Atlanta, Columbus, Minnesota set for CCC ’18

The Charleston Battery will welcome Atlanta United, Columbus Crew and Minnesota United in the 14th edition of the Carolina Challenge Cup in February of 2018.

The competition, which has consistently brought some of MLS’ top talent to Charleston over the years, will be held from February 17th-24th, with double-headers over three matchdays in a round robin tournament.

Atlanta return after last year in which they played their first competitive games in the tournament and gave fans in the lowcountry an early look at what has become one of the best sides to watch in the league in 2017, behind performances from Josef Martinez, Miguel Almiron, and Tito Villalba among others.

The Crew, a year after winning the competition in 2017,  are regular visitors to the area through the competition. They were MLS Cup finalists in 2015, and consistently challenge among the top teams in the East. Now under the guidance of Manager Gregg Berhalter, they boast a mixture of young talent and league stalwarts such as Justin Meram, Ola Kamara and Kekuta Manneh.

Minnesota will be visiting the lowcountry for the first time, but boast a few names that should be familiar to fans of the Black and Yellow. Adrian Heath is at the helm in Minnesota’s first season, having previously spent time with Orlando City SC in both USL and MLS, and brought attacking midfielder Kevin Molino with him from his time in Florida.

In addition to hosting the tournament, the Battery and their new Youth Academy will also host the Youth Carolina Challenge Cup, with more information here.

2018 season ticket packages will include tickets for all three matchdays of the CCC, with single day tickets going on sale on October 20th, with prices starting at $35.

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Battery hold on for well-fought draw against Columbus

Matchday Two of the Carolina Challenge Cup took place on Wednesday, with the hosts Charleston Battery opening the night against the Columbus Crew.

The Battery and Crew share a little bit of history, as well as the same colors, but the Battery were in Black and White as part of a commemoration of their 25th anniversary, while the Crew donned their Black and Yellow away strip.

The Battery again gave a good showing, and opened the scoring on 25 minutes, when a Justin Portillo corner skimmed off the head of Forrest Lasso and into the bottom corner. The Crew began to press a little more in search of an equalizer toward the end of the first half, but it wasn’t until the second, and an Own Goal on the hour mark from  Tah Brian Anunga that Columbus found the telling equalizer.

Defender Harrison Afful created the first chance of the evening after six minutes, when his cross sought out Frederico Higuain. Higuaín scored two goals in the Crew’s opening match, but couldn’t add to his tally here as his shot of the volley was deflected.

A Dante Marini handball led to a free kick about 20 yards out, but the dangerous set piece was sent over the bar.

Jeffery Otoo was involved in a lot of good things tonight, and his first involvement of the night was to play Romario Williams in for a 1v1 with the ‘keeper, but he tried to place it and hit the shot wide.

But the hosts would make the early pressure tell as Justin Portillo was at the controls of a corner kick on 25’. His ball into the mixer found a rising Forrest Lasso, who aimed a header down low and into the bottom corner.

The Battery, on the scheme of things were probably the better side up until that point, and could say that their lead was deserved, but the Crew would come back at them.

The Right Back Afful was very much a threat in the first half, and was involved again as his cross on 24 caused a bit of havoc in the back. The cross was cleared by Forrest Lasso, helping out this time at the back, and the shot on the rebound was then wide.

Romario Williams would then do very well on the edge of the box to slip in Attaula Guerra, but the linesman put his flag up for offside, cancelling out the 1v1 in which the attacker rounded the ‘keeper.

The Crew would have a succession of corners close to half time, but nothing came of the set pieces, and the battery would go in at halftime with the 1-0 advantage.

Romario Williams would set up a counter on 47’, but his cross would be cut out.

A Dante Marini ball would find Williams on 53′ but his shot would go over the bar.

Some good build up play eventually found Nico Hanson in the box, who had the goal at his mercy with the onrushing ‘Keeper, but the shot hit the post. ‘

A Justin Portillo free kick on the left wing near the hour mark would bounce through and hit the post before being cleared by the Crew defense. The ball set up a counter that led to a Crew free kick after Taylor Meuller fouled Justin Miram.

The free kick was powered toward the middle, and in his attempt to hastily clear, Tah Brian Anunga would send the ball on frame and into his own net.

