MUSC HEALTH STADIUM LAST SEASON. PHOTO CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY

 

 

Lasso, Portillo Power Battery to opening day win

The Charleston Battery got their season off to a successful start after prevailing against FC Cincinnati by a score of 2-1 thanks to goals from Forrest Lasso and Justin Portillo.

Lasso put the Battery in front on 37′ following a bit of a shaky start for the home side, but they finished the first half strong before Djiby Fall drew things level midway through the second half. However, with 20 minutes left, Romario Williams earned a penalty after being brought down following a slick give and go, giving Justin Portillo the chance to step up from 12 yards. His initial shot was saved by Mitch Hildebrand in the Cincy goal, but he did the right thing, following in as the ‘keeper could only parry and putting it away on the rebound.

Despite the scoreline, it was Alex Tambakis who was forced to make the first save of the evening on four minutes, after the visitors orchestrated a chance on the left side of the area through good buildup play, but it was a tame effort and the ‘keeper collected easily.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Battery would cause a few questions at the other end a couple minutes later, as a cross from the left played toward the back stick was looking dangerous, but Hildebrand in goal cleaned up as he cut it out before anyone could get on the other end.

Eventual goalscorer Forrest Lasso would put his defense in trouble a minute later though, as he committed a foul about 20 yards from goal. The ensuing free kick looked threatening as Tambakis in goal looked like he got a late jump on it, but was quick across the line to punch away before it was cleared for a throw in.

On 13′, Romario Williams latched onto a long ball flicked on by Naveal Hackshaw as he would go one on one with his defender for just the first of many times on the night. This time he would earn a corner, but it would be cleared by the Cincy defense.

Atlanta United loanee Mikey Ambrose would concede a free kick on the right which gave Cincy the opportunity to put a ball into the box, though Tambakis would collect.

After 21′, Attaula Guerra would force a save out of the Cincinnati ‘keeper as they began to turn the tide following a shaky start.

On 37’ Maikel Chang caused havoc for the Cincy defense as he drifted past three defenders on a run from the right before passing to Dante Marini on the edge of the box. Marini picked his head up and had a pop at goal, which was saved by Hildebrand at the expense of a corner.

Justin Portillo took the set piece from the left, and the in-swinging ball found Forrest Lasso back post, who powered a header into the back of the net.

The goal was the Battery’s first of the season, and, though perhaps a little bit against the run of play, the home side had definitely been coming back into the match following a sleepy start, and they took advantage of their chance to go ahead.

After 42′, the Battery had another corner played in that initially looked dangerous, but this time the visiting defense would smuggle the ball clear.

And that’s how we went into half time. The Battery came out a bit rusty to begin with, but could be pleased with the way they ended the first 45 minutes of the season.

And just a minute into the second half, a ball was played forward, making Romario Williams show a turn of pace as he latched on to it. But he would get inside the box and square up to his man only to slip on the grass as he attempted to cut back onto his left foot and Cincy would take possession looking to begin a counter.

As the Battery would then attempt to clear at the other end, Justin Portillo would slip, allowing a Cincinnati attacker to have a crack as the ball would bobble to him, but Tambakis would have it covered as the effort on the volley went sailing over the bar.

On 49′ a Cincinnati corner was headed down toward goal but blocked by Maikel Chang and cleared, but Williams would give away a free kick, though it would be cleared before it could cause any danger.

After 52 minutes, a Battery free kick from the right was placed with pinpoint precision onto Romario Williams’ head, but the striker put too much power on the header as it went wide.

Four minutes later, Dante Marini found space on the wing, beating his man and cutting inside into the area, but didn’t look up to see a man free on the edge of the box, instead trying to curl a shot into the far post, which went over the bar.

And on 59′, the Battery would pay for their wasted chances, as Andrew Weidemann would place a cross from the right onto the head of Djibi Fall on the back post, which beat Alex Tambakis and drew the scores level.

The goal came as a consequence for not making their chances count, and the travelling Cincinnati fans were loving it.

