Battery frustrated in scoreless draw with Orlando

The Charleston Battery hoped a return home for the first match in three games would provide an upturn in fortunes after a demoralizing winless away trip, but they ended Saturday’s match with Orlando City B possibly even more agitated than before, as the match ended 0-0.

There were again changes to the XI, with Odisnel Cooper reclaiming his place in goal, while Forrest Lasso returned at center back beside Taylor Mueller, and the same could be said for Quinton Griffith at left back. Jarad van Schaik made his first start since re-signing with the Black and Yellow, while Naveal Hackshaw was pulled back into midfield beside Justin Portillo in his more natural position after playing behind the striker against Pittsburgh. Kotaro Higashi played underneath Heviel Cordoves. Fans wanting to see striker Romario Williams after having returned from Gold Cup duty would have to wait a bit longer, as he started the game on the bench, likely in an effort to ease him back into the swing of things and make sure the legs didn’t get too tight after so many games in quick succession in Jamaica’s run to the Final. The bench would also include the likes of Attaula Guerra, Tah Brian Anunga, Ricky Garbanzo and Lagos Kunga, so there was no shortage of attacking options for the home side.

The Battery started off the brighter of the two sides, forcing a corner in the opening ten minutes, for it only to be cleared away without beating the first man. The shot back in from the edge of the box fell to Heviel Cordoves, who calmly stuck it in the net, but was adjudged to be offside.

Odisnel Cooper was forced into his first save of the evening from a Danny Deakin effort from the left edge of the box. Cooper struggled to hang onto the ball, but would smother before his attempted save could cause a rebound.

Forrest Lasso got himself into a spot of bother when he hacked at a sliding clearance away that only ricocheted into the path of another Orlando player and would eventually lead to a shot from Hadji Berry that Cooper would have to be quick off his line to smother. A rebound would find the feet of Scott Thomsen, but his effort would go high over the bar.

The Battery would begin to create more as the half wore on, and earned a corner on 42′, but it would only be cleared before a foul was given to alleviate pressure.

A minute later came the biggest chance of the game yet. A long ball over the top gave Cordoves the chance to run onto it, and he would outmuscle a man to go one-on-one with the on-rushing goalkeeper. He would then attempt to chip as the ‘keeper made himself big, but couldn’t get the ball over his outstretched arm and the chance was gone.

And that was the end of the first half. The Battery were finding spaces to create and getting half chances, but were sloppy in the final third, and would have to put that right to force anything from the game.

On 52′, the Battery would again threaten. A free kick was played into the back post, but was cleared away before finding the feet of Maikel Chang, who again played into the back stick, this time finding Forrest Lasso, who couldn’t direct his header on target.

After the chance came the arrival of Romario Williams, having had his ease back into the side cut short by the lack of clear cut opportunities in front of goal. The home side were hoping that the return of their top goalscorer could spark some life into an attack that had been skiddish to say the least since his departure for the Gold Cup.

But Orlando would have other ideas. A bouncing ball across the 12 yard box found Austin Martz, a full back who had ventured up the touchline, and but for the fact that he couldn’t keep his shot down, the home side would’ve been behind 1-0.

A Battery corner on the hour mark spelled danger but only to be cleared first time as players visibly began to get frustrated. There were more fouls going in as the game went on, and the game began to get bogged down in midfield and became a bit stop-start because of all this. Not the best scenario for a team that was in serious need to relax, but in the current run of form, they would understandably find that hard to come by.

Lagos Kunga would come on to make his home debut after 62 minutes, replacing Jarad van Schaik. For just being back, van Schaik looked sharp. His passing ability on display as he would do his best to link up play, but Kunga was on to add a bit of speed and directness to the attack, which the Battery needed if they were going to get over the line.

He had one or two decent touches before he had a look at goal when, on 71′,  Romario Williams would square up to his man on the wing before slotting a ball across. The ball would take a deflection off an opponent’s leg before Kunga would receive it roughly 12 yards out. The winger took a little bit too much time on it though, and it would be hacked only as far as Maikel Chang, though he couldn’t quite get the ball under his spell either, and the chance was gone.

