Battery fall in New York despite Portillo magic

Justin Portillo‘s excellent free kick was cancelled out by two second half goals from the New York Red Bulls as they went on to lose by a score of 2-1.

The Battery were much changed from the win in midweek against Bethlehem, with Heviel Cordoves coming in up top, replacing leading goalscorer Romario Williams, while Ricky Garbanzo would slot in for Attaula Guerra. Chris Goslin would make his first professional start in midfield beside Portillo, and Jeffery Otoo would replace Kotaro Higashi. Quinton Griffith would come back in after being rested against Bethlehem, but Skylar Thomas would slide to left back and replace Obi Woodbine. Odisnel Cooper would continue his platooning with Alex Tambakis in goal, while Miles Robinson kept his place ahead of Forrest Lasso despite the latter being back from suspension.

An early shot from Brandon Allen forced Odisnel Cooper into his first save of the evening, though it was an easy save for the ‘keeper, down low to his right from the edge of the box.

A free kick given after Ricky Garbanzo was adjudged to have handled the ball from roughly 25 yards gave Cooper a slightly more difficult task as he was forced to save a curling effort, which would eventually go out for a throw in.

Cooper was forced to claim a cross that curled away from him on 20′, which looked dangerous enough to trouble before the goalkeeper claimed.

David Najem would play the ball into a dangerous area a minute later before Cooper would eventually claim, cutting out the danger before it could be turned in.

The Battery would have their first half chance of the match on 26’, when a Portillo free kick was cleared at first, before being reset and eventually falling to Heviel Cordoves, but his shot went wide.

Cooper was pressed into action again a minute later, as some good buildup fell to Derek Ettienne, but Cooper would come out and claim the ball at his feet.

In the 41st minute, a poor backpass from the Red Bulls defense left Ricky Garbanzo one on on one with the goalkeeper, though the ‘keeper would come out and collide with Garbanzo, giving away the free kick, and, though earning himself a yellow card, could count himself lucky that the referee didn’t adjudge his challenge to be worthy of a red card.

But then, the Battery did find the breakthrough. Dante Marini would use his pace as he powered his way through the middle of the pitch before being taken down. And again, the Red Bulls could count themselves lucky as the replay showed that Marini caught a glancing elbow to the head, which was what actually took him off his feet.

Justin Portillo was then at the controls for the Battery roughly 20 yards from goal. The ball looked as if it may’ve been too close to get it up and over the wall and back down, but Portillo sent a curling effort on goal that gave the ‘keeper no chance, and gave the Battery the lead going into half time.

The goal was just about the last kick of the first half, and the Battery went in with their tails up.

But it was the hosts that came out looking the better side in the second half. An early wave of Red Bulls pressure led to a corner for the home side, though it was eventually cleared.

And on 50′, the Red Bulls could’ve drawn level. A cross in found Derek Ettienne, and while Odisnel Cooper would attempt to smother, he would only redirect it into the path of the onrunning Bezecourt, who put his shot over the bar.

The goal was coming though, and the pressure would finally tell three minutes later. Miles Robinson would deflect a Derek Ettienne shot out for a corner, which was taken by Bezecourt. The outswinging ball found Junior Fleming at the front post, who rose above his marker and headed the ball past Cooper to level the scoring.

Despite getting some decent possession to start the half, the Battery would be kicking themselves that they didn’t come out with a better approach, especially having gone in at half time with the lead.

And a few minutes later, the hosts could’ve had a second. Bezecourt led a counter and the Battery defenders couldn’t get a handle on him, before he would shoot wide, not troubling Cooper in goal.

On 57’, Heviel Cordoves would control a quick throw in and shoot from an odd angle on the left, but the shot was easily saved.

Just before the hour mark, the Battery would make their first change as they looked to regain the lead. Maikel Chang would replace Jeffery Otoo as they looked to add some more creative spark going forward.

And he was instantly involved, with some good footwork on the right wing before finding Miles Robinson who had stayed up from a corner that New York had cleared, but the center back’s shot was deflected before forcing the goalkeeper into a good save from close range.

Heviel Corodves would then hit the post on 63′, but was adjudged to be offside after Justin Portillo found him with a great cross from a free kick, and so if the ball would’ve found the net, it still wouldn’t have mattered.

Romario Williams would enter the game for Cordoves in the 69th. The Battery’s leading scorer would’ve liked to continue his day off given the quick turn around from the game in midweek, but needs must for the Battery if they were to continue their unbeaten run.

But it was the home side who would find the go ahead goal. The Battery could perhaps be aggrieved as Dante Marini would look to win the ball on the edge of the area, but the referee was having no complaints as Derek Ettienne would line the ball up. Cooper would set his wall to the left of him, but would be let down as Ettienne would curl a shot into the near post after his wall didn’t jump.

And so the Battery would find themselves behind, and after going in front, despite feeling slightly hard done by with the refereeing decisions. With just over quarter of an hour to go, they had a mountain to climb.

And with just about ten minutes to go, Attaula Guerra would replace Chris Goslin. This meant that the Battery had all their explosive tools on the pitch, after the three subs brought on their three most attacking threats to go along with Portillo in midfield.

