Friday, July 29, 2011

Charleston Prepare for Rochester

Tomorrow evening your Charleston Battery will face the Rochester Rhinos at Blackbaud.  The Rhinos are tied with Harrisburg for the lead of the National Division and have already booked a playoff spot.  Rochester has a long history with Charleston as both sides are among the oldest and most accomplished teams in the USL.  

John Wilson fends off the Rochester attack
As it stands, the Battery are looking to climb a few spots in the table.  Currently fourth in our division, Saturday's match may be the perfect opportunity for Charleston to take all three points.  Rochester faces the Charlotte Eagles tonight and combined with the warmer climate, these two games may be a stern test of their roster depth.  The Rhinos have never beaten the Charlotte Eagles and have not tasted victory at Blackbaud since July of 2005.  Only two players will be unavailable for Charleston:  Midfielders JC Mack (injury) and Evan Taylor (international duty).  Graham Dugoni has rejoined the squad and was featured in the midweek friendly against Portsmouth.  

It should be a great match!  Catch it on; kickoff is at 7:30.

Honours Even As Battery Tie Portsmouth

In a brilliant display of world class football, Charleston can be proud of their result against one of the most storied soccer clubs in all England.  This past Wednesday, the Charleston Battery hosted Portsmouth FC in an international friendly match.  The game drew a crowd of 3,345, not a sell out, but a good attendance for a midweek fixture.  After a lively tailgate hosted by the Regiment, it was time for the match everyone (including Mr. Portsmouth Football Club Westwood) had been waiting for.  

The opening minutes were filled with action and the first scoring chance came in the sixth.  A Charleston clearance fell to Pompey's Joel Ward whose shot was just off target.  The Battery attack came alive with only a quarter hour in the books.  Zach Prince exploded down the line leaving defenders in his wake.  His effort from the box tested Portsmouth keeper Steven Henderson but the Irishman was equal to the task.  The following minutes of play saw a flurry of offense from Charleston as they pressed the PFC back line in hopes of a breakthrough.  Nicki Patterson sent a well time ball forward to Dane Kelley two minutes later, only to have the striker's shot blocked by Portsmouth's Captain and defender, Aaron Mokoena.  The onslaught continued in the 19th as Patterson again linked up with Kelley whose cross suprised the Blue Army defense.  Levi Coleman met the effort but his header was just wide of the goal.  

In the second half, European legend Kanu gave the home fans a scare when he fed Luke Varney a square ball in the box.  Keith Wiggans saved Battery blushes, maintaining his composure and making a fine save.  The key moment of the match came in the 76th as it was again Levi Coleman with a game changing opportunity.  A muffed clearance fell to the midfielder and left him staring at an open net.  However, the scoresheet would remain empty as his turning shot slipped past the right post.  

It was a good effort by the boys and a great opportunity for Charleston to host the match.  Hopefully, the exhibition will give us a good boost as we head into the home stretch of the regular season.  I'm looking forward to hosting more great teams from around the world.  Its become a tradition at Blackbaud.  GO BATTERY!!!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Who Is This Blue Army?

In the very unlikely event that you haven't heard, the Charleston Battery are proud to host the world-renowned Portsmouth Football Club in an exhibition match at Blackbaud Stadium this Wednesday night.  International exhibitions are nothing new for the Battery but are still a great source of pride and prestige for the club.  Since the birth of the club, Blackbaud has showcased top class teams from Jamaica, Mexico, England, and other European nations.  Most recently, the Battery hosted EPL side Bolton Wanderers last summer.