Orlando had a chance at the other end with just over 10 minutes to go when a corner refused to be fully cleared and pinballed its way around the box, only to end up on top of the net for a goal kick.

Orlando would again threaten from a corner in the 80th minute, but it would be cleared before any trouble was caused.

On 83’, came the last real chance to score. Chang squared up with his defender on the right before trying to curl one into the far corner that was only blocked. The ball would fall to him farther in however, but his rebounded shot would also be blocked and behind for a corner.

The set piece would actually find the head of an attacker and looked destined for the net, but it was cleared off the line.

In the end, it finished 0-0. It was somewhat agonizing for the Battery, who were offside no less than eight times in the match despite showing a little bit of creativity from Chang and Portillo, except that they lacked again the cutting edge that would find them the winner.

The Battery next face Toronto FC II on Saturday, August 5th at 4:30 PM. You can watch it on MyTV Charleston or online at the club’s Website

PHOTO CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY

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 share points with Louisville in tense draw

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Battery’s late push the difference in win over Rowdies

It was a war of attrition for most of the evening, but two goals in the last 20 minutes were what separated the Charleston Battery and the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Saturday night.

It was Odisnel Cooper in goal again, with his normal backline of Quinton Griffith, Forrest Lasso, Taylor Mueller and Obi Woodbine in front of him. Justin Portillo and Tah Brian Anunga were in the middle, with Maikel Chang and Dante Marini on the flanks. Attaula Guerra made his first start since injuring his groin against Jacksonville Armada in the US Open Cup, giving Romario Williams his usual strike partner back again.

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It was a battle between the first and third placed team in the Eastern conference respectfully, and there was much anticipation from fans going into the match. The first meeting between these two sides ended in a tense 3-2 win for the Battery, and both sides expected a similar contest tonight.

The Battery had a corner cleared as early as the first minute, though despite the home side pushing in the opening minutes, much of the first half was a back and forth in which there was a lot of effort, but not many chances.

Quinton Griffith cut inside from the right wing and had a shot toward the far corner in the 17th minute, only to watch it go well over the bar without troubling the ‘keeper Perkins.

Then, in the 25th, a corner cleared by the Battery defense led to a counter led by Maikel Chang, who powered his way up to to the edge of the box before playing toward the striker Williams, only for the ‘keeper to intercept before any immediate danger was caused.

Five minutes later with a half an hour gone, Attaula Guerra would play the ball into the box for Williams, but the first touch let him down, and his shot from the left foot would be deflected by a defender harmlessly into the goalkeeper’s arms.

Tah Brian Anunga would lead a counter on 39’ that he took all the way to the byline on the right before having a shot that would be saved by the ‘keeper, only to rebound into the path of Attaula Guerra, who seemed certain to mark his return to the starting XI with a goal, but he couldn’t control the ball and the effort lacked power and was saved somewhat easily by the sprawling goalkeeper again.

Tampa’s first real sight at goal came on the stroke of half time, when a free kick in a dangerous position went high over the bar without posing much trouble to Odisnel Cooper in goal, and we would eventually go in at Half Time scoreless.

While it wasn’t what you would call a sleepy first half, given that there was much in the way of aggression between the two sides, there was much to be had in the way of being clinical in the second 45. Both teams seemed content to let the other come at them, and neither had really gained a foothold in the game as a result. Both sides knew they would have to improve if that were to change.

Kotaro Higashi would replace Attaula Guerra at half-time, and there was one or two signs that he had re-aggravated the groin injury with that late first half chance. One would hope the sub was just precautionary, though Higaashi had his own set of tools to bring to the game, and he would hope to make an impact off the bench.

Though it was Tampa that were the first to threaten. Midfielder Darwin Jones would power his way into the box and around two defenders before forcing Odisnel Cooper into a good save toward his left. While the save may have looked routine, it was made difficult by the Battery shotstopper leaning the other way and having to contort himself to come back to the left as the attacker looked to have given him the eyes, and was made even better by the fact that the arm to the left was powerful enough to force the ball out of a place of immediate danger, preventing a chance rebound from any Rowdies players following in.

With 55 minutes gone, the Battery had a free kick wafted in at the back post that would lead to a corner, though they were unable to force a chance out of the set piece.

It seemed as if the game was headed for a draw, and wasn’t until 20 minutes from time that we would see the Battery attack really come to life. Winger Maikel Chang would intercept an errant pass on the right, and Romario Williams would spring into action, calling for a pass already on the back shoulder of his marker, and staying onside with a well timed run and an equally well-placed through ball that put him one-on-one with the goalkeeper, who he rounded before rolling the ball into the empty net for his 14th goal of the season to give the Battery the lead.

It was as if a large weight was lifted off of the fans and players alike as Williams’ teammates would all surround him, continuing a great few days personally for the striker, having received a call into Jamaica’s 23 man CONCACAF Gold Cup Squad this week as a reward for his recent stellar form., which starts next week. The Battery will be unhappy to lose a player of his caliber, yet obviously glad that he was able to get a go-ahead goal in such a big match as a going away present.

Williams would be replaced a short time later by Heviel Cordoves, who would most likely be the next man in in his absence, but who hadn’t yet been able to find the back of the net so far in the campaign.

But he wouldn’t have to wait much longer. Maikel Chang was involved again, winning the ball back after Joe Cole was too hesitant with the ball at his feet before placing another perfectly weighted ball into the feet of Cordoves, who took the ball graciously and finished first time with the inside of his boot to double the Battery’s advantage at 2-0.

The monkey was finally off his back, having scored with his first touch of the evening. The goal was eerily similar to Williams’ opener, the difference being that Cordoves got past his man on the inside rather than the outside with which Williams found space. The defenders could only blame themselves for the errors though, and the Battery were very gracious to pick up the spoils.

But the visitors had fight in them yet. The Rowdies would engineer themselves a corner that was played in toward the front post before being headed away by the Battery defense, only to be sent back in and flicked on by Joe Cole at the in what looked to be an attempted pass that took Cooper in goal out of the equation and nearly found itself nestled into the opposite corner, only to bounce harmlessly wide. The Battery still found themselves two goals ahead, but with three minutes of normal time, plus stoppage time to go, had that gone in, it would’ve set up a tense finish for the Black and Yellow.

And in said stoppage time came the final chance of the evening. A free kick on the left approximately 25 yards from goal had Justin Portillo and Obi Woodbine interested, and it was the latter who took it. The effort was put on frame, forcing the goalkeeper into a save to his right after being hit low and hard toward the bottom corner, though it perhaps was too close to the ‘keeper to really trouble him as he got across well down to the ball.

And shortly after, the final whistle blew. The Battery dug deep, but would eventually prevail through the late showing. Two assists from Maikel Chang would tell the story, but perhaps Cordoves would be happiest, having finally opened his account for the campaign, and Williams will be pleased that although he’s leaving for at least the next two games, that he was able to be a difference maker in his final game before taking his leave for international duty.

The schedule doesn’t let up for the Black and Yellow, as they next face Louisville City FC. It’ll be a matchup between the top two in the East, with the Battery in first with 34 points, and Louisville just behind them on 28. Kickoff is at 7PM, and you can watch it on MyTV Charleston or online at the club’s website.

TOP IMAGE: MAIKEL CHANG CLAIMED THE ASSIST ON BOTH GOALS ON SATURDAY NIGHT. ALL PHOTOS CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY AND ZACH BLAND

Battery run rampant over Toronto in big win

The Charleston Battery prevailed against Toronto FC II Saturday behind two goals each from Romario Williams and Dante Marini, while goals from Forrest Lasso and a great free kick from Justin Portillo capped it off as they ran out 6-1 winners on the night.

Odisnel Cooper was in goal, with his normal back four of Quinton Griffith,  Forrest Lasso, Taylor Mueller and Obi Woodbine in front of him. Whilst Portillo and Tah Brian Anunga sat in front of the backline. Marini and Maikel Chang were on opposite wings, with Kotaro Higashi playing in behind Williams up front in what was a new role for him. A welcome sight was Attaula Guerra on the bench, who hadn’t featured since picking up an injury in Jacksonville during our 3rd round US Open Cup tie the better part of a month ago.

