Battery pegged back against Orlando despite late equalizer

A late winner from Lewis Neal condemned the Battery to a loss against Orlando City B on Saturday evening despite levelling late through Heviel Cordoves.

The Battery were without Forrest Lasso through suspension, but gained Obi Woodbine and Quinton Griffith back from injury, and Romario Williams returned from his own suspension, meaning he was eligible to partner Attaula Guerra up front.

On the 6th minute, the Battery could’ve put themselves in front early when a corner flashed across the face with nobody able to turn it home.

An OCB corner of their own went away for a throw before being eventually cleared from danger by the Battery back line.

The game lulled a bit in an attacking sense, until on 28, the Battery looked to have pulled in front, when Quinton Griffith’s pinpoint cross found top scorer Romario Williams, who dispatched a header into the bottom corner, only to be called offside.

And then, from just about the next attack, with just over half an hour gone, the deadlock was broken. However, it was the home side that got the opener. Pierre DaSilva found himself in acres of space with no one around him to pressure him, and he decided to take a shot from all of 25 yards that found its way in off the woodwork at the far post.

And so, despite the relative sleepiness from the first half, the Battery found themselves behind. After picking up two wins in their previous two games, they would have to dig deep if they wanted anything out of this one.

But it almost got worse before it could get better. On 38′ A loose ball back from Taylor Mueller meant for Odisnel Cooper in goal was intercepted by Hadji Berry, but Skylar Thomas would come across and clear for a corner, which Orlando couldn’t capitalize on.

But just before halftime, Maikel Chang would lead a counter down the right for the visitors, only for the ball to go safely into the Orlando goalkeeper’s arms before it would go the other way and force Cooper into a save at the other end to force a corner, which the Battery defended well.

And that was how the first half ended. The Battery were behind, and would need to come out with a bit more impetuous in the second 45.

And they answered the challenge, creating no less than three chances in the first five minutes of the second half.

First, on 46′, a near perfect ball from Chang would find Romario Williams with a 1-on-1 with the ‘keeper, only to miscontrol the bouncing ball and be forced into an extra touch, which gave the ‘keeper time to smother the eventual shot.

Two minutes later, Williams would power himself to the byline at the far edge of the box before powering a ball in, but it was too early for the onrushing Nico Rittmeyer, who got his first league start tonight, to turn home.

And then, with 50 minutes gone, a Battery free kick would be played into Romario Williams on the ground, who turned well and again got himself to the byline with a similar ball from the opposite side before it would be cleared away.

Williams would then force the goalkeeper into a kick save shortly after, when his shot from the right looked to go across the goal, the ball went out for a corner, but it was cleared.

An Orlando cross found  Hadji Berry on 54′, and Cooper would save well and turn it away for a corner, which was cleared.

On 58′, the goalscorer for the home side, DaSilva, would curl a free kick around the wall and force a really good save for Cooper, which went out for a corner. The defense would then clear.

With an hour gone, Cooper would collect a free kick and lump the ball forward toward Williams, who would win the second ball and create space for himself, but lose his footing before he could fashion a chance.

Heviel Cordoves would replace Attaula Guerra for the Battery on 63′, and with three goals in two games, Cordoves was brought on to add a bit of a spark while he was riding a bit of a wave of confidence.

With just about 20 minutes left, Tah Brian Anunga would win a challenge high up the field and the ball would roll into the path of Maikel Chang, whose effort toward the top left corner was saved by the goalkeeper.

Kotaro Higashi would replace Nico Rittmeyer shortly after, another coming on to add a bit more attacking ability after putting in a good shift in Wednesday’s game against Charlotte.

On 75′, a Battery corner was wafted in at the back post for Skylar Thomas, and his header looked destined for the net before seemingly being palmed over the bar, though the referee would give a goal kick.

But with ten minutes left, the Battery would make their pressure tell. the build up down the right came from Maikel Chang, who would pass to Quinton Griffith. The right back would play the ball into the box low and hard, which fell to the substitute Cordoves, who controlled and let the ball spin off his foot on the turn to create space before firing into the back of the net.

The goal was deserved with the pressure the visitors had put their opponents under, but they would have to stay composed if they were to keep things all square.

But on 83′ came a scare for the Battery, when a good ball forward found Micheal Cox, who went at Mueller in defense and got around him before shooting toward the far post, but would see his effort go just wide.

