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

 

Late Hertzog goal steals points as Battery fall to Riverhounds

The Pittsburgh Riverhounds took all three points away against the Charleston Battery after Corey Hertzog’s late header stunned the home side, handing them their first loss of the season.

The match started wonderfully for the hosts. Attaula Guerra opened the scoring early as he squeezed a shot from just outside the box past the ‘keeper at the near post. That got the tails up for the Black and Yellow, but they couldn’t take their chances, and let the opposition come into it, forcing Alex Tambakis to make some great saves before the dam finally broke and they conceded half way through the second half. Roles were reversed by time Corey Hertzog got his head to the winner late on, but a touch and go offside decision from the referee cancelled out a late equalizer, meaning the Riverhounds took all three points.

The Black and Yellow were in front from just about their first real attack, as on 8′, Dante Marini’s short pass found Attaula Guerra in space, and Guerra, who’s played in a much more advanced role so far this season and been much improved for it, took a touch to control before looking up and having a crack at goal. The ball somehow found its way past the Riverhounds goalkeeper and into the back of the net. The ‘keeper looked unsighted by the effort, initially going to his right before trying to scramble back to his left, which left him a flat footed mess as Guerra got his name on the scoresheet for the first time this season, in stark contrast to last campaign, where he had to wait for his first goal until late in the season in a mid-season friendly with Rangers, before tallying one goal in the league later on.

After 16′, Forrest Lasso got his head to a free kick that was played in deep, but he was adjudged to be offside.

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A minute later, a Battery free kick looked dangerous before being headed behind for a corner, which was taken short, crossed by Marini and cleared off the line before it could be turned in on the doorstep.

The Battery were creating chances, mostly from set pieces, but with the likes of Justin Portillo and Maikel Chang at the controls, and with the aerial threats that they possess, it was to be expected.

With just over half an hour gone, a Battery counter led to a shot by Chang which was deflected behind, leading to a succession of them, but the ball was eventually headed over the bar.

Six minutes later, on 37′ the visitors were given a free kick which was cleared. They recycled the chance after winning possession again back around to the opposite side of the pitch and looked about ready to threaten before the offside flag went up.

Just before half time, Guerra would continue his solid first half display playing a great ball to Romario Williams, which the striker took wide in an effort to beat his man and cut inside. When that avenue was cut off for him by stout defending, he played the smart, dangerous ball across the face of goal, but had no support as Pittsburgh would counter and go down the other end, eventually creating a 1 on 1 with Tambakis in goal and forcing a great save to tip it around the post, and the ensuing corner was also well collected as half time descended upon the teams.

All in all, it was a good opening first half for the Black and Yellow, yet couldn’t be called stellar. They would need to keep continuing to create, and take at least one chance to try and put the game to bed. The longer the scoreline stayed the same, the longer Pittsburgh would know the had a chance.

And Corey Hertzog created the first chance of the second half after some good buildup play for the visitors, but his shot went wide as the slender lead stayed intact.

On 51′, Romario Williams took a ball out of the air, turned, and played a one-two with Guerra before his shot, which forced a save from the Pittsburgh ‘keeper, lacked power and the chance had gone.

Four minutes later, Taylor Mueller was the last line of defense as Pittsburgh got a man free before the Battery captain’s last ditch tackle forced the interception and the ball was eventually cleared.

But then, just before the hour mark, Marshall Hollinsworth would find his way through the defense and in another 1 on 1 with the ‘keeper before slotting home and levelling for the visitors. The goal had been coming, and was a consequence of the Battery not taking their chances, for which they only had themselves to blame.

But the Battery could’ve been in front again shortly after. Justin Portillo seemed to have pushed himself up into an attacking position more and more as the home side looked to retake the lead. He found himself with the ball at his feet on the edge of the box before shimmying himself some room for a shot on his left foot toward the opposite corner that the midfielder just looped over the bar.

Maikel Chang took a little bit more initiative as well as he created his own chance on 71′, when he cut in on his left before having his own shot at goal. But like Williams’ effort before him, the shot lacked power, and while looked destined to be going into the opposite corner, was an easy save for the ‘keeper.

A minute later, a Battery free kick would find the ball pinging around the box, but nobody was able to put the ball on frame and the ball was cleared.