The Battery once again came out the blocks flying, and could’ve been in front as early as the first minute. Maikel Chang went down the right before a low cross found Kotaro Higashi who couldn’t get any purchase behind a shot which was blocked, but would eventually fall to the feet of Romario Williams, who seemed certain to score.  However, he looked to have rushed his shot, and it was fluffed into the arms of the ‘keeper.

A few minutes later, a pinpoint cross from Obi Woodbine would find Chang in the box, but he couldn’t direct a header on target and the ball would go out for a goal kick.

The home side would come straight back on the attack though, when Toronto’s ‘keeper was pressed by the striker Williams and gave up possession, before the ball would eventually find its way to Justin Portillo, whose effort was blocked and went behind for a corner.

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The TFCII defense had three men on the line, something a little unorthodox, but was perhaps necessary given the fact that their goalkeeper wasn’t the tallest, and they would be called into action when the first corner, played into the front post was cleared for another, before the second corner was cleared off the line after it was redirected toward the top corner at the front post.

With quarter of an hour gone, it was Obi Woodbine’s chance to have a pop, after the home side began to get a little inventive with their set pieces, sending a corner out short to the full back, known to have a great shot from long range. His curling effort would initially look troubling for the goalkeeper, but eventually found its way over the bar.

And on 19′, the Battery were nearly left to rue their missed chances. A great through ball left an attacker in space before the ball fell to Uchello before Odisnel Cooper was forced into his first save of the match. Toronto would recycle the chance though, and a cross came in from the right and led to a free header in front of goal that was put just over the bar.

On 23′, a dangerous looking TFC corner was cleared and led to a Williams-led Battery counter following a well-timed Chang header, with Anunga streaking ahead of him, but Williams took too much time on the ball and the chance would go begging.

The home side continued to pile on the pressure when on 25′, some good build-up from the left eventually fell to Quinton Griffith in the middle, who despite being known for blasting his shots, was able to keep this one down and had the goalkeeper sprawling, but the effort slowly drifted wide.

However, they wouldn’t have to wait much longer, finally making their pressure tell,when a corner by Chang on 31′ was played low toward the front post into the box and flicked on goal by Williams and found its way into the opposite corner to put the home side in front, adding to his already impressive 11 goals on the season.

They could’ve had a second just a short time later on 39′, when Tah Brian Anunga would step in and intercept a pass along the backline before having a shot at goal, but it was straight at the ‘keeper and posed no threat to his goal.

The Battery earned another corner with four minutes to go in the first half. This time on the left and taken by Justin Portillo, again played low and flicked on by Taylor Mueller before being settled and controlled on the edge of the six yard box by his center half partner Forrest Lasso, who turned and shot into the bottom corner to double the lead.

It was what the Battery deserved, albeit a bit later than they would’ve liked, having started the game off so well. The home side’s main men were once again involved, having been the tandem to earn them a point last week at Cincinnati, they gave their team a bit of insurance late on in this week’s match.

And they didn’t seem done there. A long ball found Williams with a minute of normal time to be played in the first half, who flicked on in the direction of Higashi, though the ball was just beyond him and he was unable to control.

But the Battery’s last chance of the half came with just about the last kick. A ball from the right supplied by Quinton Griffith found Williams at the edge of the box. The striker seemed certain to add to his tally, but was slipping as he took the shot, though he still got it on target and had the goalkeeper sprawling again to tip it around the post.

And so the Battery went in at half-time 2-0 up. But despite their lead, they would’ve learned from previous games, especially the 4-4 draw with Louisville, that a team was never dead and buried. So the obvious message from coach Mike Anheuser in the changing room would be to go for the throat.

And they did just that. They started the second half as they did the first, on the front foot from the off. The always dangerous long throw from Obi Woodbine on 47′ looked to cause trouble for the defense, but petered out as the ball went out of play.

A minute later, Taylor Mueller would allow an attacker to slip in behind him, but Odisnel Cooper would remain alert and claim before there was any danger.

And as we headed into the 50th minute, Dante Marini would pass the ball into Romario Williams, who would control the ball and try to turn against his marker. The defender would go to ground to try and clear it from Williams’ feet, only to see his attempted clearance ricochet against the striker’s legs and into the net, past the goalkeeper, who was slightly off of his line, having expected to have to deal with an incoming shot.

And so, the score was 3-0. It was perhaps unclear how much Williams knew about that as opposed to his earlier strike, but he would be the first to tell you that they all count, and the Black and Yellow would start the second half as they ended the first.

And then, just before the hour mark, Justin Portillo had a free kick in a dangerous area about 25 yards from goal to the left of the box. The ball was initially cleared before finding the feet of Dante Marini, who created space, looked up, and had a pop at goal. The ball would seemingly look to take a slight deflection off of the back of a TFC defender, and would nestle itself into the opposite bottom corner for the Battery’s fourth.

Marini, a longtime fan favorite, would run straight over toward the fans in E-1 as the crowd went mental, having finally gotten a goal to show for his impressive start to the season.

And then, just a short while later, Kotaro Higashi could have put his own name on the score sheet, after some great build up play on the edge of the box fell to the first-year attacker on the edge of the six having taken the ‘keeper out of the equation and basically giving him and open goal to aim at. However, he seemed to take his eye off the ball, and fluffed his lines completely as the ball went behind for a goal kick.

TFC then looked to get back into the game, after having made a couple changes in tactics and even a sub at half-time. It was on 64′ that they made that tell.

The winger, Teifer, on the left wasn’t closed down, despite Maikel Chang and Quinton Griffith both being back to try and deal with the danger, and a cross toward the back post found Camargo at the back post, who ghosted past Obi Woodbine to provide what at first glance looked to be a consolation for the visitors.

Odisnel Cooper would most likely be unhappy with his defense for giving up the clean sheet, and even more so to a goal that so easily could’ve been avoided, but it was a sign, that with just under a half hour left, the game wasn’t quite dead and buried.

On 68′, it was time for the Battery’s first substitution. Kotaro Higashi would be replaced by Attaula Guerra. Higashi would probably be disappointed to miss those couple chances he had at goal, especially the one in the second half, though after such a long layoff, Guerra needed the minutes, and despite not scoring, Higashi did put in a good shift, having played in a position that he hadn’t featured in all season.

Toronto could’ve gotten a second goal back to really put the cat amongst the pigeons shortly after the sub, when Obi Woodbine slipped and allowed his man to get past him, though unable to cut inside toward goal, he would have to play the ball back across, which went painstakingly for both sides all the way over to the other edge of the area and wouldn’t cause any immediate danger.

On 71′ Romario Williams found himself again charging at the defense as he was on a hat trick, and though it would’ve been easy to go alone, as perhaps is the striker’s instinct to do, he showed great awareness to pick his head up and see Dante Marini on the shoulder of the last defender, playing a perfectly weighted through ball in for a 1-on-1 with the goalkeeper, which Marini would slot into the back of the net with the minimum of fuss, making the score 5-1.

This is the second time this year that the Battery had scored 5 goals, after a 5-0 win over Rochester earlier in the season. What’s more, with Marini’s second and Williams’ pass through, it meant that both players had two goals and an assist each to their name, stealing the show on what was another great night to add to the list of such performances for the Battery so far in 2017.

Williams would be replaced by Heviel Cordoves with just over 15 minutes to go, meaning he would be unable to get his hat-trick, but he could, like Higashi, be pleased with his night’s work. After building on his goal tally for the season and proving provider, the hat-trick would’ve been nice, but Cordoves was in dire need of a goal himself, and what better way to help him get one than in a 6-1 thrashing?

With nine minutes left, the ball refused to be cleared on the left before a Toronto winger would just drop the shoulder and force Cooper to come off his line and claim.

On 84′, Dante Marini would be replaced by Skylar Thomas, meaning he, too, wouldn’t get his hat trick. Meanwhile, Thomas would face his former teammates, with whom he started his career before moving to the Battery at the start of this season. He would go straight into that left wing position, slightly further forward than we’ve seen him so far, as he’s a natural center back that has been asked to fill in at full back at times when giving Woodbine or Griffith some time off.