But Quinton Griffith would cause problems just a minute later after getting on the end of a switch of play and cutting inside, passing off to Maikel Chang, though his shot was saved.

Williams would be a handful again on 63′ after staying onside and beating his man, but just before he could pull the trigger, the defender would make a crunching last ditch challenge to clear the ball for a corner, which went hopelessly over the bar.

After 69′, Attaula Guerra would set up a tasty give and go with Williams, and before he could return the favor to set up an opportunity, he was taken down from behind, which gave the referee no choice but to point to the penalty spot, and Justin Portillo would step up to take.

Aiming for the bottom left corner, he didn’t quite get his bearings on the effort, and Mitch Hildebrand would save, but could only parry and Portillo would make up for his poor effort by following in and finishing into the opposite corner to put the home side back in front.

The home crowd went mad as the smoke bombs went off and Portillo raced over to the fans in E1 to celebrate, as with 20 minutes, all the Battery had to do was hold on, and the three points were in the bag.

The visitors wouldn’t make it easy though, and would push forward more and more to try and find another equalizer.

The set pieces were especially dangerous, as the Battery were more than happy to break up the fluidity of Cincy’s attack, though at the expense of free kicks. After 81′, it was a free kick that made Battery fans sweat as a header looked dangerous, though it went over the bar for a goal kick.

A Cincinnati corner two minutes from time led to a bit of pinball in the box before finally being cleared by the Battery defense, now with everyone behind the ball to prevent the visitors at any cost.

The allotted three minutes added on time at the end seemed to drag on for the home side, but eventually the final whistle blew, giving the Battery all three points in their first match of their silver anniversary season.

The Battery next travel to North Carolina to face the Charlotte Independence on April 1st. You can watch the match on MyTV Charleston, or stream online at the club’s website or on YouTube.

TOP IMAGE: FORREST LASSO RISES BEFORE PUTTING THE BATTERY IN FRONT WITH A HEADER FROM A JUSTIN PORTILLO CORNER. ALL PHOTOS CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY AND NICKI ACE.

 

 

A Comprehensive Look at the 2017 Battery

The Charleston Battery begin their 25th anniversary season with a few brownie points in their pocket after a largely successful pre-season campaign. The Carolina Challenge Cup returned, bringing the Seattle Sounders, Columbus Crew and the Battery’s MLS affiliate Atlanta United to the Holy City in what was a very successful week for the club on and off the pitch.

The Battery drew two and lost one in the CCC, as they showed a lot of grit for a team who’d only been together for a few weeks. They earned a draw with Seattle thanks to Kotaro Higashi‘s 90th minute equalizer, and led the Columbus Crew for a majority of the game despite eventually conceding a goal, before coming up unlucky against Atlanta United, earning a taste of their own late-goal medicine.

The loss to Atlanta was one of only two in the pre-season, only losing on their travels to North Carolina FC. The Battery filled out their pre-season with their usual meetings with local college teams, winning seven of their eight non-CCC games despite the loss to their northern counterparts, with Heviel Cordoves, Attaula Guerra, and Romario Williams playing starring roles in more than a few big wins for the Black and Yellow.

Last year ended on a slightly sour note for the Battery after sort of grinding to a halt. They didn’t particularly finish the season well, but did cause an upset of sorts after turning heads by silencing a rocking Nippert Stadium and beating FC Cincinnati away from home. However, they bowed out of the playoffs thanks to a loss to Louisville City in the conference semis, falling to the #2 seed as New York Red Bulls II would eventually win the league title.

Lack of depth was a problem for the Black and Yellow last season, which was a big reason why momentum slowed down toward the middle-to-end of last year, and the Front Office has gone a little ways to correct this in 2017, completing six new signings after a fruitful batch of trials during pre-season, whilst also keeping hold of a large number of last season’s standouts, barring Zach Prince and Shawn Ferguson, who hung up their boots at the end of the last campaign.