But on 86′, the Battery would fail to clear a Orlando corner, which was bouncing around in the box, and forced on goal from an attacker, and Odisnel Cooper would spill the ball into the back of the net.

It was unlucky for the visitors, who forced themselves back into the game with so little time left, and also unlucky for Cooper especially, who had made a number of saves to keep his team in it at 1-0, but it was an error nonetheless, and this time with much less time to produce an opportunity to find a way back again

And that was how the game ended. The Battery dropping points despite a spirited performance.

The Battery next travel to Ottawa on October 1st. Kickoff is scheduled for 1PM, and you can watch it on MyTV Charleston, or stream it on the club’s website.

TOP IMAGE: HEVIEL CORDOVES (PICTURED) WOULD SCORE HIS FOURTH IN THREE GAMES IN A LOSS IN ORLANDO CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY.

 

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Resilient Battery take three points from Rochester

The Charleston Battery would leave it late, but an 84th minute free kick would be the difference in a hard fought battle with the Rochester Rhinos on Saturday.

There were changes made from last week’s draw against New York, as Quinton Griffith would return from injury, and Miles Robinson would partner Taylor Meuller as the center backs. while Skylar Thomas would slot in on the left for the suspended Obi Woodbine, and the same could be said for Naveal Hackshaw, who would accompany the goalscorer Justin Portillo in midfield, replacing Tah Brian Anunga, after he had accumulated five yellow cards.

A Rochester free kick in the fifth minute looked to be dangerous, but it was cleared away by the defense as the counter looked to be on, though it would eventually break down.

Some good buildup would find Romario Williams shortly after, whose reverse ball looking for Maikel Chang was just a little too strong and the ‘keeper would claim.

On 15′ Rochester would earn a corner, only to be cleared and come back in. The second clearance fell to the feet of Wal Fall at the edge of the box, but the shot was wide of the target.

On 25’, Darius Madison would shoot toward goal for the hosts, but Odisnel Cooper would save to his left as the shot lacked conviction with the striker going away from goal.

Shortly after, Romario Williams would be booked for the fifth time this season, meaning he would be unavailable for the match next week against Richmond.

On the half hour mark, Cooper would be forced into another save, when a cross from Michael Garzi found Jalen Brown, but his mishit shot was handled by the ‘keeper

Six minutes later came the Battery’s best chance of the first half, when Williams would latch onto a ball and play Kotaro Higashi in the middle. He couldn’t control the pass, which gave the defender time to get set and block the eventual shot. Higashi would pick up the rebound and pass back to Williams, but the control before the pass was given as a handball.

Then, on 38′, a long ball forward would beat Taylor Meuller and give Jalen Brown a chance for the home side, only for Cooper in the Battery goal to be equal to the effort.

On the stroke of half-time, Williams had a great chance to put his side in front when he connected with a cross at the front post, which he couldn’t quite redirect on frame as it went wide.

And that meant the teams would go in at the break deadlocked. The game took a little while to get going, but arguably, neither team may have wanted the interval to come, what with both sides creating chances late on in the half.

On the other side of the break, a Skylar Thomas cross would lead to a corner inside the first five minutes, but nothing would come of it.

Just before the hour mark came the next chance for the Battery, as a quickly taken free kick was played out to Maikel Chang and then into the feet of Romario Williams, who toe-poked the ball toward goal and looked for all the world to have broken the deadlock, only to have it cleared off the line.

On 62′ came a mixup in the box as two defenders for the Battery got succed in, and the ensuing shot was deflected behind for a corner, that was then cleared for a throw.

On 67′, the visitors made their first sub. Jarad van Schaik would replace Kotaro Higashi, who had that great chance in the first half that should’ve been buried, and he would hope his side wouldn’t rue the missed chance.

Rochester looked to pick it up at about the 70th minute mark, as they were still in the game after sitting back for large stretches, creating from corners and looking to put Cooper under pressure, but the defense stood firm.

And then, with six minutes left, came a good chance for the Battery at the other end.

A clumsy foul on the left corner of the box had Justin Portillo at the controls, with the big men coming up from the back. Portillo then used the big bodies as a decoy, playing the ball in low along the floor and past the goalkeeper, who was unsighted by the mass of bodies for the opening goal.

It’s not certain whether Portillo meant for the ball to go straight in or meant for it to take a nick off the attacker from a redirection, but they all count, and the Battery had a lead to defend going into the last five minutes.

