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 

 

 

Subs shine as Battery earn late point against Riverhounds

Maikel Chang‘s 83rd minute equalizer meant the Charleston Battery took a point from the final game of a three-match road trip Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.

The visitors would open the scoring when Miles Robinson climbed highest to meet a Justin Portillo corner early on, but Victor Souto would respond with a back post volley on 20′. Corey Hertzog would expertly bend one into the top corner from an improbable angle midway through the second half, before Chang would set up a give-and-go with Attaula Guerra, eventually slotting home with seven minutes left.

Miles Robinson would come into the side after replacing Forrest Lasso near the end of the loss in Tampa, while Skylar Thomas would slot in at right back. Quinton Griffith and Maikel Chang were on the flanks, while Portillo and Tah Brian Anunga were in the middle. Up top was the pairing of Naveal Hackshaw and Ricky Garbanzo, one that seemed a little odd, but showed effectiveness at times throughout the night. Last week’s standout Lagos Kunga was on the bench, as was Jarad van Schaik and Attaula Guerra, having both overcome injuries to feature in the 18. Heviel Cordoves and Kotaro Higashi rounded out the substitutes, meaning there was no shortage of viable options as has sometimes been the case this year.

Acclimatizing to the turf proved a bit tricky in the early goings, when Romeo Parkes would beat his marker Robinson to the ball and volley toward goal with an unorthodox over the head effort that went narrowly wide in the 6th minute.

A couple minutes later, it was Hertzog who would create a chance as he clattered the bar after holding his run up and staying onside, leaving the defenders confused, but the Battery would survive.

And not too long after, they found themselves in front. Another expert cross from a corner by Justin Portillo connected with Miles Robinson, who rose highest to power a header into the back of the net.

The goal perhaps came against the run of play, but having scored their first goal in three games after going scoreless in losses to St. Louis & Tampa, they weren’t too bothered. The assist for Portillo was his sixth of the year, breaking a tie for the team lead with Maikel Chang on five.

But unfortunately, the lead wouldn’t last. The game got a bit bogged down in midfield until Pittsburgh would force a corner of their own in the 21st. The set-piece got a little flick on before finding Victor Souto at the back post unmarked to volley home.

The defense were asking questions of each other, but would have to take joint responsibility for poor marking. In the end, no matter the confusion, someone has to mark the man, and leaving someone open at the back post was something that would frustrate coach Mike Anheuser to no end.

The Battery could’ve been back in front a few minutes later however, when a Portillo free kick again found Robinson drifting at the back post, but this time he was coming down by the time he latched onto the ball, and the shot lacked power.

The ball would ping itself into a dangerous area for the home side just past the half hour mark, which would eventually fall to a Riverhounds attacker, but his shot on the turn from just outside the box would be right at Tambakis.

Maikel Chang led a counter on 33′ where he could’ve taken a shot himself, but instead sprayed wide to Quinton Griffith, who laid off for the onrushing Justin Portillo. His effort toward the bottom corner was saved, as it seemed as if the Battery’s recent struggles to find the perfect pass were settling back in.

They would keep applying pressure though, as, soon after, Ricky Garbanzo won the ball high up the pitch in a tackle before laying off to Naveal Hackshaw, who perhaps had a little more time, but dragged his shot wide.

On 41′ Tambakis would do well to claim a dangerous ball in the middle of the box before a Riverhounds attacker could pounce, as the end of the first half went started to go back and forth.

A couple minutes later came a chance at the other end as Quinton Griffith sent a bouncing through ball to the feet of Ricky Garbanzo, who sent it just inches over the bar.

And that’s how the first half ended. It was an entertaining first half, and there was much to play for. The Battery could be happy that they’d ended their mini goal drought, but there was still work to do.

The second half started as the first one ended, the home side creating little half chances, Washington sending the ball dangerously across the face, but no one would claim. While at the other end for the visitors, Taylor Mueller would snap a stooping header toward goal, only for it to narrowly go wide of the far post.

Corey Hertzog forced a handball on 56′, but the ensuing free kick would be cleared out of danger.

However, Hertzog wasn’t to be kept quiet. A throw in on 61′ wasn’t dealt with defensively, and the striker took advantage of the ‘keeper expecting a cross to fake him out and bend one into the far corner and in.