I figured it would be a good gesture to provide a bit of a backdrop for Wednesday's match with some info even the most casual fan may appreciate.  Much like the city of Charleston, Portsmouth, England is an important port city with a rich maritime history.  Portsmouth F.C. was formed in 1898 and Fratton Park has been their stomping grounds since day one.  In a recent survey/study, the fans of the club a.k.a. The Blue Army, were voted the ugliest in all England.  The most notable of these is of course, John Anthony Portsmouth Football Club Westwood.  He can be recognized by his stovepipe hat, blue wig, 60+ PFC tatoos, and usually a bugle/handbell.  Pompey were twice the champions of all England, boasting back to back titles in 1949 & 1950.  The last major trophy won by the Blue Army was the 2008 FA Cup.  Portsmouth won the FA Cup in 1939 as well.
PFC fans revel after winning the 2008 FA Cup
Portsmouth have always been proud to call diverse international talents their own.  Currently some of their most notable players are:  Aaron Mokoena (PFC captain & South African national captain), Liam Lawrence (PFC vice-captain & Ireland winger), and Nwankwo Kanu (Legendary Arsenal striker with years of European experience).  PFC's traditional colours are royal blue and gold.  Their stadium, Fratton Park has been said by football greats Henry and Ronaldinho to be home to "the greatest fans" and "the greatest football atmosphere in the world."  The Blue Army are also known the world over for their famous chant, The Pompey Chimes.
Historic Fratton Park
Looking forward to a great exhibition as welcome Portsmouth Football Club and the Pompey faithful!  Can't wait to see how our Battery matches up with one of the world's most famous clubs!  GO BATTERY!!!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Disappointing Draw in Dayton, Match finishes 2-2

Saturday evening the Charleston Battery traveled to Ohio to face the Dayton Dutch Lions in their first home fixture since the first week in June.  It was a good opportunity for Charleston to grab a few more points as they prepare for a difficult home stretch finishing up the season.  Well, a game that could have gone either way, went neither way.  Two apiece was the final result; one that left both teams with their fair  share of disappointment.

While the match was not Charleston's finest, the Battery's Nicki Patterson logged his best performance of the season scoring twice for Charleston in the first half.  In fact, all the evening's action would come in the first half of play.  A botched clearance from the Dutch Lion defence was seized upon by Alex Caskey in the 13th minute, who promptly fed the ball to Patterson.  The Scotsman effortlessly lofted the shot to the unreachable top left corner of the net.  The lead would stand only five minutes as Dayton leveled in the 18th.  The match quickly evolved into an offensive shootout and the play kept a high tempo for the remainder of the half.  It was Charleston who again edged ahead in the 41st minute and this time it was Seedy Bah who assisted Patterson.  In stoppage time, a well placed corner kick erased Charleston's lead as Happy Hall equalized for the Lions for the second and final time.  Both sides had more scoring chances in the second half but as the match finished, neither had much to show for it.
No joy for the Low Country Boys
In other league matches over the weekend, Charlotte beat Wilmington at home Friday only to reverse the result with an away loss to the Hammerheads Saturday night.  With those results, Wilmington is now tied with Richmond for 2nd in our division, one point and one game ahead of Charleston.  The Hammerheads have a favorable schedule in the coming weeks and are likely to drop very few points.  Charlotte also have a fairly easy schedule to finish the season and will look to trim the four point deficit that currently leaves the Battery in playoff contention.  Charleston will now have a tough road to hoe, facing Rochester (National Division leaders) this weekend, two away matches in Orlando, and a final home fixture against the Charlotte Eagles.  It may be a tense few weeks, but we have to buckle down and grind out as many points as possible from these next few games, then gear up to stick it to Charlotte in our last regular season match.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Dayton Pregame Post

Saturday evening the Charleston Battery travel to Ohio to face the Dayton Dutch Lions in their final meeting this season.  Charleston have only five remaining games in the regular season.  The Battery have taken the Lion's share of points in the two matches prior to this weekend's fixture and will look to do so again tomorrow night.  Dayton have virtually no hope of a playoff spot and will be playing for pride only.  Although they are the weakest team in the league standings wise, they should not be taken for granted.

Dutch Lions FC are affiliated with the world renowned Twente FC in Holland's Eredivisie.  Their style of play reflects this influence and they approach the game in a much different way than the other teams in USL.  In our previous encounters, the Lions have fielded a stubborn defense and this match should be no exception.  Jesper Leerdam, the Dayton GK is unusual goalie if ever there was one.  He is more than comfortable on the ball and is used strategically much like a defensive sweeper.  When the Dutch Lions maintain possession they are a force to be reckoned with.  The passing game is a vital element of their philosophy.  They like to settle on the ball and slowly buildup their attacking opportunities with pass after pass.

