Full list of 2017 Battery season award winners

At full time after Saturday’s final home game of 2017, the Battery announced the winners of this season’s team awards, as voted on by the fans, after what has been a very exciting 25th anniversary campaign.

Betsy McAdams Newcomer of the Year: Kotaro Higashi

Higashi joined the Battery after a successful trial in the Spring, which was capped off by a clutch goal against the Seattle Sounders in the Carolina Challenge Cup. He began the season as a backup to Dante Marini, primarily being used on the left side and coming in late to use his pace against tired legs. That changed a couple months into the season, when Marini sustained a season ending injury. Higashi would go on to get better and better as the season progressed, notching eight assists in his 28 appearances, which is second in the team behind Maikel Chang‘s 10.

Derek Revord Defensive Player of the Year: Forrest Lasso

Coming into 2017, Forrest Lasso had some big shoes to fill in departing captain Shawn Ferguson, but he has done so with flying colors. The 24 year old, in his third season with the Battery, created a formidable partnership with Taylor Mueller that meant no matter if Odisnel Cooper or Alex Tambakis, who split time during the season, were in goal, the Battery didn’t often look like conceding. Winning an astonishing 77% of his tackles, and 70% of his aerial duels, at 6’5″, he was a nightmare for onrushing attackers. He would put his height to good use at the other end of the pitch too, scoring six goals, which is tied for third with Justin Portillo for the team lead.

David Vaughn Memorial Award: Taylor Mueller

Taylor Mueller picked up this award, chosen by the Coaches, after having a solid season, and, as Captain in his 4th year, leading the team to the playoffs. His own stats are spectacular themselves, beside Lasso winning 68% of his duels, and 73% of duels in the air, he was very much a calming influence on the team, keeping level headed and making sure the team stuck together.

Offensive Player of the Year: Romario Williams

Williams’ 15 goals in 21 appearances is good for currently second in the league in scoring, and leads the team in that category. After a difficult 2016, he struck up an exciting partnership with Attaula Guerra, after the latter moved further forward from his deep-lying position the year previous, combining for 20 of the Battery’s 52 goals. Williams also rode his good form into a callup for Jamaica’s 2017 Gold Cup campaign, in which he was one of their standout performers on the way to the final. Additional call-ups and suspensions have derailed his second half of the season, but the Battery hope to have him fit and firing again as they head into the playoffs.

Nigel Cooper Most Valuable Player: Justin Portillo

Justin Portillo underlined just how important he is for the Battery with another impressive campaign in 2017. Notching six goals and six assists, he led the team in chances created, with 60 in 31 appearances. His 86% pass accuracy was the best on the team, and he’s credited with 60 key passes on the season. Despite being most known for his skills in setting up attacks with his pinpoint passing, he helped out defensively quite a bit too, with 52 interceptions, only behind Taylor Mueller for the team lead, and 76% of tackles won. The arrival of Tah Brian Anunga allowed him to be a more forward thinking player this season, but as the stats show, he’s very much the complete midfielder.

As the regular season closes this Saturday against the Charlotte Independence, we look forward to more from these players, and all of the squad as we head into the playoffs, but congratulate them on an impressive regular season campaign.

TOP IMAGE: PLAYERS CELEBRATE A GOAL DURING LAST WEEK’S 4-0  WIN OVER HARRISBURG. ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY PHOTO

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Battery guilty of overplaying in Tampa loss

The Charleston Battery fell to the Tampa Bay Rowdies Saturday, having lost back-to-back games for the first time this season after goals from Joe Cole and Martin Paterson.

There were a number of changes from the loss against St. Louis, as Alex Tambakis was between the sticks. Quinton Griffith replaced Skylar Thomas at left back, while Tah Brian Anunga made his return in midfield and there was a debut for Lagos Kunga after completing his move from Atlanta United.

The Battery started the game well. The quick tempo and passing that was near nonexistent in St. Louis on display for much of the early first half. Maikel Chang would create the first half chance with a nifty little pass into Heviel Cordoves, but the striker wasn’t able to catch his run and was given offside despite putting a shot on goal.

In the eighth minute, Joe Cole had the ball on the left edge of the box after good buildup from the home side, but would slip and be unable to force a ball across, only managing a toe poke that was blocked into the legs of an attacking on the opposite side and giving Alex Tambakis no trouble.

Lagos Kunga impressed in his debut, especially in the first half, and he would cause trouble on 12′, bending a shot just wide of the left post.