With five minutes to go, Romario Williams would have a great chance to level when he turned his defender and found room to shoot, but his effort was straight at the keeper.

The Red Bulls could’ve sealed it shortly after, when the Battery were caught with too many men up field to attack a free kick and the hosts hit them on the counter, with Bezecourt forcing Cooper into a magnificent save to redirect it behind before it was cleared.

The Battery had the ball in the net in stoppage time as a free kick was swung in at the back post and turned in after the ‘keeper would go up for the ball and not claim, but a foul was given and the goal was waved off.

And that’s how game would finish. The Battery would remain on top of the East after Tampa Bay drew on Saturday, though they would slip at the chance to go five points clear.

They next play on Wednesday in the US Open Cup, away against the Jacksonville Armada. Kickoff is at 7:00.

PHOTO CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY

 

 

 

 

 

Williams the difference in battle with Bethlehem

Romario Williams’ eighth goal of the season gave the Charleston Battery  three points in a Thursday brunchtime clash with the Bethlehem Steel.

Whilst the game took a while to get going, Williams’ effort from roughly 25 yards midway through the first half sent the Steel ‘keeper sprawling and kissed the inside of the near post on its way in. The visitors had a multitude of chances to add to the scoring in both halves following the goal, but it was a stout defense that could be given credit for a tough display on the way to a big three points for the Black and Yellow.

There were changes to the Battery side who drew 2-2 with Harrisburg the previous weekend, as they were in the middle of a three-game road stretch, and set for two games in four days. Miles Robinson, on loan from Atlanta United, would deputize for the suspended Forrest Lasso after he picked up his 5th yellow of the season against the Islanders, while Naveal Hackshaw would slot in for Tah Brian Anunga, who received his marching orders during the draw himself. Natural center back Skylar Thomas would slide to right back, replacing Quinton Griffith.

After feeling each other out in the early goings, the Battery could very well have had a penalty in the 10th minute, as Obi Woodbine latched onto a great cross-field ball and nutmegged his marker before being taken down in the box by an on-rushing second defender. Nothing was given though, and so the ball rolled out for a goal kick.

Steel striker Cory Burke would go on a mazy run into the box just a few minutes later, but Thomas would come across on the cover to clear.

Alex Tambakis would be forced into an his first save on 14′ from a tame effort from Burke, getting behind the effort to his right and crouching down on the ball to relieve the pressure and allow his side to reset.

After 28′ came the next big chance, a flick on from an inswinging corner left Skylar Thomas with the opportunity to open the scoring, but the Steel ‘keeper was able to palm the effort onto the bar to keep the scores level.

Bethlehem had a corner just past the half hour mark which was played short and crossed into the hands of Tambakis.

It wasn’t too long after that the Battery were in front. Romario Williams would control a pass in midfield before running across his defender and using his pace and strength just to earn half a yard of space before taking aim at goal and beating the ‘keeper as the ball went in off the inside of the near post. The strike took him level with former Battery player Dane Kelly on 8 goals for the season and gave the Battery the 1-0 lead.

Just a few minutes before half time, it could’ve been two. Maikel Chang lofted a ball toward the back post to a wide open Kotaro Higashi, whose volleyed effort somehow went wide.

And then Williams could’ve had himself a second just before the break, but his effort went wide.

On the whole, the Battery deserved to be in front at half time, though it remained to be seen if the missed chances would come back to haunt them.

And it seemed, for all intents and purposes as if they had acknowledged that fact, after seeing missed chances come back to haunt them in their previous game, as they came out flying for the second half.

A flick on header by Chang fell to the feet of the goalscorer Williams, who squared up to his defender and got himself goal-side, before taking aim at goal again. He seemed destined for the brace, but McGuire in the Bethlehem goal would deny him as the ball went out for a corner. The set piece was taken by Justin Portillo into a dangerous area, but cleared, only for Maikel Chang to pick up the pieces and get a cross off to the far post and for Attaula Guerra to sting the palms of the ‘keeper again, though the ball would eventually be cleared.

A Bethlehem corner a couple minutes later would be cleared, and the Battery looked to be set for a dangerous counter, only for the move to break down.

Bethlehem forward Seku Conneh would then snap a header  wide after a great cross from the left. The header left Tambakis in goal flat footed, and so the ‘keeper could breathe a sigh of relief that the effort wasn’t on frame.

On the hour mark, a Justin Portillo-led counter eventually fell to Maikel Chang, who had his effort saved only for the ball to spill right back into danger again, with Kotaro Higashi running in, but his effort was scuffed as it seemed that he slipped just slightly as he tried to turn his foot to point the ball on frame.

A minute later, a Justin Portillo corner was kept alive by a little bit of head tennis before falling to Attaula Guerra, who stuck the ball in the net from close range, but was adjudged to be offside. Video Replay was apparently in effect, as the referee would call play dead following the whistle to listen in to his earpiece, but the decision would stand, and the Steel would have a free kick.

A Bethlehem corner would cause a bit of trouble in the box in the 71st, but would only pop out on the edge of the box before being blasted over the bar.