Here are a few keys to winning the game for Charleston:

1.  Make the most of our speed.  The Dayton back line can be slow to react.  Long crosses and early through balls will give Dane Kelley and Seedy Bah the opportunities to grab the goals and the result we need.

2.  Possess the ball.  If we can control the pace of the game, it will deny the Lions the chance to play their style of football.  If we dominate possession, it will be difficult for them to get an offense going.

3.  Exploit their unusual style.  If we pressure the goalie and keep a high front line, striking opportunities are bound to come.

I'm certain we have what it takes to come away with a win.  We're in good form and want to finish the season on a strong note.  This will certainly be our easiest game remaining in the regular season and we want to take all three points.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Last Gasp Goal Lifts Battery Over Rivals

In their only Thursday evening fixture this season, the Charleston Battery proudly carried all three points as a sulking Wilmington Hammerheads squad was defeated in the final seconds of the match.  The highly anticipated derby match delighted the nearly 3,000 home fans and this result also has some very important post-season implications.  

This game was a must win for both sides and the tension was palpable in the first half.  Possession was split between the two and each team produced several good scoring opportunities.  Charleston took the first swing in the 12th minute but Seedy Bah's effort went high.  Wilmington were looking dangerous attacking twice in as many minutes and it was nearly advantage Hammerheads only a quarter hour into the match.  Around the 20 minute mark, Charleston had a pair of attempts but just couldn't connect inside the box.  In the 37th, a lethal strike from Wilmington's Avesyan sent Battery keeper Andrew Dystrka diving off his line to tip the ball to safety.  Despite the open play and offensive action, the first half would end as it began, 0-0.

In the second half it looked to be more of the same.  However, in the 76th minute Wilmington's Manny Guzman would break the deadlock.  The Campbell grad scored an excellent headed goal from a well executed corner kick.   The goal deflated the crowd and it was evident the Charleston players were disappointed.  However, it would take only three minutes for the Battery to draw level.  Our boys responded immediately and the home team made an aggressive shift.  Stephen Armstrong's long range effort was denied but Brandon Massie was there to take advantage of the rebound.  The ball fell favorably for him and his perfectly placed shot caught the keeper on the wrong foot.  Off balance and unprepared, he was helpless as he watched Massie's brilliant touch glide just inside the far post.  Time was running out and both sides were desperately searching for the game winning goal.  In what must have been the last few seconds of allotted stoppage time, Colin Falvey lifted a beautiful ball inside the area.  Timing his run with precision, Dane Kelley stunned the keeper with a phenomenal header.  The crowd errupted and the Hammerheads were furious.  In further extra time there would be even more drama.  A confusing turn of events saw Levi Coleman dropped in the box, the play waved on, and Hammerheads defender Garreth Evans dismmissed for dissent with two yellow cards.  A scuffled ensued and the inconsolable Evans was helped off the field by his teammates.  As the whistle blew, Charleston emerged the victors.
Kelley outwits the Wilmington defense
This was another huge result for the Battery.  The match sure ended in a whirlwind of action but when it comes to scoring goals, its better late than never!  The weekend's action leaves Charleston third in their division, two points behind Richmond and still only one point ahead of Wilmington.  The win elevates the Battery to first in the Southern Derby.  The pressure is mounting as the playoffs loom just over a month away.  This week we face the Dayton Dutch Lions in Ohio.  I think we can expect another strong performance from the Battery as week continue to jockey for those playoff spots. Up the Battery!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Orlando Fall in Late Thriller

The Charleston Battery were forced to prove their mettle on a soggy pitch before a sparse crowd two hours past the scheduling of the match.  Although this game had a late start due to inclement weather, the result more than made up for the delay.  It took several minutes for both sides to come alive, but the Battery had their first chance in the 12th minute.  After finding space, Dane Kelley rifled a long shot but his effort was off the mark.  A tired Orlando side sat on the ball for most of the first half but made very little of their possession.  A scoring chance came for the Lions only minutes before the whistle.  Midfielder Jamie Watson delivered a nice cross but Charlie Campbell's header was not on target.  

After the break, both sides retook the steamy field and it was again Orlando who controlled the ball.  Dykstra strung together a series of marvelous saves and together with his back line kept our boys in the match.  Rather against the run of play, Mike Zaher found rookie Alex Caskey with a probing cross.  Beating his man, Caskey whipped the ball toward the inside post, shocking the Lions with a quick goal.  The 62nd minute header was his first goal of the season and his first for the Charleston Battery as well.  The ensuing play was all Charleston as the Battery forcefully sought to increase their lead.  It was great to see the Pride of the Low Country thriving in such difficult conditions.  Moments later, Kelly orchestrated a dazzling breakaway and strode the length of the field.  Unfortunately, he kept possession a second too long and was thwarted by an impressive kick-save.  As the Battery continued to break down Orlando's defense, the Lions became desperate and got a little sloppy with their challenges.  There were a few minor scuffles and token yellow cards distributed accordingly.  Orlando's last real chance came in the closing stages of the match.  Forward Max Griffin let loose from inside the box as a result of some dicey play in the final third.  However, in an acrobatic diving save, Dykstra defended his goal and achieved a well-earned clean sheet.  The shut-out was the Battery's seventh this season.  
Kelley embarrasses the Orlando defense 
What a great game!  This was a big game against a big team and the Battery produced a HUGE result.  Although we don't have a perfect home record this year, Blackbaud is still a fortress.  Toppling the league leaders under such conditions is something to be proud of.  The weekend's results leave Charleston third in our division, two points behind Richmond and a scant single point ahead of Wilmington.  The Hammerheads visit the 'Baud Thursday evening and this fixture is another MUST WIN for the Battery.  Beating Orlando City is certainly an accomplishment but we need to use that momentum to crush Wilmington tomorrow night.  As this is a derby fixture, bragging rights are at stake as well.  This week's match is another big one and we need another big result.  Up the Battery!!
We've got work to do!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Frustrated Battery Scoreless Against Lackluster Blues

Despite a threatening offense and brilliant personal efforts by our own Dane Kelly, the Charleston Battery fought to a frustrating 0-0 draw against the L.A. Blues at the 'Baud Friday night.  It had been a busy week for the Blues as they were narrowly defeated by big brother L.A. Galaxy in the US Open Cup on Tuesday.    Their visit to Charleston was met by a clear evening and a crowd of 3500.  L.A. produced a good attempt in the twelfth minute, but it proved to be their only real opportunity of the match.  They never looked like scoring the rest of the evening.  Charleston fired up the offensive machine and began pounding on the door in the 25th minute.  Defender Nigel Marples fed Alex Caskey whose first-touch shot flew over the bar.  Just before the half Kelly caught up with long ball that had beaten Blues GK Oscar Duatt.  However, with a sharp angle, the Jamaican could not head the shot on frame.

The attack continued in the second half as the Battery ramped up the momentum.  L.A. seemed content to settle in and defend, looking more and more as if they were playing for the draw.  Kelly saw another effort jump the crossbar in the 72nd minute and was denied a penalty claim only five minutes later.  He was dropped inside the box after beating a pair of defenders, but the official waived the foul.  The Battery striker almost became the stoppage time hero as Charleston made one final push in the closing seconds.  It was not to be as Duatt was equal to the challenge, saving the blushes of the L.A. Blues and stealing two points from the Battery.
Kelly takes on former Battery defender Nelson Akwari
While it was not the best result, its important to remember that these draws add up.  We will need every point as we march closer and closer to the postseason.  L.A. went on to lose 4-2 in Wilmington on Saturday, ending a week they will want to forget.  This weeks action leaves us second in the American Division standings, ten points adrift from league leaders Orlando City.  The Lions return to Blackbaud this Saturday and will be a tough test for the Battery.  Charleston will need to make the most of every scoring opportunity and can not afford a leaky defense.  Our boys will face Orlando City three times before the close of the season.  We have to use our homefield advantage and do everything we can to trim that ten point gap.