Whilst the defending was slack in trying to close the man down, no one would’ve expected a shot like that, partially because it requires a ball to be so well struck to attempt it. But nevertheless, the Battery were behind, and had again to pick themselves up.

The boss’s response to this was to throw on the big guns. He made a double switch not too long after, bringing on Attaula Guerra and Heviel Cordoves.

Guerra would quickly make his mark on proceedings, linking up play quicker and getting into better spaces on and off the ball, which is something the Battery had missed since he’s been out with a recurring thigh problem.

On 76’ came a great chance, when Guerra would turn his man and play an incisive ball in toward Cordoves, who couldn’t stretch out enough to make contact to equalize.

Three minutes later, Guerra would again create, getting a flick on from a Battery Free kick, which was saved.

Chang would receive the ball and take a shot from the left shortly after, but it wouldn’t trouble the ‘keeper and went wide.

Kotaro Higashi would be the Battery’s final sub, replacing Tah Brian Anunga with 10 minutes left. The thought being that perhaps Guerra would go further forward to partner Cordoves, while Higashi would go wide, and Chang more central to become a little more creative. It made sense given the Battery’s predicament, and it was surely all hands on deck for the visitors.

Tambakis was forced into an important save from distance on 82, but conceded a corner that was eventually cleared.

And it was possibly made more important by what would happen next. Maikel Chang and Attaula Guerra would play a 1-2 at the top of the box, which resulted in Chang going free of his marker and smashing it in far post for the equalizer.

A breath of relief seemed to sweep through the side as two of the main attacking influences would combine, but the work wasn’t done just yet.

Chang had a shot blocked and forced clear with roughly three minutes to go, as the Battery looked for a winner now at the death.

But the home side would force a corner, which was taken short and played in only for Tambakis to collect with two minutes of normal time to go.

Three minutes of stoppage time were signaled by the referee, and Pittsburgh would earn another free kick in the 91st, but the set piece was again collected by Tambakis.

Shortly after, the final whistle blew. The Battery can be pleased with the result, having stopped a two-game losing streak, and playing much better than they had in the two previous games, with more possession and more creativity.

The Battery next return home Saturday, July 29 to play Orlando City B. Kickoff is at 7PM, and you can watch the match on MyTV Charleston or stream it at the club’s website.

TOP IMAGE: MAIKEL CHANG’S 83rd MINUTE EQUALIZER GAVE THE BATTERY A POINT IN PITTSBURGH TONIGHT. PHOTO CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY PHOTO

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 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 pegged back by Louisville in 8 goal Thriller

The Charleston Battery drew with Louisville City FC on Saturday night sharing the points in a 4-4 goalfest. The Battery took three two-goal leads at different points in the evening, but lady luck would show its hand against the Battery throughout the night, as two goals off of wicked deflections and an OG from Forrest Lasso gave Louisville a way back into the match at different points, while Brian Ownby would play a part in what was, from a visiting perspective, a great fight back.

It was a now almost regular starting XI for the Black and Yellow, who were a part of MUSC Health Stadium’s second live match of the evening, after WPSL side the Charleston Fleet would win their inaugural game, defeating the Carolina Rapids by a score of 1-0.

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Odisnel Cooper kept his place in goal, while Skylar Thomas was in for regular starter Quinton Griffith, while Forrest Lasso and Taylor Meuller were the center backs, alongside Obi Woodbine at right back. Justin Portillo and Tah Brian Anunga continued in front of the back four, while Maikel Chang and Kotaro Higashi were on the flanks. The only other change being Heviel Cordoves under Romario Williams up front, after Williams’ usual strike partner, Attaula Guerra was out through a groin problem picked up in the Battery’s 1-0 win over Jacksonville in the US Open Cup.

An early foul gave the visitors a chance in the first minute, but while the free kick looked dangerous, it went straight into the wall.

Louisville continued to pile on the pressure early, as they sent the ball across from the right and forced Cooper to punch the ball away to avoid danger.

But the tables would quickly turn, as Kotaro Higashi would receive a long ball on the left flank before squaring up to his marker and moving the ball inside, dribbling into the box. He would then get some space, looking all the while like he was angling to take aim at goal, before lifting his head up and finding the striker Williams, who, though given a tight angle, would round the goalkeeper and shoot. The effort found its way on target, and despite the best efforts of an on-rushing defender, the ball would squeeze all the way over the line, giving the hosts a 1-0 lead.

The score was perhaps flattering given Louisville’s fast start, but despite the better of possession, only forced the defense to clear just that once before the opener.

It was in the 23rd minute that Louisville would have another dangerous looking free kick, but it would again be blocked by the wall and cleared away.

With just over a half an hour gone, the Battery doubled their lead. Romario Williams was in again, and this time would produce something special. He would receive the ball in midfield and drive at the defense, before doing a cheeky little step-over and winding up from a good 25 yards out. The shot was too powerful for the Louisville ‘keeper and found its way into the back of the net for 2-0.

But the visitors would find a way back into it, and perhaps at the worst possible time for the Battery, right before half time.

A Louisville corner from the right would curl in and then be cleared, though Louisville would reset and look for a ball back in. The cross initially looked flat, but took a wicked deflection and found its way past a sprawling Odisnel Cooper, who was at the near post keeping track of the cross, and though he made his best effort, couldn’t quite get across to keep the ball out.

Though the Black and Yellow went in at half time a goal up, the Louisville goal just before the break would put a seed of doubt in the home team’s mind, and it would be up to them to renew their two goal advantage in the second half.

It wouldn’t take long. Kotaro Higashi found himself at the top of the box on 48’ before laying off to Maikel Chang, who was unlucky not to find space to take aim at goal, but was able to complete a 1-2 with Higashi before receiving the ball again, this time creating a window to shoot before firing past the ‘keeper.

Now at 3-1, the Battery looked to go for the jugular. Chang would trick past his man on the right and play the ball in the box just two minutes later, but it was cleared before it could find its way toward Cordoves in the box.

But then, on the hour mark, Louisville would give themselves another lifeline, after George Davis IV would find himself at the top of the box with space for a shot, and once again, a defender would get his body in the way, though the deflection would only force the ball toward goal and past Cooper for 3-2.

The Battery didn’t at all look dazed by the scoreline, but would have to keep their heads if they were going to hold on.

Three minutes later, the home side found themselves in another dangerous position, as a corner was flicked on at the front post, though no one was there to finish, and the chance would go begging.

Skylar Thomas would pick up an injury and eventually would have to be replaced in the 71st by Quniton Griffith. A change at the back isn’t something that you would like to happen, as it can sometimes mess with the chemistry of the backline, especially at this stage of the game, but given the injury, it was needs must for the Battery.

But two minutes later, the Battery would find their two goal lead once again restored. Obi Woodbine would find the ball after some great buildup and possession on the left before he would run all the way to the byline and pull the ball back for a wide open Ricky Garbanzo, who would convert a tap-in for the Battery’s 4th.

Garbanzo doesn’t score many, and you could see how much the goal meant to him as he celebrated along the touchline in the hopes that he’d put the Battery on the game beyond the visitors.

But still, Louisville weren’t out of it. Bryan Ownby would go on a mazy run through the middle, and wouldn’t be closed down, taking a shot from the right side of the box which gave Odisnel Cooper no chance, once again giving Louisville a way back.

And with nine minutes left, hearts would sink. It started with a Battery corner that was bundled clear, and suddenly Louisville would find themselves on the break. The ball was crossed into the front post, which Forrest Lasso would stick a leg out to clear, but he was unable to get any air on the clearance as it would trickle off his foot and into the goal.

It was unlucky for the Battery, who after going two goals up on three occasions, thought they had the game under control, only for it to finally slip at the last.

And yet, it could’ve gotten worse. A cross from the right went all the way through and seemed to have only required a touch for the visitors to find themselves in front with what could’ve been the last attack of the day, but went out for a goal kick.

And that was the way it ended. The Battery were sure to find themselves speechless at the way the game had transpired, but from a certain point of view, were quite unlucky. Two of the goals conceded were from deflections that left Odisnel Cooper helpless, and another was an own goal. Some would find those instances to be avoidable, yet you would expect every player to be prepared to put their body on the line to avoid danger, even if the results had consequences.

The next match is against Richmond at home on June 10th. You can watch the Match on MyTV Charleston or stream online at the club’s website.

TOP IMAGE: KOTARO HIGASHI, WHO EARNED TWO ASSISTS, ONE IN EACH HALF, ON SATURDAY NIGHT, STRIDES AWAY FROM A MARKER EARLY ON. ALL PHOTOS CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY AND ZACH BLAND

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