Tampa would go up the pitch and earn a corner just a minute later, but Tambakis would come to claim and avert danger.

Some good buildup in the 16th led to a shot from Heviel Cordoves, which produced a great save from Pickens in goal, before it would be reset for Maikel Chang who would shoot wide of goal.

Tambakis would come to punch a cross a couple minutes later, but not get enough on the ball, which would fall to Marcel Schafer, who would see a shot deflected out for a corner, though it would lead to naught.

The Battery would then have a free kick on 22′ that would break down and give Tampa the chance to counter, but it broke down.

Shortly after, a ball across the face for Tampa would look to spell danger, but no one latched on before it was picked up on the far side and sent back to Schafer, whose effort went wide.

The Battery would have a dangerous free kick on 24′, which was cleared before being sent back in and cleared again. It would then roll out on the right to Quinton Griffith who took his eye off the ball whilst trying to pick a cross and let the ball roll out of play.

Tah Brian Anunga would form a nice 1-2 with Obi Woodbine before finding Cordoves in the box, but his shot was blocked and cleared away from trouble.

After the half an hour mark, Tampa began to turn the screw as Joe Cole would latch onto a ball that the Battery defense couldn’t force clear, but his shot would go over the bar.

Marcel Schafer would again cause trouble on 32′, after his cross was flicked on by a teammate and forced Tambakis into a good save to keep the scores level.

But the ‘keeper would perhaps make his best save of the night, denying the home side from just six yards out after a cross low into the box was volleyed toward goal. Tambakis’ reactions had to be razor sharp, and he was up to the task, palming the ball wide before it was cleared.

A Battery corner on 38′ would be cleared for another, but eventually wasted as Perkins would claim in the Tampa goal.

And then, after 41′, came the breakthrough. It came after a long ball wasn’t dealt with by the Battery defense, and Alex Morell would turn his man before laying off to Joe Cole, who gave the ‘keeper no chance to open the scoring.

The goal came at the worst possible time for the Battery, being so close to the break, but having been guilty of letting the heads drop after conceding in their last game, they couldn’t be caught doing the same here. They would have to find a way to force their way back in, and came out in the second half again looking dangerous.

The Battery earned a corner in the 46th, only for it to be cleared away, whilst good buildup on the edge of the box a few minutes later fell to Obi Woodbine, only for his shot to be skewed wide.

On 56’, more good play from the Battery resulted in a layoff by Kunga into the path of Portillo, but his shot lacked power and the ‘keeper would save.

A Battery corner in the 58th would only lead to a goal kick as the game became increasingly frustrating for the Battery.

On 64’, Lagos Kunga would be replaced by Ricky Garbanzo. Kunga could be pleased with his debut outing, and looked lively, especially in the first half. He, along with Chang and Anunga, were at the center of everything good for the visitors, which is something that bodes well going forward as the team looks to find a piece to fill the void left by Dante Marini. He could be aggrieved slightly at being taken off having been so influential, but with one eye on a midweek match in Pittsburgh, you can gather what the boss’s thought process would be.

Alex Morrel would again cause danger on 67′, when he latched onto a cross, but put his shot onto the bar as the home side were nearly 2-0 up.

There was more injury trouble for the Battery on 69′, as Forrest Lasso would have to be replaced by Miles Robinson after clearing a ball and sustaining a knock a few minutes prior.

But the defender was forced straight into action, with just less than 20 minutes to go, he got himself turned around on the edge of the box by Martin Paterson, who would then finish top corner to double the hosts’ lead.

And so the Battery were given so much to do in so little time. But unlike the previous match against St. Louis, it wasn’t for the lack of creativity. It was the failure to stay collected when it counted. They were trying to find that one extra pass, and in the end lacked that lethal bit of edge they needed in front of goal.

Nico Rittmeyer would be brought on for a short cameo in the 84th, replacing Tah Brian Anunga. Anunga scored the winner in the first meeting between these two sides, and put in a decent shift tonight as well, but wasn’t quite as effective as he’d want to be.

The visitors had a few chances to get back into the game in the closing minutes. Justin Portillo would step up to a free kick from roughly 20 yards out which went wide with four minutes left, and then Cordoves would latch onto a corner in the 88th, which he would head wide.

And that was how it finished. The Battery would fall to their second loss in two, with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds the final stop on their three game road stretch on Wednesday, July 26 at 7PM. You can watch it on MyTV Charleston or stream it on the club’s website.