With 74 minutes played came perhaps the most guilt-edged chance to put the home side back in front, as an overlapping Quinton Griffith’s cross toward the back stick was laid up for an onrushing Heviel Cordoves, who had replaced Williams just a few minutes earlier, but somehow, the free header went narrowly wide at the far post as the striker tried to simply nod the ball on target. One would think that if the striker had come at the ball more and powered his head through the effort instead of just simply trying to redirect the ball on, the chance may have been taken, but we remained level.

And with nine minutes to go, a Battery corner that looked initially as if it were too flat appeared to strike the hand of a defending Riverhounds player, but the ref wasn’t phased by appeals and instead gave a free kick to the visitors for an apparent push.

Three minutes of stoppage time were given, and by this time, the game was much more open than anyone would’ve liked. Both teams were going forward and looking dangerous, but this time it would be the Riverhounds finding the defining chance. A ball found its way down the wing, leading to a cross into the box for an unmarked Corey Hertzog, who got himself to the ball and stuck it into the back of the net. It was a bit difficult on Tambakis in goal, who had made some real quality saves in the first half to keep his side in front, only to watch helplessly as they would ultimately be in vain.

Though going behind didn’t exactly dampen the Battery’s spirits. Even with the late goal, they had time, as it had come just as we went into the three minutes added on. A Battery corner in the 93rd minute, right at the death, refused to be cleared and was eventually recycled before Dante Marini got his head to the ball to stick it into the back of the net, but he was adjudged to have been coming back from an offside position, and the goal was ruled out.

On further inspection, you can see just how tight the call was. The replay showed on TV and the video board at the stadium looked to point toward the linesman’s decision being correct, but looking at the replay from another angle, it looked to show Marini just a shade onside before the ball was played back in. Nevertheless, the referee stood by his assistant’s decision, and the offside was given.

The result means the Battery were handed their first loss of the season. They next face the Rochester Rhinos, which will also be their first match as part of the inaugural Old Guard Shield supporters’ trophy on Saturday April 15. Kick off is at 7, and the match will be on MyTV Charleston, or can be streamed at the club’s website.

TOP IMAGE: NAVEAL HACKSHAW WINS A BALL IN THE AIR AS THE FIRST HALF WORE ON. PHOTO CREDIT ROSS ALMERS’ PHOTOGRAPHY.

Battery fall to Atlanta to close CCC

The Charleston Battery closed out the 2017 Carolina Challenge Cup with a loss, their first to an MLS side in the tournament, against Atlanta United on Saturday.

Yamil Asad gave Atlanta a fourth minute lead. Connecting with a pinpoint Mikey Ambrose cross with a diving header that bounced off the post and in.

The Battery came back into the game though, especially in the last 20 minutes of the first half, with Romario Williams capping off that good work with a goal on the stroke of half time to equalize.

But Atlanta were desperate to win the game ahead of their first league game of the season just seven days away, and brought on Miguel Almiron and Hector Villalba late on to find a winner, and they did just that as the two subs combined in stoppage time to give Atlanta the win.

The tournament was settled with the evening’s first match, however, with the Columbus Crew beating the Seattle Sounders with a late goal of their own to finish on seven points, earning their second Carolina Challenge Cup title, after winning the very first CCC title in 2004.

Atlanta were on top early in the night’s second game, Jacob Petersen looked threatening in the first minute, when a ball was played through to the former Sporting KC striker. However, the ball was just beyond the foward’s smart run, with Odisnel Cooper there to collect as the ball was going out.

But Atlanta were quickly on the attack again. Some well worked play found the feet of Mikey Ambrose, whose cross was almost perfect, avoiding defenders before Yamil Asad would lay out with the diving header to put it on frame, which Cooper in goal was helpless to stop, giving the visitors the lead.

The Battery could’ve had a leveler only a minute later, as Attaula Guerra found himself some space, but his shot from distance was easily saved by Atlanta ‘keeper Kyle Reynish.

Four minutes later, Forrest Lasso would have some work to do after some dangerous buildup play from Atlanta found its way into the box, but the defender did well to clear.

The Battery threatened again after a quarter of an hour, when Obi Woodbine‘s quick throw in caught out the Atlanta defense as it rolled to Dante Marini, who used his pace to get to the byline and tease a ball toward Heviel Cordoves, before the ball was cleared before an onrushing Romario Williams snatched his shot on the rebound just wide.

Yamil Asad sent a promising Atlanta free kick over the bar on 20 minutes, failing to reassert their diminishing dominance on the match.