The Battery took advantage of partnerships in the PDL by welcoming Nico Rittmeyer and Ryan Arambula into the fold from Tormenta FC and the Myrtle Beach Mutiny respectively, whilst Rittmeyer adds to a successful batch of College of Charleston alums to come through the Battery doors, and both players were involved with the SC Battery Academy early on in their careers.

Tah Brian Anunga is another new recruit after bouncing around at several levels of the USL, commonly used as a defensive midfielder in pre-season, he has past links to Wilmington and the Carolina Dynamo, and has represented his native Cameroon at U-17, U-20, and U-23 levels.

Former first round draft pick Skylar Thomas joins after spending time with Toronto FC II. He had 47 appearances with the Canadian side, and looks to establish himself as the successor to the now-retired Shawn Ferguson. He was also one to deputize at Left Back, given that Obrien Woodbine will be suspended for the first three matches of the new campaign.

Perhaps the most talked about addition is that of Kotaro Higashi. He helped his cause by scoring the equalizer in the draw with Seattle during the CCC, and impressing during the rest of the pre-season on his way to a contract.

Goalkeeper Joe Kuzminski joins after a successful college career at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, where he served three years as a starter and was captain during his senior year. He’ll likely serve as back up to Odisnel Cooper, who returns after a solid 2016. Given his age, you’d wonder if Kuzminski is seen as the one for the future for the club, and in which case, learning from the experienced Cooper, as well as coach Dusty Hudock, can only help his development.

The Battery again take advantage of their affiliation with Atlanta United, welcoming back Romario Williams and Jeffrey Otoo for the 2017 season. Additionally, Alex Tambakis and Mikey Ambrose will be available for Charleston against Cincy, as Ambrose will look to fill the hole left by the suspended Woodbine.

The new season looks to be an interesting one for the Battery, with anticipation being high ahead of their silver anniversary. The fact that six of their first ten matches are at home can only help, as a good start will certainly be beneficial in a season that runs from March 25th until mid-October.

Our first match, at home against FC Cincinnati, will definitely not be easy. Cincy are going into the new season with a new manager, and will certainly have a bad taste in their mouth following their early exit from the playoffs at the hands of the Black and Yellow.

The Battery begin their 25th season this coming Saturday against FC Cincinnati. You can watch the match on MyTV Charleston, or stream it via the club’s website or on YouTube.

TOP IMAGE: THE BATTERY PREPARE FOR A MATCH LAST SEASON AT MUSC HEALTH STADIUM. ROSS ALMERS PHOTO

 

 

Stoppage time equalizer earns Battery draw to start CCC

The Charleston Battery were known for their late drama last year, and it was a similar story tonight, as they earned a draw against the Seattle Sounders in their first match of this year’s Carolina Challenge Cup, when trialist Kotaro Higashi bundled the ball over the line with the last kick of the match in the 92nd minute.

Seattle took the lead with just over a half an hour gone. Full back Jovein Jones sent a low cross into the box, which bounced off of Battery center back Taylor Mueller and past the helpless Odisnel Cooper in goal. Both teams created a few chances for themselves as the match went on, but the score remained the same until Higashi’s equalizer late on.

US National Team star and Seattle striker Clint Dempsey started and played about an hour as he continues his return from fitness following a heart condition that kept him out toward the end of last season, where he also missed Seattle’s run to the MLS Cup title. He played well, and created the first chance of the match, separating himself just enough from defender Obi Woodbine and having a pop from distance after nine minutes. but the effort went well over the bar.

After 11 minutes, the Battery earned a corner after some good build up play as Maikel Chang found Heviel Cordoves, but the set piece was wasted as it was cleared away.

Dante Marini‘s effort on 21 minutes had the Seattle ‘keeper sprawling, but it went high and wide. A minute later, Marini would fight for a ball near the end line, and barely keep it in before it was cleared for a corner in order to stop a cross. This, however, was smuggled away at the second attempt.