But four minutes later, a great first touch by sub Kotaro Higashi would play in Guerra, who was unlucky as his shot hit the post.

Around the 68th minute, a worrying sight for Battery fans came as Maikel Chang would come off injured, but he’d be replaced by Nico Rittmeyer.

Heviel Cordoves would come on in the second half. and would take down a free kick well on 83 and shoot on the turn, but his effort was saved as it was destined for the top corner.

Four minutes later, the Battery had some good buildup fall to Cordoves again, who played in a pass for the overlapping run, but the ball wouldn’t trouble the defense as it went over the bar.

More late heroics may have been on offer as the Battery got a free kick late on in stoppage time, but the ball didn’t trouble the ‘keeper as it was cleared.

And so, the Battery finished their 2nd game of the tournament with two points in the standings, but they can be pleased with the way they’d performed so early in the season, and will be hopefull of continuing such form as they go into the season proper.

The second match of the evening between Atlanta and Seattle ended 4-2 after Atlanta took a quick early lead through first half goals from Josef Martinez, a penalty from Miguel Almiron and a third from Hector Villalba before Martinez added to his tally with a tasty chip for 4-0 early in the second half, though Seattle would answer with two of their own, making the final score 4-2.

The Carolina Challenge Cup concludes this Saturday, when the Columbus Crew take on the Seattle Sounders, before the Battery and Atlanta United finish out the tournament.

TOP IMAGE: FORREST LASSO RISES HIGHEST ON A CORNER KICK TO PUT THE BATTERY AHEAD. ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY PHOTO

 

Atlanta United groups take CCC by storm

When Atlanta was announced in 2014 as part of the next wave of expansion teams for Major League Soccer, a sleeping giant awoke. Now, two years later, Atlanta United are on the eve of their first season as a club. To prepare for their first season in the league, Atlanta are part of the 2017 edition of the Carolina Challenge Cup, and their fans are showing exactly why there are such high hopes for one of the newest teams in America’s top flight.

We spent time at the Atlanta fans’ tailgate, which comprised of the club’s four fan clubs, Terminus Legion, Resurgence, The Faction and Footie Mob. According to Terminus member Gail Carr, the groups had filled up three hotels in the local area, by far being the most represented of the three MLS sides at the tournament.

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Fresh off of a 4-0 win in their first ever match against Chattanooga FC, the atmosphere was electric, and the anticipation (and perhaps the expectation) was high. There was food, as well as merch booths for fans to purchase Atlanta United products, and of course, a stereo blasting music by Atlanta based music artists.

After 30 to 45 minutes at the tailgate, which also had a mingling of hosts, The Regiment, and the travelling Columbia branch of the American Outlaws, the time came for Atlanta’s first ever “competitive” match. After all, it was pre-season, but there was still silverware on the line. The party continued in the stands, with the drumline for the Atlanta faithful leading as they turned songs by Atlanta rapper Ludacris into Football chants.

ATL UTD boss Tata Martino had apparently gotten the silverware memo, putting Atlanta’s first choice team out, and thus treating the match as if it were a competitive fixture.

Atlanta started well. They set a high press and the defense was solid. All this was made easier by the fact that Chris McCann picked off a ball in midfield, passing to Josef Martinez, who laid off the ball before receiving it again on a diving header that put Atlanta ahead against the Columbus Crew in the sixth minute. Columbus came into the match more as time went on, but Atlanta went in at half time with their 1-0 lead still in tact. The midfield was definitely running things, with Chris McCann being a great anchor in front of the back four, and Miguel Almiron being at the center of everything.

The heads dropped a little and legs certainly got tired when Alec Kann fluffed a clearance which hit Federico Higuaín on the leg and bounced in, but the fans weren’t going to stop singing. You could hear them from minute one until the final whistle, as they certainly gave a good account of what’s to come as they enter the league ahead of the new season.

Though their team ended up losing on the night, Atlanta’s fans certainly enjoyed themselves, and gave fans in Charleston a taste of what’ll be on offer at Bobby Dodd stadium, and will be at Mercedes Benz Stadium come summertime, which will only help the matchday experience.

TOP IMAGE: ATLANTA UNITED AND BATTERY FANS MINGLE BEFORE THE CAROLINA CHALLENGE CUP BEGAN ON SATURDAY NIGHT. PHOTO CREDIT NICKI ACE