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.

 

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

 

 

 

Guerra’s first half strike pushes Battery past Steel

The Charleston Battery remain top in the East after prevailing over the Bethlehem Steel by a score of 1-0.

The goal came courtesy of Attaula Guerra, who bundled home at the back post after a flick on from a Quinton Griffith cross. Both sides had chances to add to the scoring, but the Battery were able to hold on, and after Tampa Bay dropped points against Ottawa earlier, they now sit two points clear at the top of the Eastern Conference.

The Battery made three changes to the side that drew 2-2 with Ottawa, with Dante Marini and Naveal Hackshaw both coming back in after Kotaro Higashi and Tah Brian Anunga had previously had a run of games each. There was also an enforced change in the way of top scorer Romario Williams, who missed the match through illness and would have to be replaced by Heviel Cordoves.

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Cordoves would create a half chance for himself in the tenth minute, as he would surge his way into the box after receiving the ball wide. The striker would make his way into the box with defenders on him, only to get the ball stuck between his feet. He would still find space and time to power a shot toward goal, but it would be deflected by a defender, who by that stage was able to get in front of the effort and reset himself. The ball would then ricochet off the legs of the defender and toward Attaula Guerra, but his effort would then be blocked before the Steel would scramble clear.

Just past the quarter of an hour mark, the visitors were threatening after getting a free kick just about 20 yards out. The referee blew his whistle, and the Steel had apparently decided to try one from the training ground, as there were two men over the ball, with one leaving it, becoming a decoy and running over the ball before it was eventually hit wide, and thus would go out for a goal kick on the near side.

And then, on 18′, the Battery would find the breakthrough. Quinton Griffith would make a great run to the byline before finding room to almost lollipop a cross toward Heviel Cordoves at the near post. The ball was just a bit too high for the striker to get much of an effort on it, but he was able to flick it on, which allowed the oncoming Attaula Guerra to bundle it over the line at the back post and put the hosts ahead.

The goal was Guerra’s third of the campaign as he continues to impress in that role just behind the striker, and was showing that even without his usual partner in crime, he could still find a way to give a meaningful contribution to the team.

The Battery earned a corner just after the half hour mark, which fell in the box and was redirected on goal in the melee only to be blocked away, not once, but twice, before being cleared by the visitors.

And then, the next real chance would then fall to the Steel. Midfielder Marcus Epps would hold the ball up before playing a cheeky little one-two, before finding himself in the box and using strength to separate himself from the defenders before curling a shot toward the far post that looked destined to draw the game level before bouncing just wide.

That’s how we went in at the break. The Battery did deserve the lead, but were left wondering if the other missed chances would come back to haunt them.

The halftime festivities were a treat, with Ricky Garbanzo completing a crossbar challenge, meaning that the Battery would give away $1000 to Keeper of The Wild, this week’s nonprofit of the match.

The match lulled slightly at the beginning of the second half, with a 66th minute Bethlehem free kick only finding its way into the gator pond being the only thing of note early on.

Kotaro Higashi would replace Maikel Chang, and nearly find a way to seal the points for the Black and Yellow on 83′, getting past his man with a bit of trickery, but his cutback with the ball right on the end line found no one crashing in, and the ball was cleared.

This eventually led to a corner for the visitors with six minutes to go, which wasn’t too dissimilar to the Battery’s chance at that end in the first half. The ball would fall to a man and find its way toward goal, and Odisnel Cooper would initially struggle to clear before the play was blown up as the ‘keeper had caught a kick to the stomach.

The Battery had one last chance to add to their tally in stoppage time, when Quinton Griffith went on a signature surging run, finding space and having a pop at goal, but the ball would find its way just over the bar.

After the five added minutes were up, the whistle blew, giving the Black and Yellow the three points, and keeping them top of the Eastern Conference.

The Battery next face St. Louis FC at home on May 13. The match is Military night, meaning that the Battery will wear special Digi-camo tops in honor of those who serve. You can watch the match on MyTV Charleston, or stream it on the club’s website.

TOP IMAGE: GOALSCORER ATTAULA GUERRA SHAPES UP TO STRIKE. PHOTOS COURTESY OF ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY

 

Late drama as Tah lifts Battery to three points in Tampa

Tah Brian Anunga’s 85th minute winner was the difference as the Charleston Battery prevailed over the Tampa Bay Rowdies Saturday.

Joe Cole would open the scoring just after half an hour before Forrest Lasso‘s glancing header leveled again only five minutes later before Maikel Chang hit a screamer into the bottom corner on the stroke of half time as the Battery went in at the break up 2-1.

Georgi Hristov pulled the Rowdies level on the hour mark as Odisnel Cooper couldn’t hang onto the ball, which gave the striker an easy finish despite the best efforts of Obi Woodbine on the line. The home side would up the ante with a good spell before the Battery would settle again, and made late pressure tell as Tah Brian Anunga controlled a ball that had pinged in and around the box and placed a shot into the bottom corner, giving the Black and Yellow a hard fought win.

Odisnel Cooper was first called into action on seven minutes, producing some acrobatics to keep a deflected Darwin Jones shot from creeping in under the bar, and then doing even better to collect the corner he conceded with the save.

Defender Taylor Mueller would be forced into action after 11 minutes as the home side continued their decent start to the match. The defender would have to redirect a cross behind, which Cooper would again collect.

Romario Williams would then ask questions of the Rowdies ‘keeper down at the other end after 13’, as he came off a career night last week against Rochester. A shot from the left after he won the ball in a dangerous position would fly just over the top of the bar.

A minute later, Kotaro Higashi, who made his second start in as many games, would find space for the cross on the left, but his wafted ball in would go behind for a goal kick.

On 16′ it would be eventual goalscorer Hristov who would power toward goal and fire an effort on target, but Cooper would get behind it to make the save.

Not too long after, a Rowdies free kick would be cleared by the Battery, but only for a throw-in, which would cause chaos in the Battery box and eventually lead to a dangerous effort from Hristov again, who took two touches to settle and somehow got a shot on target which the beaten Odisnel Cooper was very lucky to see hit his crossbar and eventually be cleared.

On 22′, a Rowdies free kick left them in a bit of bother as Maikel Chang would lead a counter attack from the clearance, but the winger had little support and the chance would fizzle out.

Four minutes later, the Battery would earn themselves a dangerous free kick which Justin Portillo would put into the wall as it went behind for a corner. The ball into the box was cleared, but would fall to full back Obi Woodbine who had a shot from distance. On the replay, it looked to be going wide, though the goalkeeper was taking no chances and would poke it behind for a corner that would lead to nothing.

After 28′, it was Williams for the Battery with a great chance for the visitors as he would connect with a great Quinton Griffith cross, but as the Tampa defense were calling for the offside flag to go up, Williams’ header would go hopelessly over the bar.

And the visitors would rue the missed opportunity. A Rowdies corner would be cleared and arrowed back in before taking a deflection off of Joe Cole that took Odisnel Cooper a little bit by surprise as the redirection would make the ball bobble before meeting Cooper, and it would be that bobble that would be the difference as the goalkeeper would be unable to hold on to the ball, giving Cole, who kept his position, the easy tap in to give the home side the lead.

There was a little hint of a possible offside because of the Cole redirection, though the flag would stay down, and the goal would stand.

But it would only last five minutes, as from just about the next attack, the Battery would draw level.

The Black and Yellow would surge forward and earn themselves a free kick on the left edge of the box. Portillo again would find himself at the controls in a very dangerous area, and put in a delicious looking in-swinger toward Forrest Lasso, and the tall defender would get himself up and just get a glance on the ball to redirect it toward goal. The ball would bounce and find its way past the ‘leeper, and the Battery found themselves all square again.

And it would continue to get better for the visitors. Maikel Chang would receive the ball on the right and pick his head up, winding up his signature left foot for a laser beam of an effort that found its way past the goalkeeper and into the back of the net as it gave him no chance, but gave the Battery the 2-1 lead with just about the last kick of the half.

The goal was Chang’s second in two games, after being kept off the scoresheet in the previous three league games, and a great way to end the half for the visitors.

Chang would create the first real chance of the second half as well, somehow wiggling his way past three defenders before laying off for Williams, who had a little shimmy of his own to get away from a defender and get an effort on goal, but the shot would lack power as the goalkeeper would save easily.

Williams would then hold the ball up and turn on the afterburners to get away from a marker in midfield as he looked to be through on goal, but a defender would come across on the overlap to sweep up pressure.

Just after the hour mark on 62’, the Rowdies would earn a free kick that was played toward the back post. The ball would look easy to collect for Cooper, but his punch out with players around him would be lacking in length, falling instead to Georgi Hristov on the doorstep, who would put the ball away to level once again.

And so, the score was 2-2, but the way the game had gone, you wouldn’t bet against another as both teams were creating their chances.

And the Battery could’ve gone in front again only two minutes later. Attaula Guerra, who continued his decent run of form tonight, would find himself through on goal, but the effort would go harmlessly into the ‘keeper’s arms.

Guerra would then find himself with the ball at his feet on the wing on 67’, holding the ball up before playing the ball around his defender and into the path of Romario Williams, but the ‘keeper would close down an already tight angle and make the save.

Williams would then be replaced by Heviel Cordoves with just over 20 minutes left. Despite being kept off the scoresheet, Williams had a decent night. His hold up play was decent and he created a few opportunities for himself, though he’ll be unhappy that he didn’t put that header on target in the first half, and having gone into the book early on, the substitution was probably the right move.

Kotaro Higashi would be the second man substituted on 73′, as Dante Marini would enter the fray. Marini had started the Battery’s first three games, before Higashi would start last week, and impress his manager enough to keep his place for this match. He wasn’t as impressive as against the Rhinos, but put in a decent shift in what was only his third game of the season.

And Marini was involved almost straight from the off, as a searching through ball by Guerra almost found the late run of the winger with 15 minutes to go, but the goalkeeper would collect and smother the ball before Marini could pounce.

Joe Cole would have a pop at goal on 77′, which went straight to Cooper before having to be replaced due to an apparent hip injury.

The Rowdies had a corner on 79′ that looked dangerous, but the in-swinging ball was collected by Cooper, who rose above everyone in the box and commanded his area well.

The game wound into the last ten minutes with both teams looking to create as the game became stretched, but with just two minutes of normal time left, the Battery would earn a corner.

The first ball would be cleared for a throw-in, and the ball would bounce around the box before a missed clearance by Luke Boden would fall to the feet of Tah Brian Anunga. The midfielder would take a touch before placing the effort in the bottom corner, giving the Battery a late lead in what was a very entertaining game.

In stoppage time, it was last chance saloon for the Rowdies, who pushed everyone up for a last gasp free kick, which was smuggled clear before they earned a corner with what would prove to be the last attack of the night. The Battery would smuggle clear, and the final whistle would blow, giving the Battery a hard earned three points.

The Battery would certainly say they earned it, after a game with so many twists and turns, remaining perfect on their travels to go along with the three points gained in Charlotte in the second week of the season. The win also puts them top of the Eastern Conference, with 12 points from five games, losing one, but having won the other four.

The Black and Yellow return home next, with Ottawa Fury the opponent on Saturday, April 29. Kick off is scheduled for 7PM, and you can watch on MyTV Charleston or the club’s Website.

TOP IMAGE: MATCH-WINNER TAH BRIAN ANUNGA FIGHTS FOR A BALL EARLY AGAINST THE ROWDIES. TAMPA BAY ROWDIES PHOTO

 

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.

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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