Dante Marini would replace Kotaro Higashi a short while later. The first year winger played well despite missing his chances, applying ample pressure and being an out ball for the central players, but will undoubtedly be disappointed that he didn’t help his side double their lead.

Obi Woodbine would be asked to run onto a dangerous looking chance on 74′, as the full back with the famed cannon of a right foot would just try and guide a ball into the top corner, but the effort would go high and wide.

Heviel Cordoves would replace the goalscorer Williams on 76′. Romario played well, putting his side ahead and putting in a good shift, though had run out of steam in the minutes leading up to the change.

And Cordoves’ first real touches produced a chance for the visitors. He controlled a long ball on the right flank before cutting in and shooting, forcing the goalkeeper into yet another save.

The home side were baying for a penalty in the 84th, when Skylar Thomas would muscle the Steel forward out of the way in order to shield the ball out. The referee was having none of the appeal though, and pointed for a goal kick.

Cordoves was then in again on 84′, but foiled once more as he would muscle his way around his marker and in for a 1-on-1, but his guided finish toward the far post was saved. The ensuing corner would be dummied and fall to the debutant Miles Robinson, but his effort would flash wide of the post.

Into 4 minutes of stoppage time we went, and Bethlehem would have perhaps their best chance of the match, cracking the bar from just inside the box, having beaten a sprawling Tambakis, and the ball would eventually be cleared.

And that was how the game finished. The result meant that the Battery go three points clear at the top of the table with a game in hand over second-placed Tampa Bay after they lost against Rochester on Tuesday.

The Battery next play on Sunday at 2PM against New York Red Bulls II. The match will be televised on MyTV Charleston, and available for streaming on the club’s website, or YouTube.

 

TOP IMAGE: HEVIEL CORDOVES HAS A SHOT IN THE PREVIOUS MEETING BETWEEN THE BATTERY AND STEEL AT MUSC HEALTH STADIUM. CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY

 

 

 

Why Atlanta United’s SuperDraft picks should matter to the Battery

A new season is upon us, with the Battery set to begin their preseason tournament, the Carolina Challenge Cup, in just under a month.

For MLS sides, the hard work has already begun, with the MLS SuperDraft signaling the spiritual start of the new campaign. Given that the Battery are affiliated with MLS’ Atlanta United, fans should have an eye on ATL UTD’s picks, as they could be seeing them sooner rather than later.

Like with Alex Tambakis, Andrew Carleton, Jeffery Otoo, and a few others from last year, there is a good chance that one or more ATL draft picks could land in Charleston to gain some vital experience.

In the four rounds of the draft, Atlanta United selected a goalkeeper, a defender and two midfielders. Goalkeeper Alex Kapp, out of Creighton, had an 81% save percentage in 18 games in his senior year, and so might be looked upon to be a crucial last line of defense in Atlanta’s first season.

Defender Miles Robinson, who ATL chose with the second overall pick in the Draft, seems like a tall, rangy, athletic sort of defender with an eye for a pass and strength to hold his own in the challenge.

Midfielders Julian Gressel and Anthony Wheeler-Omiunu both show ability in the middle of the park in different roles. Atlanta’s own twitter seems to be highlighting Wheeler’s passing ability, while Gressel seems to be more of an attacking threat, having been the Providence leader in Points during his 2016 season with 15 goals and 6 assists.

The best bet to learn who’s going to be finding themselves in the Holy City would be to look at Atlanta’s roster, at least in a couple of cases. Goalkeepers Alec Kann and the aforementioned Tambakis are the only ones on the books for Atlanta at the minute, so it’s possible that Tata Martino’s staff could send a third choice ‘keeper down for experience and playing time. You may see them rotate for the first couple of weeks to see what works and what doesn’t.

As for Robinson, Greg Garza and Zack Loyd are the ones who stick out at you for center-back, making Robinson a possible third choice and maybe a candidate for playing time in Charleston, but given the fact that Loyd is versatile, and also that Robinson seems to have certain tools that belie his years a little, it’s possible that Loyd may shift to make room for him.

The midfield is a little bit harder to say. Atlanta signed Argentian Hector Villalba as a DP as their first “major signing” and followed that up with Chris McCann. Both of those would most likely hold down spots in the XI for different reasons. Given the fact that there are a few more options in Wheeler’s department, including Jeff Larentowicz, and Miguel Almiron, it’s possible that Wheeler could be headed to Charleston.

Julian Gressel is another possibility, but his numbers may bode well toward his chances in Atlanta. Gressel is seen as a #10 or #8, which fits his style. It’s also worth noting that for the most part, Atlanta’s roster is young, so that’s another thing to put into the equation.

Of course, it’s highly likely that players we saw last year, such as Romario Williams, Tambakis and Otoo could be back this campaign, but it’s still up in the air until official word is given.

So, with a month left until CCC, it’s full steam ahead toward the new season. Stay tuned for more news in the lead up.

FEATURED IMAGE: MILES ROBINSON AND JULIAN GRESSEL POSE FOR PHOTOS AT MLS SUPERDRAFT. SOURCE: ATLANTA UNITED TWITTER/MLS