Battery share points with Louisville in tense draw

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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Battery’s late push the difference in win over Rowdies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Battery run rampant over Toronto in big win

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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