TOP IMAGE: DEFENDER FORREST LASSO FIGHTS HIS MAN OFF THE BALL IN A PREVIOUS MEETING BETWEEN THE TWO SIDES. PHOTO CREDIT ZACH BLAND.

 

 

Battery struggle to create in loss to St. Louis

It was a frustrating night for the Charleston Battery, who suffered only their third loss of the season against St Louis FC on Saturday night.

The game was quite open for long periods of the game, but both sides seemed a little skittish and disconnected in the attacking third, often relying on set pieces to create chances, and it was a free kick that was the Battery’s undoing, when Octavio Guzman squeezed a free kick at the near post past Odisnel Cooper in goal. Despite their best efforts, which included no less than four corners following the goal, the Battery couldn’t find themselves an equalizer, and fell to their third defeat of the season.

In the third minute, St. Louis got a cross into the box which was redirected on goal, but wouldn’t trouble Odisnel Cooper between the sticks as it went wide.

There was trouble of a different sort for the Battery when Dante Marini went down under a challenge on the far side of the pitch, and would then have to be replaced by Kotaro Higashi shortly after receiving treatment. With Romario Williams on international duty, and Attaula Guerra also sidelined through injury, the knock to Marini couldn’t come at a worse time for the Black and Yellow.

The Battery’s first chance came just before the quarter of an hour mark when Ricky Garbanzo would pass to Heviel Cordoves, whose shot low and two the left was saved by Adam Grinwis in goal as he palmed it behind for a corner, which was taken short and crossed to the back post to Skylar Thomas, but he couldn’t keep his header on target.

Justin Portillo would have a chance a couple minutes later, when he lined up a free kick just outside the box. His shot at goal looked menacing off his boot, but was deflected behind by the wall for a corner, which would eventually fizzle out as they couldn’t fashion a chance from a succession of corners from either side.

In the 21st, Quinton Griffith found himself in a spot of bother when he got beat down the right side which would eventually force Odisnel Cooper into a save, before the ball was cleared.

A St. Louis corner on 27′ would be cleared off the line in what was the Battery’s first real scare of the evening, and they survived thanks to Heviel Cordoves, who was, ironically,  the last to get in position to defend the set piece.

On 29′, Cordoves would play set up man when he would control a ball from deep and lay off for Maikel Chang, who would drop a shoulder to give himself some space for a shot before he would curl an effort toward the top corner that would go painstakingly wide.

A Battery free kick was wasted when a whistle would blow for a foul on a St. Louis player in the box, which meant the ball would go the other way.

Odisnel Cooper would make a save from a shot from the top of the box and distribute quickly to find Naveal Hackshaw, who combined with Chang, and then the winger would find Cordoves who would again be denied by the home side’s ‘keeper, and the corner that followed would go wanting.

The Battery had one more chance before the break in another free kick, that went begging again as it went over the bar.

The game in itself was stop-start, given that the referee seemed to want to be too involved in the first 45, but both teams would have to find a way to overcome that if they wanted to get anything out of the game.

Naveal Hackshaw would give away a dangerous free kick when he leaned into a player trying to stop a break on 49’, and Octavio Guzman would step up, eventually giving Cooper no chance as he was flat footed, though the referee would again spot an infringement, blowing his whistle and waving the goal off as the Battery would breathe a sigh of relief.

A Battery corner at the other end a minute later would be headed wide by Taylor Mueller, who came off of a head-to-head collision the worse for wear, though he would be cleared to play on after receiving treatment.

There were more scares for the visitors on 54′, when an errant pass in the back led to a rushed clearance before a chance could be fashioned, but it wouldn’t bode well for the defense.

The home side would have a corner a couple minutes later, which would only go harmlessly across goal and wide.

On the hour mark came a chance for the Battery at the other end, when Cordoves and Chang would combine on the left before Chang’s lay off to Justin Portillo set him up for a shot, but the effort was straight at the ‘keeper.

A St. Louis free kick would be cleared a few minutes later and the Battery would be quick to start a counter, only for it to break down when they got to the top of the box.

On 64′ a Quinton Griffith cross would force the goalkeeper to redirect as it seemed to give him a little more trouble as it was meant to, curling toward goal, and so he would stretch to palm away long enough so that not even the oncoming Kotaro Higashi could make much of the chance.

Two minutes later, the Battery had a free kick cleared, but would reset and send the ball back in and force a corner, which would again be wasted.