Obi Woodbine would register the Battery’s first shot on target a little while later on 26′, cutting inside after Heviel Cordoves played him in. But the full back couldn’t get any power on the shot, which went harmlessly to the goalkeeper.

The Battery attacked well in the first half, pressing the ball and passing well whilst being comfortable in possession, which led to a chance for Dante Marini, who had a shot blocked before it rolled out to  Maikel Chang, who scuffed his effort.

On 31’ came a really unlucky moment for the Battery and Taylor Mueller especially, as a cross from Oniel Fisher came in from the left and bounced its way across. Mueller, in his attempt to clear, redirected the ball past Odisnel Cooper to give the Sounders a 1-0 lead. For the most part, the Battery defended well up until that point, and the OG did belie a defense that had to deal with two International caliber strikers in Dempsey and Jordan Morris.

Four minutes later, the Sounders could’ve had a second, as a Jordan Morris-led counter down the middle of the park. He passed to Alvaro Fernandez on his right, who had a pop at goal from 18 yards out, but Odisnel Cooper produced a quality save to keep the score at 1-0.

On 40 minutes, a long ball forward from the back bounced off of Cordoves into Maikel Chang’s path, but his effort went wide, before Cordoves himself had an effort go wide from distance just before half time.

The Battery went in at half time and could very well be proud of themselves. They were 1-0 down, but were unlucky to have actually conceded through the Mueller own goal, and had created chances against a Seattle side that were always a threat with the likes of Morris and Dempsey up front. They came out in the second half with almost a completely different XI, filled with trialists and a few Atlanta loanees, including Alex Tambakis, Chris Goslin and Andrew Wheeler.

Nico Lodeiro forced Alex Tambakis’ first save of the evening, on 51′, after he was on the end of some tidy Sounders build-up play. Lodeiro received the ball inside the six yard box, but Tambakis stood firm, making himself big at his near post to deny the Seattle playmaker.

Seattle came close to finding a second goal again shortly after, when on 56′, a bouncing shot hit the inside of Alex Tambakis’ post and rolled along the goal line before being cleared by the hosts.

Will Bruin came on in the group of subs that saw Dempsey come off after an hour, and he got his first chance with roughly twenty minutes to go, getting a pass from the left and toepoking toward the goal, but the shot rolled harmlessly wide.

Chris Goslin did impress with his pace and close control, and on 71′, he jinked his way through a couple of defenders before taking aim at goal. He couldn’t get any purchase behind the shot though, which was an easy save for Sounders goalie Tyler Miller.

On 76′, the Sounders thought they had a second goal through Henry Wingo, who had been dangerous all second half, after he received a nice backheel from Will Bruin. Wingo stuck his chance home and had wheeled away to celebrate with his teammates, but the goal was waved off for offside and the score reained 1-0.

Three minutes later, Wingo was on the end of another ball, this time from Lodeiro, which he put on frame. But this time, Tambakis was able to save.

Despite set pieces for both sides in the last ten minutes, the two teams found themselves headed into two minutes of stoppage time still at 1-0. For some reason, the Battery have made a habit of finding late goals, and tonight they continued the trend, this time getting a throw-in about level with the 18 yard box. The throw was played short, and the ball was crossed in, finding Kotaro Higashi, who chested the ball down, aimed toward goal and hit the post with his effort. Bodies collided in the box before Higashi controlled again and shot into the roof of the net to level the match at 1-1.

The Sounders may be aggrieved that they didn’t put away their chances in the second half, but the Battery did hang in. Some alert defending and a couple of good saves from the Battery kept the score 1-0, and the hosts made good on the best chance they had, and so from their point of view, a draw is surely a fair result.

The Carolina Challenge Cup continues this coming Wednesday, February 22nd. The Battery will face the Columbus Crew, while the Sounders will face Atlanta United. Both matches are set to be streamed on charlestonbattery.com.

TOP IMAGE: TAYLOR MUELLER CELEBRATES SCORING A GOAL IN LAST YEAR’S LEAGUE CAMPAIGN. PHOTO CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY