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.

 

Second half goals earn Battery a point in Cincy

The Battery went into Saturday looking to make amends for a midweek Cup loss to Atlanta United, but with FC Cincinnati the opponent away from home, it wasn’t going to be an easy task. The match would be up and down throughout, eventually finishing 2-2.

There were three changes to the side that lost in Georgia in midweek, with Tah Brian Anunga filling in at right back and Quinton Griffith replacing Obi Woodbine at left back.  Justin Portillo was back in midfield, after a knock kept him out of the Cup match on Wednesday, while Romario Williams returned following international duty with Jamaica.

The two teams would start slowly before a free kick was given to the hosts in the third minute, setting up the first chance of the evening from about 40 yards out on the right. Cincinnati would send the big bodies forward as an in-swinger was wafted in at the back post. Odisnel Cooper came to claim the ball, but an attacker would just nick the ball on wth a flick header before Cooper could reach for the ball, which would fall to striker Djibi Fall to head into the empty net.

There may have been a hint of offside about it, as the attacker looked to be behind Naveal Hackshaw when receiving the ball. The header on that beat Cooper would’ve made that another phase of play, in which the attacker did seem to drift offside. The goal was given though, and the Battery found themselves with an early deficit.

The visitors were lucky to not be two down after 10′, when Danni Konig flashed a shot wide of Cooper’s far post, which is a chance he seemed certain to finish having been in solid form coming into the game.

Ricky Garbanzo and his strike partner Williams combined for a slick one-two just a short while later, but the goalkeeper, Mitch Hildebrandt, was there to intercept before a proper chance could be fashioned.

Dante Marini would win the ball back on the right flank and slide the ball into Kotaro Higashi at the top of the box, and the winger would just try and wrap his foot around the ball in a curling effort, but his shot would go straight to the ‘keeper.

Patient buildup from the Black and Yellow found Romario Williams in the box a short time later, but the Battery’s leading scorer couldn’t direct his header on goal.

On 25’, Williams would win a free kick on the right, which would be taken by set-piece specialist Portillo and find Taylor Mueller at the back stick, only for the defender to direct his header wide, despite doing well to get above his marker and create the opportunity.

Ten minutes before half time, Dante Marini would have a handball claim shot down by the ref, and a promising chance would then break down after too much time was taken around the box.

Shortly after, Williams and Higashi would combine in the box, before a ball across found Ricky Garbanzo, who couldn’t quite turn to get the shot away.

But in first half stoppage time, Jimmy McGlaughlin’s shot after a great run down the left would force Odisnel Cooper to palm a shot onto the post and behind for a corner, though the set piece would eventually be collected and danger would be averted.

And so, the Battery would find themselves down at half time, though it wasn’t for the want of trying. Despite going behind through the early goal, the Battery had the most meaningful of possession, but couldn’t convert that possession into clear cut opportunities, obviously something they would have to work on if they were to get anything from the match.

And the search would continue in earnest when Quinton Griffith would get a shot off on 46′, but his effort would go high over the bar.

In the 50th, a Battery counter was led by Naveal Hackshaw and would fall to Williams on the edge of the box, but he couldn’t find room to get a shot away as two defenders would descend upon him. The striker would eventually be booked after giving away a foul and allowing Cincy respite from the pressure.

Six minutes later, Tah Brian Anunga would go on a great run to the byline on the right, crossing in for Williams in the middle of the box, but he couldn’t get any purchase on the first time shot as Hildebrandt would collect.

On 58′, Tah and Williams would combine again, but the header from the striker would be off target.

Djibi Fall could’ve doubled his tally, and his side’s lead on 64′, when he got behind Forrest Lasso to connect with a cross deep inside the box, but his header would flash wide of the target.

And just two minutes later, he would live to rue the miss. Ricky Garbanzo would find Romario Williams from the right, who would just get ahead of his man to toe poke the ball past the ‘keeper and into the far post, putting the Battery level with his 12th goal of the campaign, continuing his great start to the season.

The goal was deserved for the Battery at this stage, as they continued to pile on pressure in the search for a leveler. Finally, the dam broke, and they found themselves with a goal, and ample time to add to it as well.

Shortly after, Obi Woodbine would replace Tah Brian Anunga, going into the left back position, with Quinton Griffith sliding over to the opposite flank.