The Battery had a half chance in the second ball following a corner after the ball was cleared first time. A ball was sent in by Justin Portillo whilst the big men were still piled in the box for Charleston, but the flag went up for offside.

Petersen was on the end of another good ball on 37′, but Taylor Mueller did well to tackle the ball clear. The ensuing corner went out for another, which was cleared from danger.

Forrest Lasso sent a lumping ball forward on 41′, which was brought down by the striker Williams, who played Dante Marini in, who made a cut inside before having a crack at goal, but his shot lacked power and went safely into the ‘keepers arms.

Marini again was involved a couple minutes later, making a good run and creating space before passing to Justin Portillo, who found Heviel Cordoves with a pretty good cross, but the center forward had to take the ball down on his chest, which took too long, and the ball was cleared away before he could get a shot on the volley.

But then, on the stroke of half time, Romario Williams would receive the ball roughly twenty yards from goal. He used his strength to get away from his man, before turning and taking aim at goal. His shot beat Reynish in the Atlanta goal and nestled into the bottom corner before the half time whistle blew, levelling the scores as we went into half time.

The score was perhaps warranted, as Atlanta owned the better of the early goings before the Battery came back into it as the first half ended, and both teams knew what was required of them in the second half.

A chance for either team came in the first five minutes, each coming through nice one-twos, with Andrew Carleton combining with Jacob Petersen for Atlanta first, but the striker’s shot was wide. Maikel Chang was then on the end of a similar move for Charleston, but like his Atlanta counterpart, his effort was wide.

On 57 minutes, Obi Woodbine would turn on the jets down the left before crossing the ball in, which was dummied by Taylor Mueller, which fell to Williams, but his shot was high over the bar.

A loose touch by an Atlanta defender following the ensuing goalkeeper almost gifted Maikel Chang a 1v1 with Reynish, but the winger couldn’t control the ball and it rolled harmlessly back to the ‘keeper.

With 20 minutes left, Odisnel Cooper was forced into a save after a shot from distance had him sprawling, but he saved well and the crisis was averted.

On 73 minutes was a moment that has many fans talking, as Andrew Carleton breezed past Quinton Griffith on the turn with great close control, creating space and leaving a few others in his wake before taking a shot from distance, but his effort was over the bar.

Charleston’s trialists have impressed for large parts of the preseason so far, and a name that’s stood out for Battery fans in particular has been Kotaro Higashi, who, with three minutes to go, found full back Reed Norton. His cross from the left found forward Akeem Roach, who got his head to the ball, but couldn’t keep his effort on frame.

They would live to regret the wasted chance though, as Miguel Almiron, who came on as a sub for Atlanta after standing out in the first two matches of the tournament, found fellow sub Hector Villalba with a great cross at the death. Villalba stood his man up before turning and having a pop at goal. The effort nestled in the back of the net, thus giving Atlanta the 2-1 win with just about the last kick of the game.

It was a hard way to lose a game for the Battery, until now unbeaten against MLS opposition in the CCC’s history, but they can be proud of how they performed in the tournament as a whole. Most of MLS have been together a full month, with a week to go until their season begins. The Battery have only been together a fortnight, with their season not starting until the 25th of March.

Atlanta begin their season next Sunday, March 5th, at Bobby Dodd Stadium against New York Red Bulls. The Battery begin their season on the 25th of March, against FC Cincinatti. Their next preseason game, however, is a visit to North Carolina FC on the 4th of March.
TOP IMAGE: BATTERY SCORER ROMARIO WILLIAMS FIGHTS FOR A BALL IN A LEAGUE MATCH LAST SEASON. Photo Credit: Ross Almers Photography

 

 

 

Battery hold on for well-fought draw against Columbus

Matchday Two of the Carolina Challenge Cup took place on Wednesday, with the hosts Charleston Battery opening the night against the Columbus Crew.

The Battery and Crew share a little bit of history, as well as the same colors, but the Battery were in Black and White as part of a commemoration of their 25th anniversary, while the Crew donned their Black and Yellow away strip.

The Battery again gave a good showing, and opened the scoring on 25 minutes, when a Justin Portillo corner skimmed off the head of Forrest Lasso and into the bottom corner. The Crew began to press a little more in search of an equalizer toward the end of the first half, but it wasn’t until the second, and an Own Goal on the hour mark from  Tah Brian Anunga that Columbus found the telling equalizer.

Defender Harrison Afful created the first chance of the evening after six minutes, when his cross sought out Frederico Higuain. Higuaín scored two goals in the Crew’s opening match, but couldn’t add to his tally here as his shot of the volley was deflected.