It was kitchen sink time for the home side, though, and with four minutes of added on time, the Rhinos had time enough if they could find the good areas. Miles Robinson was in the way to plug up a passing lane before a cross could come in on the stroke of 90′, but the goal kick would go straight back to the home side.

And on 91′, Cooper didn’t claim a cross that he came out for, which gave the home side a great chance through Jalen Brown that looked destined to level it again, only for the captain Taylor Meuller to clear off the line.

The Battery then barely had time to catch their breath before Cooper had to make a reflex save to deny Brown from close range, but he wasn’t able to hold the ball, although Graf put the rebound over the bar.

The last chance came by way of corner in the 94th minute, but the Battery defense stood firm to clear.

And shortly after came the final whistle. The Battery won their first game in their last seven since July 1st, and their first win at Rochester since 2012.

Tbe Battery next face the Richmond Kickers on Saturday, August 26 at 7PM. You can watch it on MyTV Charleston or stream it on the club’s website.

 

TOP IMAGE: ODISNEL COOPER, PICTURED HERE IN A PREVIOUS GAME AGAINST THE RHINOS, MADE A NUMBER OF IMPORTANT SAVES ON THE WAY TO A HARD FOUGHT THREE POINTS. ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY PHOTO.

Battery pegged back through late goal against NYRB

The Charleston Battery conceded a late goal that denied them three points on Saturday against the New York Red Bulls II.

Romario Williams’ return to action also saw his regular strike partner Attaula Guerra in the starting XI. While Tah Brian Anunga  would slide into a more defensive position to cover for the injured Quinton Griffith, meaning Naveal Hackshaw would make the start beside Justin Portillo. 

A great run from Obi Woodbine earned his side a corner in as early as the second minute, though it wouldn’t beat the first man and was cleared away from danger by the travelling defense.

New York’s first look at goal looked to be coming in the 13th minute, when an attacker found himself with a slight window to shoot at Odisnel Cooper’s goal, but Woodbine would come across and shut down the man, and the shot went wide.

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On 20′, an unfortunate bounce from a Forrest Lasso challenge spelled trouble again for the home side, bouncing into the box with a man bearing down on goal, but Cooper was there to make himself big and claim at the striker’s feet.

Three minutes later, it was the Battery who were knocking at the door. A long throw had looked to be dealt with before Maikel Chang latched onto the second ball at the top of the box, flicked the ball past a marker and had a pop at goal. It looked to be destined to cause trouble for the goalkeeper at least, before a defender swung his boot at the ball to clear for a corner, though it was wasted.

Cooper was in trouble again on the half hour mark. A through ball would allow for a shot that went just wide of the far post.

Then, five minutes before half time, the Battery were given a free kick on the left edge of the box roughly 20 yards out. Justin Portillo would be the one to take, wafting the ball in toward the center back, Lasso. He’d get up above his man and whip a snap header toward goal, but couldn’t put in on target and it went over the bar.

Obi Woodbine was then booked for a bit of follow through after losing the ball late on in the first half, and would have to watch himself as the game went on.

But then, finally, the breakthrough. An inch perfect ball from Portillo found Attaula Guerra going through on goal, having stayed onside. Guerra then gave the ‘keeper a bit of the eyes before lifting his head up and seeing an onside Romario Williams at the far post, who controlled and slotted the ball home to put his side in front with his 15th goal this season.

That, in essence, is the composure the Battery have lacked in both player’s absence. Guerra being the creative force behind a team that for a long time led the league in goals scored before the recent barren run, and in Williams, a forward with a nose for goal to put them in, showing just how, with one on the field, they’re in good shape, but with both, they’re a force to be reckoned with.

And that’s how the first half ended. The Battery up 1-0, but they were in need of a second to put distance between themselves and a visiting side who were, at the very least, plucky, giving you no sense they were out of the game whatsoever.

On 48’ the Red Bulls ‘keeper would punch a corner clear, only for Maikel Chang to pick up the second ball and fire at goal. A mix up in communication would lead to a sliced clearance behind for a corner, though the ball looked to be going straight to the ‘keeper. The Battery couldn’t capitalize on their stroke of luck though, as the set piece was cleared.

Guerra was then unlucky not to latch onto a through ball that would’ve left him 1 on 1 with the ‘keeper, the pass this time just being a little over hit

With an hour gone, it was nearly disaster for the home side. A short pass was well under hit by Obi Woodbine, which put the defense under pressure as it went straight to a visiting attacker. The defense would scramble, but it would be Forrest Lasso to clear behind for a corner, which was dealt with well and cleared away.

Four minutes later, a corner was given to the Red Bulls, and, though cleared away, a second ball produced what could’ve been a difficult cross had it not been over hit and out for a goal kick.

On 68′, the Red Bulls took another corner, this time played short, and then into the box on the ground, which created a bit of space for the attacker to have a shot that didn’t trouble Odisnel Cooper.

But on 72′, a bit of luck fell the visitors’ way, when a blocked shot fell to the feet of Stefano Benomo, who shot on the half volley across the goalkeeper Odisnel Cooper and gave him no chance as it nestled into the side netting.

You couldn’t really blame the ‘keeper, as a fortunate bounce off a leg created the chance in the first place, but the Battery had had chances to put the game beyond their opponents, and didn’t take them, which allowed the Red Bulls back into the game as it went on.

The Red Bulls forced a corner two minutes later, but nothing would be made of it.

Five minutes from time, the Battery would earn a free kick, and the big bodies would go forward, including Heviel Cordoves, who replaced Kotaro Higashi as the whistle blew for the set piece. However, it would be dealt with by the defense, and time was running out.

On 87′, Obi Woodbine went in for a challenge, and appeared to have gotten the ball, though the referee was coming from behind the play and adjudged the player to have taken the man, and issued Woodbine a second yellow, which meant the Battery would have to play the remaining three minutes, plus stoppage time, down a man.

The ensuing free kick would lead to naught, but eventually recycled and Justin Portillo was called for a handball from a blocked shot, giving the visitors a free kick just outside the box. It would go straight into the wall and back out as a quick pass found Romario Williams ready to lead a break, but the Red Bulls dispossessed him by way of a kick as it broke down. Williams would then have to receive treatment, but was okay to continue.

Deep into stoppage time, the Red Bulls would have the last chance. Both teams were hoofing the ball up the pitch in hopes of a knock down and shot, but it was the visitors who were the ones to threaten. A long ball across to the left was headed down, and the ensuing shot looked to have beaten Cooper, but thankfully for the Black and Yellow, went wide of the far post.

In the end, it may have been a fair result. There was much huffing and puffing from both teams, but not much in the way of creativity barring the Battery’s goal. The Red Bulls were a bit lucky with the bounce of the ball that led to the equalizer, but as the Battery have benefitted from similar situations before, the visitors kept themselves in the game, and it just shows that anything can happen if you do so.

The Battery play their first of three games away from home against Rochester Rhinos on Saturday August 19, with kick off scheduled for 6:05. You can watch on MyTV Charleston or stream at the club’s website.

ROMARIO WILLIAMS, AIDED BY GREAT PASSES FROM BOTH ATTAULLA GUERRA & JUSTIN PORTILLO IN THE BUILDUP, SCORED HIS 15TH GOAL OF THE YEAR. All photos credit Ross Almers Photography

 

 

 

Battery’s failure to convert leads to loss in Toronto

The Charleston Battery can count themselves unlucky Saturday evening, having lost to Toronto FC II. They had the majority of chances in the game, but were unable to put away their opportunities and were made to pay for it, as a goal at the start of the second half for the hosts was what separated the two teams.

Visa problems meant the Battery were without key players Obi Woodbine, Maikel Chang and Romario Williams, while Jeffrey Otoo was also unavailable. This meant there was another reshuffle in the XI for the Black and Yellow. Odisnel Cooper was in goal, with Skylar Thomas replaced Woodbine at left back, with Tah Brian Anunga, Justin Portillo, Naveal Hackshaw and Kotaro Higashi in midfield, Higashi dropping into his more natural wide position to make up for the loss of Chang, and Attaula Guerra would partner Ricky Garbanzo up front, as the striker Williams would again have to wait for his full return from the Gold Cup after having previously come on as a sub in the previous match.

The game took awhile to get going, and it wasn’t until the 25th minute that the Battery had their first chance of the match. A long ball looking for Garbanzo would eventually fall to the feet of Attaula Guerra, who put a curling effort agonizingly wide of the top left corner.

Three minutes later, Naveal Hackshaw would turn a quick 1-2 on the edge of the box before receiving the ball back on the right of the box, but his low ball across was cut out by the goalkeeper.

Skylar Thomas would earn a corner on the half hour mark, but the set piece was quickly cleared.

On 37′, Garbanzo was involved again, this time playing an inch-perfect ball into Naveal Hackshaw, who would control well but shoot straight at the ‘keeper.

After 42’, Odisnel Cooper looked troubled as he was sent sprawling to his left after an attacker would cut in and have a pop at goal. The ball went wide in the end, but clearly, Cooper was taking no chances.

Kotaro Higashi looked to create on the stroke of half time, holding off his marker on the far touchline before getting to the edge of the box and finding Attaula Guerra, but he couldn’t get the ball out of his feet before swinging his foot toward goal after missing the ball completely and having the chance cleared away.

And in stoppage time in the first half, Higashi would create again, this time finding Quinton Griffith on the overlap, who created space for a shot and forced the goalkeeper into a good save at his near post to keep the scores level.

And so, to end the half, the Battery were the more creative of the two sides, though they would have to put away the chances if they were to get anything from the game.

They came out again on the front foot to start the second 45. Ricky Garbanzo latched onto a ball and created some space for himself on 48′, but his shot was wide of the target.

A minute later, Attaula Guerra would shoot from an angle, but his effort would again drift wide.

And then, the Battery would pay for their failure to convert, as a ball from the middle got in behind the defense, and Shaan Hundal would latch on, taking a touch before slotting the ball home past Cooper in goal.

The ball forward was not unlike Garbanzo’s ball to Hackshaw in the first half, but a better finish was applied, and most would say the goal came against the run of play, with the Battery having finished the opening half, and beginning the second half, creating chances for themselves. In this instance, however, they would learn the importance of taking chances

Shortly after, on 58′, Cooper was forced into a save to deny Toronto insurance, after another long ball fell to Hundal, and Cooper saved at his near post.

The game then began to get bogged down in midfield, with the Battery having most of the possession, but very little chances until they would pile on the pressure late.

The Battery would earn a corner with nine minutes left, which was played in at the back post for Garbanzo, whose curling effort toward the far corner was saved expertly by the goalkeeper and out for another corner, only for the same to happen again, Garbanzo making the run at the back stick, but this time the ball was cleared.

In the 93rd minute, Justin Portillo’s semi-desperate shot from distance would bounce towards the ‘keeper as time would look as if it were running out, but they would get one more chance.

A free kick was given just outside the center circle in the Toronto half, and all the big bodies would go forward. The ball was launched in toward the back post and into the melee of rising bodies in what was probably the best dead ball service of the afternoon. In amongst the bodies, the goalkeeper would come out with a fist to punch, but mistime it, and the ball would roll into the net. However, substitute Nico Rittmeyer would be called for a foul, adjudged to have impeded the ‘keeper’s jump as the ‘keeper fell over Rittmeyer on the way down. This was somewhat strange, as both players were going for the ball, and Rittmeyer was dwarfed in the jump by the ‘keeper, who got a fist to the ball, but mistimed it completely. Given that fact, it remained to be seen what exactly the referee saw himself, but the Battery can feel aggrieved to have been on the end of such a bad call.

Nevertheless, the bad call was necessarily the reason they lost the game, having failed to convert so many chances,  but at such a crucial time in the match, it was the difference between one point and none, and even those can be important at the end of the season when all is said and done.

The Battery next return home to face New York Red Bulls II on August 12th. Kick off is at 7PM, and you can watch it on the club’s website, or on MyTV Charleston.

TOP IMAGE: QUINTON GRIFFITH TRACKS DOWN A BALL IN THE PREVIOUS MEETING BETWEEN THESE TWO SIDES THIS SEASON. CREDIT: ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY 

 

 

Battery share points with Louisville in tense draw

In a top of the table clash in the East on Saturday night, the Charleston Battery were made to settle for a point against Louisville City FC in what was a tense 90 minutes.

The Battery drew first blood midway through the first half as Justin Portillo converted a penalty, only for his side to be pegged back a few minutes later after Ilija Illic cleaned up a rebound from a shot that careened off the post following a corner. The second half saw both sides go back and forth with separate spells of pressure, but neither were able to break the deadlock as they shared the spoils.

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Two changes were made from the team that prevailed against Tampa last week. Romario Williams is currently on national team duty with Jamaica, meaning that Heviel Cordoves was given the start up front. Attaula Guerra re-aggravated an injury in last week’s win, and so Kotaro Higashi played in behind Cordoves.

The away side started the brightest, and could’ve easily been in front in the first minute, when a bouncing ball wasn’t claimed by Odisnel Cooper before it fell on the right for a shot that hit both posts and bounced away before being cleared.

Taylor Mueller was left wanting one back in the eighth minute, after a corner was played toward the center back at the far post which left him with an open header that he completely mistimed. The ball fell in the box and there was still danger before it was cleared away.

And then, after 11 minutes, a Louisville free kick led to a counter for the Battery that initially looked dangerous before breaking down and heading the other way. Cooper was forced into a save to his left as the visitors would surge through the right wing and cut in before having a pop. The ensuing corner was wasted, and we remained scoreless.

However, that would soon change. A Maikel Chang cross from the right searched for Dante Marini in the box, but the winger was taken down in the box, and the referee was quick to point to the spot. Justin Portillo was the man to step up, quickly dispatching the spot kick to give the Battery the lead.

It was their first real chance of the evening after starting rather sluggishly, but they weren’t fussed. It’s the mark of a good team to be clinical, especially when you don’t create a lot of opportunities.

But Louisville were by no means deterred. Looking dangerous straight from the restart and earning themselves a corner in the 27th minute. It was swung in from the right, and a Louisville player rose highest, redirecting the ball onto the post beyond Cooper, before bouncing back into play and being slammed in by Ilija Ilic for the leveler.

It seemed like a bit of a cruel joke at that point, with Louisville hitting both posts earlier in the game, only to be helped by the post in a certain sense to knot the game up again, but while Cooper in goal had already produced a couple of good saves on the evening, he was helpless for the goal itself, having been forced to watch the ball go onto the post, and then taken out of the play completely on the rebound.

Just past the half hour mark, it was Cooper again forced to save to his right, with the Battery seemingly on their heels a bit after previously having been in front, though the defense did well to clear the corner that followed.

A Battery free kick was then easily claimed by Ranjitsingh on 36′, that was wafted in too high for anybody to get on the end of.

And that’s the way the first half would end. A little like last week, both teams lacked a bit of that cutting edge in the final third, which could make or break the game for either side in the end.

Again it was Louisville coming out the strongest in the second half, though they would waste an early corner, and the Battery would come into it a little bit more soon after.

Kotaro Higashi would power up the left wing with some intricate footwork on 51′, though he would go down before being able to get in a cross. The referee would blow his whistle, but not to point to the spot, to book the winger for diving.

Five minutes later came the ever-dangerous Obi Woodbine long throw from the right, though the ‘keeper would claim and avoid danger.

On the hour mark, the Battery would threaten again down the wings, this time on the right, when a Maikel Chang ball flashed across the face of goal, only to not find anybody making the late run into the box to make anything of it.

A corner in the 68th would eventually be cleared by Louisville, as it looked as if the Battery were beginning to turn the screw in search of a winner.

Though Obi Woodbine would get himself into trouble after committing a foul to the right of the box just a minute later, allowing an in-swinging free kick to find its way into the area, but only to be wasted and for the Battery to regroup.

A Maikel Chang free kick in similar position would be wasted in similar fashion when it found its way to the goalkeeper, as time began to run out.

But the Battery had perhaps their best chance of the second half on 77’, when another Obi Woodbine long throw would cause trouble. The throw would be punched away by the goalkeeper, who would collide with the head of Forrest Lasso. The ball itself would ping around the box before falling to Maikel Chang, whose effort seemed destined for the back of the net, only to be cleared off the line by a defender.

Louisville had the chance to steal it a couple minutes later down the other end, when a run all the way down the right wing wasn’t defended well and eventually would force Cooper into a sprawling save to keep the scores level.

Another Woodbine throw wouldn’t cause much trouble with five minutes to go, and so eventually after three minutes of added time, both team would have to settle for the draw.

The result wasn’t the worst for either side. The Battery remain top of the East with 35 points, while Louisville remain 6 points behind them in second place, but with two games in hand. The Battery, of course, will have to look at those two games in hand as wins for Louisville until they’re played, but from Louisville’s standpoint, they’d rather have the points now than have the two extra games.

The Battery next face St. Louis FC on Saturday, July 15th at 8:30PM. The game will be televised on MyTV Charleston, or streamed via the club’s website.

 

TOP IMAGE: FRESH OFF TWO ASSISTS LAST WEEK, MAIKEL CHANG WAS AGAIN IMPRESSIVE AS A FOCAL POINT IN THE BATTERY’S ATTACK IN THEIR DRAW AGAINST LOUISVILLE. ALL PHOTOS 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

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.