On 71’ the referee would give a free kick to St. Louis on the left of the box, taken again by Octavio Guzman. He took his time to line up what he was going to do with the chance, and then formed the ball around the wall and down into the bottom near corner of the goal. Odisnel Cooper would get a hand to the effort, but was caught off guard, expecting a cross from such a position. He maybe would say he could’ve done better with the effort, as a ‘keeper shouldn’t get beat at his near post, but the Battery as a team had themselves to blame for not taking the game to the home side earlier.

Going behind did seem to pick the visitors up a little bit. They had a free kick in a threatening position on 73′, but it would only lead to a goal kick for St. Louis.

A corner taken by Justin Portillo on 81′ was sent away, but back in before the goalkeeper would come and claim to snuff out the danger.

On 84’ a Battery corner was punched away, only for Naveal Hackshaw to arrow a shot back in, but it would rise well over the bar.

The Battery would again force a corner a minute later, but this one would perhaps be the least dangerous and be cleared easily.

On 88, Cordeves would pick the pocket of a defender, and though he couldn’t find room to force an effort on goal, his cross would find a teammate, though no one could control but the home side would smuggle away for another corner, which would again be forced away.

And though four minutes of added time would be added on, the Battery couldn’t break down the defense, giving them their third loss of the season.

They face a tough test next, too, travelling to take on the Tampa Bay Rowdies on July 22nd. Kick off is at 7:30PM, and you can watch the match on MyTV Charleston, or stream it on the club’s website.

TOP IMAGE: TAH BRIAN ANUNGA BATTLES FOR A HEADER IN THE BATTERY’S PREVIOUS MEETING WITH STLFC THIS YEAR. ANUNGA WAS AN UNUSED SUB TONIGHT. PHOTO CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY

 

 

 

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

Williams, Marini headline midweek Battery news

After a 6-1 demolition of Toronto FC II, the Battery have kept rolling into this week, with two players earning league honors, and striker Romario Williams being selected for Jamaica’s upcoming Gold Cup campaign, and to top it all off, they unveiled a new signing.

After being included in the initial 40-man roster for Jamaica’s 2017 Gold Cup run, Romario Williams will go to the tournament after being named as part of the 23-man squad.

Williams is currently the USL’s leading goalscorer, after scoring twice against TFC II, taking him to 13 for the season. He should be available for the Battery’s game against Tampa Bay this weekend, with the Raggae Boys getting their Gold Cup under way against Curacao on July 9th.

Dante Marini has been awarded the USL Fan’s Choice Goal of the Week for his spectacular curling effort on Saturday. Marini and Williams both notched a brace and an assist each, while Williams earned Team of the Week honors. Dante, a fan favorite since joining in 2013, was also featured in a segment on local news after his first two goals of the campaign.

Last but not least, the Battery announced the signing of Lagos Kunga on a one year deal. Kunga has been a part of MLS affiliate Atlanta United’s youth setup, scoring 10 goals in 21 games for the Atlanta U18s and recently took part in the US’s FIFA U-20 World Cup campaign en route to the Quarter Final. He spent time with the Battery last year, taking part in the team’s friendly with the Nigerian Olympic team. Kunga was loaned back to Atlanta for a short 4-day span, featuring in the team’s 3-2 loss to Miami FC in the US Open Cup, but will soon meet up with his new teammates.

The Battery’s game against the Tampa Bay Rowdies kicks off at 7PM this Saturday, July 1st.

PHOTO CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY

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 get revenge on Jacksonville to advance in Open Cup

The Charleston Battery’s fourth round US Open Cup tie against the Jacksonville Armada was settled by a 24th minute own goal, which was enough to see them through after a tough defensive showing from the Black and Yellow.

The Battery put out what was pretty much their first choice XI in what was their third match in six days, with Forrest Lasso back after missing the last two matches, and Tah Brian Anunga slotting in at right back for Quinton Griffith. Odisnel Cooper kept his place in goal whilst the tandem of Romario Williams and Attaula Guerra would play up front.

The Battery had chances early, and even had the ball in the net as early as the 10th minute, but the whistle blew for offside and the score remained 0-0.

Romario Williams sent a chance wide of the target on 17′, as the Battery looked to be in control in the early goings.

But the Armada had a chance at the other end a few minutes later, as striker Byram Rebellon sent a chance wide of Odisnel Cooper’s goal.