A Dante Marini handball led to a free kick about 20 yards out, but the dangerous set piece was sent over the bar.

Jeffery Otoo was involved in a lot of good things tonight, and his first involvement of the night was to play Romario Williams in for a 1v1 with the ‘keeper, but he tried to place it and hit the shot wide.

But the hosts would make the early pressure tell as Justin Portillo was at the controls of a corner kick on 25’. His ball into the mixer found a rising Forrest Lasso, who aimed a header down low and into the bottom corner.

The Battery, on the scheme of things were probably the better side up until that point, and could say that their lead was deserved, but the Crew would come back at them.

The Right Back Afful was very much a threat in the first half, and was involved again as his cross on 24 caused a bit of havoc in the back. The cross was cleared by Forrest Lasso, helping out this time at the back, and the shot on the rebound was then wide.

Romario Williams would then do very well on the edge of the box to slip in Attaula Guerra, but the linesman put his flag up for offside, cancelling out the 1v1 in which the attacker rounded the ‘keeper.

The Crew would have a succession of corners close to half time, but nothing came of the set pieces, and the battery would go in at halftime with the 1-0 advantage.

Romario Williams would set up a counter on 47’, but his cross would be cut out.

A Dante Marini ball would find Williams on 53′ but his shot would go over the bar.

Some good build up play eventually found Nico Hanson in the box, who had the goal at his mercy with the onrushing ‘Keeper, but the shot hit the post. ‘

A Justin Portillo free kick on the left wing near the hour mark would bounce through and hit the post before being cleared by the Crew defense. The ball set up a counter that led to a Crew free kick after Taylor Meuller fouled Justin Miram.

The free kick was powered toward the middle, and in his attempt to hastily clear, Tah Brian Anunga would send the ball on frame and into his own net.

But four minutes later, a great first touch by sub Kotaro Higashi would play in Guerra, who was unlucky as his shot hit the post.

Around the 68th minute, a worrying sight for Battery fans came as Maikel Chang would come off injured, but he’d be replaced by Nico Rittmeyer.

Heviel Cordoves would come on in the second half. and would take down a free kick well on 83 and shoot on the turn, but his effort was saved as it was destined for the top corner.

Four minutes later, the Battery had some good buildup fall to Cordoves again, who played in a pass for the overlapping run, but the ball wouldn’t trouble the defense as it went over the bar.

More late heroics may have been on offer as the Battery got a free kick late on in stoppage time, but the ball didn’t trouble the ‘keeper as it was cleared.

And so, the Battery finished their 2nd game of the tournament with two points in the standings, but they can be pleased with the way they’d performed so early in the season, and will be hopefull of continuing such form as they go into the season proper.

The second match of the evening between Atlanta and Seattle ended 4-2 after Atlanta took a quick early lead through first half goals from Josef Martinez, a penalty from Miguel Almiron and a third from Hector Villalba before Martinez added to his tally with a tasty chip for 4-0 early in the second half, though Seattle would answer with two of their own, making the final score 4-2.

The Carolina Challenge Cup concludes this Saturday, when the Columbus Crew take on the Seattle Sounders, before the Battery and Atlanta United finish out the tournament.

TOP IMAGE: FORREST LASSO RISES HIGHEST ON A CORNER KICK TO PUT THE BATTERY AHEAD. ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY PHOTO

 

Stoppage time equalizer earns Battery draw to start CCC

The Charleston Battery were known for their late drama last year, and it was a similar story tonight, as they earned a draw against the Seattle Sounders in their first match of this year’s Carolina Challenge Cup, when trialist Kotaro Higashi bundled the ball over the line with the last kick of the match in the 92nd minute.

Seattle took the lead with just over a half an hour gone. Full back Jovein Jones sent a low cross into the box, which bounced off of Battery center back Taylor Mueller and past the helpless Odisnel Cooper in goal. Both teams created a few chances for themselves as the match went on, but the score remained the same until Higashi’s equalizer late on.

US National Team star and Seattle striker Clint Dempsey started and played about an hour as he continues his return from fitness following a heart condition that kept him out toward the end of last season, where he also missed Seattle’s run to the MLS Cup title. He played well, and created the first chance of the match, separating himself just enough from defender Obi Woodbine and having a pop from distance after nine minutes. but the effort went well over the bar.

After 11 minutes, the Battery earned a corner after some good build up play as Maikel Chang found Heviel Cordoves, but the set piece was wasted as it was cleared away.

Dante Marini‘s effort on 21 minutes had the Seattle ‘keeper sprawling, but it went high and wide. A minute later, Marini would fight for a ball near the end line, and barely keep it in before it was cleared for a corner in order to stop a cross. This, however, was smuggled away at the second attempt.

Obi Woodbine would register the Battery’s first shot on target a little while later on 26′, cutting inside after Heviel Cordoves played him in. But the full back couldn’t get any power on the shot, which went harmlessly to the goalkeeper.

The Battery attacked well in the first half, pressing the ball and passing well whilst being comfortable in possession, which led to a chance for Dante Marini, who had a shot blocked before it rolled out to  Maikel Chang, who scuffed his effort.

On 31’ came a really unlucky moment for the Battery and Taylor Mueller especially, as a cross from Oniel Fisher came in from the left and bounced its way across. Mueller, in his attempt to clear, redirected the ball past Odisnel Cooper to give the Sounders a 1-0 lead. For the most part, the Battery defended well up until that point, and the OG did belie a defense that had to deal with two International caliber strikers in Dempsey and Jordan Morris.

Four minutes later, the Sounders could’ve had a second, as a Jordan Morris-led counter down the middle of the park. He passed to Alvaro Fernandez on his right, who had a pop at goal from 18 yards out, but Odisnel Cooper produced a quality save to keep the score at 1-0.

On 40 minutes, a long ball forward from the back bounced off of Cordoves into Maikel Chang’s path, but his effort went wide, before Cordoves himself had an effort go wide from distance just before half time.

The Battery went in at half time and could very well be proud of themselves. They were 1-0 down, but were unlucky to have actually conceded through the Mueller own goal, and had created chances against a Seattle side that were always a threat with the likes of Morris and Dempsey up front. They came out in the second half with almost a completely different XI, filled with trialists and a few Atlanta loanees, including Alex Tambakis, Chris Goslin and Andrew Wheeler.

Nico Lodeiro forced Alex Tambakis’ first save of the evening, on 51′, after he was on the end of some tidy Sounders build-up play. Lodeiro received the ball inside the six yard box, but Tambakis stood firm, making himself big at his near post to deny the Seattle playmaker.

Seattle came close to finding a second goal again shortly after, when on 56′, a bouncing shot hit the inside of Alex Tambakis’ post and rolled along the goal line before being cleared by the hosts.

Will Bruin came on in the group of subs that saw Dempsey come off after an hour, and he got his first chance with roughly twenty minutes to go, getting a pass from the left and toepoking toward the goal, but the shot rolled harmlessly wide.

Chris Goslin did impress with his pace and close control, and on 71′, he jinked his way through a couple of defenders before taking aim at goal. He couldn’t get any purchase behind the shot though, which was an easy save for Sounders goalie Tyler Miller.

On 76′, the Sounders thought they had a second goal through Henry Wingo, who had been dangerous all second half, after he received a nice backheel from Will Bruin. Wingo stuck his chance home and had wheeled away to celebrate with his teammates, but the goal was waved off for offside and the score reained 1-0.

Three minutes later, Wingo was on the end of another ball, this time from Lodeiro, which he put on frame. But this time, Tambakis was able to save.

Despite set pieces for both sides in the last ten minutes, the two teams found themselves headed into two minutes of stoppage time still at 1-0. For some reason, the Battery have made a habit of finding late goals, and tonight they continued the trend, this time getting a throw-in about level with the 18 yard box. The throw was played short, and the ball was crossed in, finding Kotaro Higashi, who chested the ball down, aimed toward goal and hit the post with his effort. Bodies collided in the box before Higashi controlled again and shot into the roof of the net to level the match at 1-1.

The Sounders may be aggrieved that they didn’t put away their chances in the second half, but the Battery did hang in. Some alert defending and a couple of good saves from the Battery kept the score 1-0, and the hosts made good on the best chance they had, and so from their point of view, a draw is surely a fair result.

The Carolina Challenge Cup continues this coming Wednesday, February 22nd. The Battery will face the Columbus Crew, while the Sounders will face Atlanta United. Both matches are set to be streamed on charlestonbattery.com.

TOP IMAGE: TAYLOR MUELLER CELEBRATES SCORING A GOAL IN LAST YEAR’S LEAGUE CAMPAIGN. PHOTO CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY