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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Stoppage time equalizer earns Battery draw to start CCC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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