In the 91st came the cherry on top for the Black and Yellow when a free kick on the right edge of the box from roughly 23 yards left Justin Portillo at the controls. He would hit the ball with his right as it went up and over the wall and into the opposite corner, spinning away from the goalkeeper and giving him no chance and made it 6-1, with Portillo going over to some family members in the crowd.

And that proved to be the last kick of the match. The Battery remained top of the Eastern Conference, going six points clear after Louisville lost against Harrisburg. The Battery next face the Tampa Bay Rowdies on July 1st. Kick off is at 7PM, and you can watch the match on MyTV Charleston or stream it on the club’s website.

TOP IMAGE: ROMARIO WILLIAMS CONGRATULATES TEAM MATE MAIKEL CHANG AFTER CHANG’S CORNER SET UP THE BATTERY’S FIRST GOAL OF THE EVENING. ALL PHOTOS CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY.

 

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

Late drama as Tah lifts Battery to three points in Tampa

Tah Brian Anunga’s 85th minute winner was the difference as the Charleston Battery prevailed over the Tampa Bay Rowdies Saturday.

Joe Cole would open the scoring just after half an hour before Forrest Lasso‘s glancing header leveled again only five minutes later before Maikel Chang hit a screamer into the bottom corner on the stroke of half time as the Battery went in at the break up 2-1.

Georgi Hristov pulled the Rowdies level on the hour mark as Odisnel Cooper couldn’t hang onto the ball, which gave the striker an easy finish despite the best efforts of Obi Woodbine on the line. The home side would up the ante with a good spell before the Battery would settle again, and made late pressure tell as Tah Brian Anunga controlled a ball that had pinged in and around the box and placed a shot into the bottom corner, giving the Black and Yellow a hard fought win.

Odisnel Cooper was first called into action on seven minutes, producing some acrobatics to keep a deflected Darwin Jones shot from creeping in under the bar, and then doing even better to collect the corner he conceded with the save.

Defender Taylor Mueller would be forced into action after 11 minutes as the home side continued their decent start to the match. The defender would have to redirect a cross behind, which Cooper would again collect.

Romario Williams would then ask questions of the Rowdies ‘keeper down at the other end after 13’, as he came off a career night last week against Rochester. A shot from the left after he won the ball in a dangerous position would fly just over the top of the bar.

A minute later, Kotaro Higashi, who made his second start in as many games, would find space for the cross on the left, but his wafted ball in would go behind for a goal kick.

On 16′ it would be eventual goalscorer Hristov who would power toward goal and fire an effort on target, but Cooper would get behind it to make the save.

Not too long after, a Rowdies free kick would be cleared by the Battery, but only for a throw-in, which would cause chaos in the Battery box and eventually lead to a dangerous effort from Hristov again, who took two touches to settle and somehow got a shot on target which the beaten Odisnel Cooper was very lucky to see hit his crossbar and eventually be cleared.

On 22′, a Rowdies free kick left them in a bit of bother as Maikel Chang would lead a counter attack from the clearance, but the winger had little support and the chance would fizzle out.

Four minutes later, the Battery would earn themselves a dangerous free kick which Justin Portillo would put into the wall as it went behind for a corner. The ball into the box was cleared, but would fall to full back Obi Woodbine who had a shot from distance. On the replay, it looked to be going wide, though the goalkeeper was taking no chances and would poke it behind for a corner that would lead to nothing.

After 28′, it was Williams for the Battery with a great chance for the visitors as he would connect with a great Quinton Griffith cross, but as the Tampa defense were calling for the offside flag to go up, Williams’ header would go hopelessly over the bar.

And the visitors would rue the missed opportunity. A Rowdies corner would be cleared and arrowed back in before taking a deflection off of Joe Cole that took Odisnel Cooper a little bit by surprise as the redirection would make the ball bobble before meeting Cooper, and it would be that bobble that would be the difference as the goalkeeper would be unable to hold on to the ball, giving Cole, who kept his position, the easy tap in to give the home side the lead.

There was a little hint of a possible offside because of the Cole redirection, though the flag would stay down, and the goal would stand.

But it would only last five minutes, as from just about the next attack, the Battery would draw level.

The Black and Yellow would surge forward and earn themselves a free kick on the left edge of the box. Portillo again would find himself at the controls in a very dangerous area, and put in a delicious looking in-swinger toward Forrest Lasso, and the tall defender would get himself up and just get a glance on the ball to redirect it toward goal. The ball would bounce and find its way past the ‘leeper, and the Battery found themselves all square again.

And it would continue to get better for the visitors. Maikel Chang would receive the ball on the right and pick his head up, winding up his signature left foot for a laser beam of an effort that found its way past the goalkeeper and into the back of the net as it gave him no chance, but gave the Battery the 2-1 lead with just about the last kick of the half.

The goal was Chang’s second in two games, after being kept off the scoresheet in the previous three league games, and a great way to end the half for the visitors.

Chang would create the first real chance of the second half as well, somehow wiggling his way past three defenders before laying off for Williams, who had a little shimmy of his own to get away from a defender and get an effort on goal, but the shot would lack power as the goalkeeper would save easily.

Williams would then hold the ball up and turn on the afterburners to get away from a marker in midfield as he looked to be through on goal, but a defender would come across on the overlap to sweep up pressure.

Just after the hour mark on 62’, the Rowdies would earn a free kick that was played toward the back post. The ball would look easy to collect for Cooper, but his punch out with players around him would be lacking in length, falling instead to Georgi Hristov on the doorstep, who would put the ball away to level once again.

And so, the score was 2-2, but the way the game had gone, you wouldn’t bet against another as both teams were creating their chances.

And the Battery could’ve gone in front again only two minutes later. Attaula Guerra, who continued his decent run of form tonight, would find himself through on goal, but the effort would go harmlessly into the ‘keeper’s arms.

Guerra would then find himself with the ball at his feet on the wing on 67’, holding the ball up before playing the ball around his defender and into the path of Romario Williams, but the ‘keeper would close down an already tight angle and make the save.

Williams would then be replaced by Heviel Cordoves with just over 20 minutes left. Despite being kept off the scoresheet, Williams had a decent night. His hold up play was decent and he created a few opportunities for himself, though he’ll be unhappy that he didn’t put that header on target in the first half, and having gone into the book early on, the substitution was probably the right move.

Kotaro Higashi would be the second man substituted on 73′, as Dante Marini would enter the fray. Marini had started the Battery’s first three games, before Higashi would start last week, and impress his manager enough to keep his place for this match. He wasn’t as impressive as against the Rhinos, but put in a decent shift in what was only his third game of the season.

And Marini was involved almost straight from the off, as a searching through ball by Guerra almost found the late run of the winger with 15 minutes to go, but the goalkeeper would collect and smother the ball before Marini could pounce.

Joe Cole would have a pop at goal on 77′, which went straight to Cooper before having to be replaced due to an apparent hip injury.

The Rowdies had a corner on 79′ that looked dangerous, but the in-swinging ball was collected by Cooper, who rose above everyone in the box and commanded his area well.

The game wound into the last ten minutes with both teams looking to create as the game became stretched, but with just two minutes of normal time left, the Battery would earn a corner.

The first ball would be cleared for a throw-in, and the ball would bounce around the box before a missed clearance by Luke Boden would fall to the feet of Tah Brian Anunga. The midfielder would take a touch before placing the effort in the bottom corner, giving the Battery a late lead in what was a very entertaining game.

In stoppage time, it was last chance saloon for the Rowdies, who pushed everyone up for a last gasp free kick, which was smuggled clear before they earned a corner with what would prove to be the last attack of the night. The Battery would smuggle clear, and the final whistle would blow, giving the Battery a hard earned three points.

The Battery would certainly say they earned it, after a game with so many twists and turns, remaining perfect on their travels to go along with the three points gained in Charlotte in the second week of the season. The win also puts them top of the Eastern Conference, with 12 points from five games, losing one, but having won the other four.

The Black and Yellow return home next, with Ottawa Fury the opponent on Saturday, April 29. Kick off is scheduled for 7PM, and you can watch on MyTV Charleston or the club’s Website.

TOP IMAGE: MATCH-WINNER TAH BRIAN ANUNGA FIGHTS FOR A BALL EARLY AGAINST THE ROWDIES. TAMPA BAY ROWDIES PHOTO