But Djibi Fall could’ve put his side back ahead only five minutes later, when he got in behind Forrest Lasso and looked to be 1-on-1 with Cooper before the defender made a great last ditch challenge to clear away for a corner, which Cooper claimed from a Cincinnati header.

The Battery found themselves with a throw in level with the six yard box on the left, which left Obi Woodbine with the opportunity for a long throw into the box on 71’. The ball found the head of Naveal Hackshaw, who flicked it on for Forrest Lasso, who provided the first time finish to put the Battery ahead 2-1.

There’s an old adage that if you wait long enough for one bus, two will come along at once, and the Battery had that feeling after working so hard for the equalizer, only to find themselves with one goal so quickly after the equalizer.

With just under a quarter of an hour to go, Djibi Fall looked to get his head to a cross in the box, but a foul was given before there was danger to Odisnel Cooper’s goal.

And on 78′, another Woodbine throw looked dangerous as it fell in the box, but a shot would be blocked by a horde of defenders before it went out on the other side and was eventually cleared.

The home side would eventually find an equalizer of their own when, with ten minutes to go, the Battery couldn’t clear the ball before it fell to Andrew Weidemann, who took a touch to control, turn and then fire past Cooper all on the volley to level.

It was unfortunate for the visitors, who had worked so hard to be in the position they were in, but especially with a team as dangerous as Cincinnati, when they piled on the pressure, the defense had to remain vigilant, and were perhaps guilty of not clearing the ball away despite the great work from the goalscorer to level.

But there were chances in the game yet.

Heviel Cordoves and Maikel Chang would come on, replacing Ricky Garbanzo and Dante Marini in the last ten minutes, and it was Cordoves who could’ve provided some heroics for his side in stoppage time, rising to meet a cross into the box for a free header, but it lacked power and went straight into the arms of Mitch Hildebrandt.

And that’s how the match finished. A point at a noisy Nippert Stadium, with the atmosphere, and Cincy having just come off of a Cup win against Columbus, wasn’t the worst result, but having come from behind to lead, it was a painful result nonetheless. However, the Battery remained top in the East after Tampa Bay would draw, but Louisville’s 3-0 win over Pittsburgh took them into second place, three points behind us with two games in hand.

The Battery return home Saturday, June 24th, taking on Toronto FC II. Kickoff is at 7PM, and you can watch the match on MyTV Charleston, or Stream it via the club’s website.

TOP IMAGE: THE BATTERY DEFEND A CROSS IN THIS SEASON’S PREVIOUS MEETING WITH FC CINCY. ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY PHOTO

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 get revenge on Jacksonville to advance in Open Cup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Williams the difference in battle with Bethlehem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

Lasso header the difference as Battery beat St. Louis

Forrest Lasso‘s header from a Justin Portillo free kick midway through the second half was what gave the Charleston Battery the three point Saturday night, earning a hard-fought win over St. Louis FC.

The goal came after the Battery could’ve had a few by half time even came, if not for a mixture of good defending and a bit of luck on the side of the visitors, but the Portillo-Lasso connection, one that’s paid dividends on more than a few occasions this campaign, would come through again for the Black and Yellow, keeping them top in the Eastern Conference.

Afternoon rain gave way to Evening sunshine, and the Battery would make three changes to the team that beat Bethlehem last week. Tah Brian Anunga and Kotaro Higashi coming back into the side, whilst Romario Williams returned from illness, and Dante Marini would keep his place, but would switch wings to cover for Maikel Chang, who picked up a slight hip injury in the game last week and was listed on the bench.

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The home side were on the attack as early as the second minute, with the striker Williams playing through for Higashi who would overlap, and while he took his first touch in stride, his second left a defender with an opportunity to get back. and the chance would go begging.

Dante Marini and Obi Woodbine would soon combine to begin a counter that would fall to Williams on the left in a dangerous position, but his cross into the box would be too flat and was cleared away.

Marini would be involved again on 13′, playing a great ball in for Romario Williams that he took down expertly, but a slight bobble would mean that he would have to take his shot almost on the half volley, and he got no power on the effort, though forced the goalkeeper into his first save of the evening.