And then, in the 24th minute, the Battery broke the deadlock. It was set up by a well timed ball into the feet of Attaula Guerra, who would peel off his man and get to the byline before putting the ball low and hard into the middle. The cross failed to find an attacker’s foot, but instead found Drew Beckie, a Jacksonville defender, whose clearance was arrant and rolled into the net to make it 1-0. Guerra would injure himself producing the chance, however, and would eventually have to be replaced by Dante Marini.

Former USL standout Mechack Jerome had the next chance shortly after when he stood at the controls for a free kick about 30 yards out, and looked to go for power to level things up, but his effort was wide of the target and the visitors remained in front.

The Armada tried to turn the screw a little bit as we ended the first half, but a resilient Battery defense yielded little opening before the break and the Black and Yellow went ahead.

The Battery went in with their tails up and looking solid, but would be hesitant to get carried away following giving up two second half goals from the same winning position on Sunday against NYRB II, and would look to continue their defensive stronghold in the second half.

And coming out of the break, they could’ve doubled their advantage, when on 52′, Naveal Hackshaw would play Williams in. His shot toward the far post would force a good save out of the Jacksonville ‘keeper, and seconds later, the home side would be on the break.

Forrest Lasso would be the man to clear the danger for the Battery as the Armada would curl a cross toward the back post, and despite penalty appeals from the Jacksonville striker, the referee was unphased, and play would continue.

Lasso would then be booked on 56′, after he committed a foul on the right wing, giving the home side an opportunity to whip a ball into the box on a free kick, but the ball was cleared and eventually went out for a throw in.

Tah Brian Anunga would then give away a foul from a similar position on the opposite side a couple minutes later, but this one didn’t even find its way into the box, and this time it was the Battery’s chance to start a counter.

Dante Marini would use his pace to power into an advanced position before playing for Romario Williams to his right, who found a man at the top of the box only for the first touch to let him down and allow Jacksonville to clear.

But just after the hour mark, Marini would use his pace to create a chance after receiving a pass inside. His effort wasn’t unlike Williams’ earlier chance, as he would try to curl an effort toward the far post. He would just steady himself before getting the shot away, however, which would give the ‘keeper time to do the same, and he would save before the ball was cleared.

With just a little more than 15 left, Jacksonville would earn a corner that looked dangerous before Cooper would, not for the first time tonight, catch the ball and relieve the pressure.

Shortly after, Dante Marini would use his pace to run down an errant ball and set up Obi Woodbine for a trademark long throw in, though nothing came of the chance.

Romario Williams had perhaps the best chance to settle things when he turned on the jets to get around his man on the right, but his shot that looked all but destined for the bottom corner, went just wide.

Williams would have another chance just a minute later, this time receiving a pass from Hackshaw before beating his man and getting to the byline, and putting another shot wide, this one, however, was from a bit harder of an angle, more acute, and from what normally would be a crossing position, though he didn’t have many more options and decided to have an effort himself.

The lack of insurance looked to put the Battery in danger of conceding an equalizer with just five minutes left, when a Jacksonville corner would be cleared, but eventually trickle its way through the heart of the area and would leave Cooper flat-footed as he originally thought the chance would roll harmlessly wide before taking a deflection and going behind for another corner.

This one would skim the head of an attacker up from the back and then take another flick toward goal before Cooper would pluck it out of the air and relieve pressure.

Nico Rittmeyer, who must’ve been waiting for a good eight minutes, would come on with a minute of normal time to go, replacing Maikel Chang.

Four minutes of stoppage time were added, and the final chance would fall to the home side.

Naveal Hackshaw, who to this point had had perhaps his best performance this season, lost track of his man, and was forced into a foul, allowing every man to find his way into the box, including the ‘keeper, for Jacksonville. The free kick was cleared by a stout Battery defense, but a shot back in went high over Odisnel Cooper’s crossbar, the danger averted for the Black and Yellow.

And that was how it finished. The Battery had exacted revenge against the team who ousted them from the competition at this stage last year, and will go on to face MLS affiliate Atlanta United in the fourth round on June 14th at Fifth Third Bank Stadium on the campus of Kennesaw State University.

Their next match will be on June 3rd, as they return home to face Louisville in what will be the main event of a triple-header of Football action as MUSC Health Stadium will host a Champions League Final watch Party at 2:45 on the Jumbotron and in the Three Lions Pub, before the Charleston Fleet play the first game of their inaugural season at 4PM. The Battery will then take on Louisville City at 7PM. As part of their “’93 Night” tickets will be $9.30, and a ticket will get you into all three events. The match will also be streamed on the club’s website and YouTube.