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

 

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

 

 

Late Hertzog goal steals points as Battery fall to Riverhounds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Battery prevail in Charlotte behind second half goals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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