Three minutes later, it would be Guerra and Williams combining  after the midfielder would send a great ball into his teammate, though it was similar to the Higashi chance in that Williams’ first touch would be great, but his second would force him wide, and though one on one with the ‘keeper, the angle was tough to get a decent shot off, and his effort would go into the side netting.

With just under half an hour gone, Higashi was troubling the defense again, getting to the byline before playing the ball low back across looking for the onrushing assistance of his teammates, though the cross would be deflected behind for a corner, and then cleared away from the set piece.

But the danger would come down the right a short time later, this time through the full back, Woodbine, who sent a dangerous ball in across the face of goal, taking a bounce before the oncoming Williams would track it down on the left and lay the ball off for the inward run of Dante Marini, who would run directly toward goal and sting the palms of the goalkeeper, who was forced into a save before the ball was cleared.

Romario Williams would then take a through ball wide on 39′, cutting in and having a pop at goal, which went behind for a corner. The out-swinger from the left looked menacing, with the ball bouncing around and causing havoc in the area, but it was eventually cleared by the defenders.

Three minutes before half time, the Battery would force another corner, and this time someone was able to steer it on target, only for the ball, which looked destined for the bottom corner, to be cleared off the line by a defender covering the far post.

So, given the chances, the home side could’ve found themselves up at the break, especially with the chance that was cleared off the line, but the teams would go in level at the break.

The visitors would come out in the second half with their tails up, however, earning a free kick within the first five minutes, but the Battery defense would remain stout, and would smuggle the ball clear.

A St. Louis cross on 53’ was eerily similar to the Woodbine cross for the Black and Yellow earlier on, but no one would be there to connect and the chance would break down.

A Quinton Griffith cross just before the hour mark would be cleared away, only to fall to Dante Marini, who would lay off for Obi Woodbine. Woodbine’s shot is known to be particularly lethal if he can keep it on target, but the ‘keeper was able to get himself behind the effort to produce a save.

And then, on 62’, came the breakthrough. Woodbine was again involved, going on a pacey run down the flank before cutting in and forcing the defender into a challenge, which the referee adjudged to have been a foul about 35-40 yards from goal.

Up stepped Justin Portillo to the controls, and with the center backs, Lasso and Mueller creeping their way into the box, you would put good money on them making a nuisance of themselves if the chance provided itself.

And so it did. The ball had just enough height on it to trouble the defense, but pin the ‘keeper to his line, and Lasso got his head to the ball, which went into the ground and past the goalkeeper and defender on the line and up into the top corner to give the Battery the lead. The goal was Lasso’s fourth this season, and the assist was Portillo’s fifth, with that combination paying dividends not for the first time this campaign.

And four minutes later, the Battery could’ve had another. A great cross from Romario Williams found the onrushing Woodbine, but he was forced to take the shot on the volley, and the effort went wide.

A St. Louis free kick on 68’ would see Tah Brian Anunga find his way into the book, but the chance wouldn’t trouble Odisnel Cooper in goal.

On 74′, Dante Marini would be replaced by Maikel Chang. Marini put in a very impressive shift, putting himself about and creating and getting on the end of a couple chances, earning himself a well-deserved rest.

Six minutes from time came the best chance for the Black and Yellow to double the lead. The substitute Chang would find Justin Portillo, who had a shot saved and smuggled clear for a corner that looked like it found Anunga, who connected on the volley which cracked the bar and fell back out into the path of Romario Williams, who before he could turn, looked to have been fouled. The referee was unmoved and decided against pointing to the spot, but the chance wasn’t gone and fell to Maikel Chang, whose curling effort looked destined to trouble the ‘keeper before just creeping over the bar.

Quinton Griffith would have to be replaced due to injury by Skylar Thomas shortly after, as the full back would go down under a challenge and seemed to have a muscle issue.

Attaula Guerra would then be brought off for Ricky Garbanzo shortly before four minutes of stoppage time were signaled by the fourth official. Full time came shortly after, giving the Battery all three points.

The result means the Battery remain top of the Eastern conference, but they go into a difficult four game away run, including their first foray into this year’s edition of the US Open Cup against the Atlanta Silverbacks, their next match, which is on Wednesday, May 18. Kick off is at 3:30.

TOP IMAGE: FORREST LASSO CELEBRATES WITH FANS AFTER PUTTING HIS TEAM IN FRONT. ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY

Guerra’s first half strike pushes Battery past Steel

The Charleston Battery remain top in the East after prevailing over the Bethlehem Steel by a score of 1-0.

The goal came courtesy of Attaula Guerra, who bundled home at the back post after a flick on from a Quinton Griffith cross. Both sides had chances to add to the scoring, but the Battery were able to hold on, and after Tampa Bay dropped points against Ottawa earlier, they now sit two points clear at the top of the Eastern Conference.

The Battery made three changes to the side that drew 2-2 with Ottawa, with Dante Marini and Naveal Hackshaw both coming back in after Kotaro Higashi and Tah Brian Anunga had previously had a run of games each. There was also an enforced change in the way of top scorer Romario Williams, who missed the match through illness and would have to be replaced by Heviel Cordoves.

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Cordoves would create a half chance for himself in the tenth minute, as he would surge his way into the box after receiving the ball wide. The striker would make his way into the box with defenders on him, only to get the ball stuck between his feet. He would still find space and time to power a shot toward goal, but it would be deflected by a defender, who by that stage was able to get in front of the effort and reset himself. The ball would then ricochet off the legs of the defender and toward Attaula Guerra, but his effort would then be blocked before the Steel would scramble clear.

Just past the quarter of an hour mark, the visitors were threatening after getting a free kick just about 20 yards out. The referee blew his whistle, and the Steel had apparently decided to try one from the training ground, as there were two men over the ball, with one leaving it, becoming a decoy and running over the ball before it was eventually hit wide, and thus would go out for a goal kick on the near side.

And then, on 18′, the Battery would find the breakthrough. Quinton Griffith would make a great run to the byline before finding room to almost lollipop a cross toward Heviel Cordoves at the near post. The ball was just a bit too high for the striker to get much of an effort on it, but he was able to flick it on, which allowed the oncoming Attaula Guerra to bundle it over the line at the back post and put the hosts ahead.

The goal was Guerra’s third of the campaign as he continues to impress in that role just behind the striker, and was showing that even without his usual partner in crime, he could still find a way to give a meaningful contribution to the team.

The Battery earned a corner just after the half hour mark, which fell in the box and was redirected on goal in the melee only to be blocked away, not once, but twice, before being cleared by the visitors.

And then, the next real chance would then fall to the Steel. Midfielder Marcus Epps would hold the ball up before playing a cheeky little one-two, before finding himself in the box and using strength to separate himself from the defenders before curling a shot toward the far post that looked destined to draw the game level before bouncing just wide.

That’s how we went in at the break. The Battery did deserve the lead, but were left wondering if the other missed chances would come back to haunt them.

The halftime festivities were a treat, with Ricky Garbanzo completing a crossbar challenge, meaning that the Battery would give away $1000 to Keeper of The Wild, this week’s nonprofit of the match.

The match lulled slightly at the beginning of the second half, with a 66th minute Bethlehem free kick only finding its way into the gator pond being the only thing of note early on.

Kotaro Higashi would replace Maikel Chang, and nearly find a way to seal the points for the Black and Yellow on 83′, getting past his man with a bit of trickery, but his cutback with the ball right on the end line found no one crashing in, and the ball was cleared.

This eventually led to a corner for the visitors with six minutes to go, which wasn’t too dissimilar to the Battery’s chance at that end in the first half. The ball would fall to a man and find its way toward goal, and Odisnel Cooper would initially struggle to clear before the play was blown up as the ‘keeper had caught a kick to the stomach.

The Battery had one last chance to add to their tally in stoppage time, when Quinton Griffith went on a signature surging run, finding space and having a pop at goal, but the ball would find its way just over the bar.

After the five added minutes were up, the whistle blew, giving the Black and Yellow the three points, and keeping them top of the Eastern Conference.

The Battery next face St. Louis FC at home on May 13. The match is Military night, meaning that the Battery will wear special Digi-camo tops in honor of those who serve. You can watch the match on MyTV Charleston, or stream it on the club’s website.

TOP IMAGE: GOALSCORER ATTAULA GUERRA SHAPES UP TO STRIKE. PHOTOS COURTESY OF ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY