Friday, April 20, 2012

Battery Ground Eagles, Charlotte 0-3 Charleston

Three goals.  Three points.

The Battery earned another fantastic result Tuesday night, throttling the Charlotte Eagles three goals to nil.  And while the attendance was rather small, the action was far from lacking.  Charleston was well represented by a host of traveling fans and the boys did their part by putting on a good show.

It was all business from the outset, with both teams pushing hard in the opening stages.  Bundu had several good opportunities and remained a threat throughout the match.  Soon after the game found its rhythm, the Battery found the opening goal.  Jose Cuevas delivered in a bending cross to an awaiting Donatelli.  The midfielder headed the ball on frame, slanting across the keeper to score from the back post in the twenty third minute.  Charleston finished off a fine first half offensively with an impressive effort from Ryan Ritcher.  Springing the offside trap, he diced the Eagles' backline and fired past Charlotte GK Eric Reed just before the half.

The second forty-five looked very different and Charlotte looked intent on finding the net.  The Battery defense weathered a tough storm and deterred the Eagle's assault time after time.  Captain Colin Falvey held the line and kept the Charlotte attack at bay.  As the game drew to a close, Charleston regained the upper hand.  The Eagles' attack eventually ran out of steam and Nicki Patterson led the Battery midfield in the quest for another goal.  Reapplying the pressure with fresh substitutes, Charleston found their third three minutes from time.  Ritcher fired another bullet from short range, but this time Reed managed to parry the shot...right into the path of JC Mack that is.  Needless to say, Mack polished off the opportunity leaving Charleston three goals to the good.

It was a complete performance by the Battery and while the three goal tally was impressive, equally impressive was our defensive stand against considerable pressure in the second half.  Charleston have a short break and return to action April 27th against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds at Blackbaud Stadium.  If they retain Tuesday's form, the Riverhounds will have their work cut out for them.  Another great result for the Black & Gold and a fine start to the new season!  Up the Battery!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Richmond's Revenge, Battery 1-2 Kickers

Having treated the Richmond Kickers to an opening day loss a week before, the Charleston Battery were dealt a similar hand Saturday evening in the second installment of the Pioneer Cup.  The big news coming from the midweek was the return of Andrew Dykstra on loan from DC United.  Dykstra played with the Battery for the 2011 season and will again play a vital role in the defense this year.   Its great to have Andrew back and I know his experience will be great for the two new keepers we recently signed.

The Battery controlled most of the match and gave all 4,729 fans plenty to cheer about.  Charleston struck first and it was Nicki Patterson who ripped open the net in the eighteenth minute.  Ryan Richter delivered up a square ball that allowed our resident Scot to one-touch the ball, burying the goal into the left corner of the net.

Despite the early lead, Richmond caught several breaks in the second half.  The Kickers were awarded a penalty for a foul in the box twenty minutes after the restart.  Stanley Nyazamba, who scored against the Battery a week ago, stepped up and converted the PK.  Then just as the game was ending, Richmond's Sacha Gorres took a pot-shot from a ways out.  The ball took a very unlucky bounce and ended up in the net.

Thats a really tough way to lose and its obvious that Coach Anhaeuser was disappointed with the final score.  And while a win or even draw would've been great, there's little time to mope.  The Battery head to Charlotte to face the Eagles at Winthrop's soccer complex this Tuesday.  With such a long history between the teams, this is always a great match and Charleston will be eager to return to winning ways.  The Regiment and several other Battery fans scattered across the state will be in attendance, so hopefully our boys will be well represented.  As always...Up the Battery!!!!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

MLS Rewind: Week 5

After another eventful week of MLS action, we're starting to see some trends.  One month into the season, a handful of teams have really set themselves apart...while their opposites have only continued to reload after shooting themselves in the foot countless times.  Sporting KC is starting to pull away from the pack and while they may not be playing the "beautiful" game, it certainly is effective.  At the same time, several sides, like LA and Toronto, had high hopes for 2012 but have instead been consigned to the bottom of the barrel.

As foreseen, foretold, and forewarned, Toronto did in fact get mauled by Santos Laguna in Mexico.  The brutality ended with a 6-2 scoreline.  As TFC was the last MLS side in the hunt, that means another all-Mexican CONCACAF Champs League final.  And as much as I love the competition, I've officially lost interest and don't really care who wins.

Real Salt Lake 1-0 Montreal Impact
The Impact have continued to improve and begun to gain their footing in the league, but it was a simple mistake that undid them last Wednesday at the Rio Tinto.  In the twelfth minute, a handball in the box gave RSL all they'd need to take the match.  Paulo Jr. put the ball in to convert the penalty, but Donovan Ricketts nearly came away with a save.  Montreal's GK had a stellar night, finishing the match with a basketful great stops, including charging down Espindola nearly twenty yards off his line.  But for all the pluck of the Impact attack in the second half, that PK was enough to do them in.

FC Dallas 1-0 New England Revolution
Dallas are back to winning ways, but only just.  The Hoops looked more like themselves after returning home and regaining a few regular players, hosting the Revolution Thursday evening.  It was all Dallas offensively, but Matt Reis and the New England D would prove a tough nut to crack.  After concerted pressure late in the game, the winner came deep into stoppage time from the head of Ugo Ihemelu.  The win snaps FCD's two game losing streak, as well as the Revs two game winning streak.

Montreal Impact 2-1 Toronto FC
Bouncing back from the midweek loss, the Impact earned their first-ever win as an MLS franchise over Canadian rivals TFC.  As part of a much altered Montreal line-up, former Battery forward Lamar Neagle was the architect of the first goal.  The Reds took the pitch with something to prove after their drubbing by Santos at midweek and they looked more dangerous at the outset.  However, after seventeen minutes, it was Ubiparipovic in his first appearance for Montreal who collected Neagle's perfect ball and put the hosts ahead.  An ecstatic Olympic Stadium voiced their approval.  In another glorious charge, Ricketts foiled a TFC equalizer by extinguishing a fiery header by Koevermans.  The Reds were reduced to ten when defender Emory was sent off at sixty-five minutes.  Surprisingly, TFC showed more initiative after the booking and had several good chances.  Before the comeback could develop, Montreal netted again in the eighty-first by means of the No. 1 SuperDraft pick, Wenger.  Koevermans would find a consolation goal late for Toronto, but the result was in all but over with.

Check out Neagle's brilliant steal & assist:

Columbus Crew 1-4 New York Red Bulls
The Red Bulls delivered another first-class beatdown in Columbus Saturday afternoon.  Its got to bring Hans Backe a smile, knowing he's got two golden boot frontrunners on the pitch at the same time.  That same fact seems to have opposing keepers shaking in their mitts.  After only three minutes, Kenny Cooper had blasted one into the net.  Snapping another past Columbus with his head, Cooper had his brace ten minutes later!  Henry got his name on the sheet just before the break, continuing his outrageous scoring run.  To their credit, the Crew fronted a challenge in the second, but NY's Meara was equal to the task.  As soon as it no longer matter, Columbus scored.  Chad Marshall made the most of a corner to pull one back in the eighty-ninth minute.  But before the whistle was blown and with a baker's knack, Henry iced the cake, making a fifteen yard top corner shot look just that.  A piece of cake.

Sporting KC 1-0 LA Galaxy
Kansas City has done it again!  Sporting are on a record breaking run, still undefeated five games into the season.  The hosts muscled out LA in every corner of the pitch and gave the fans at Livestrong Park what they were looking for.  Assisted by Bobby Convey, Kei Kamara headed in the only goal of the match five minutes before the half.  The iconic KC frontman has emerged as an early contender for league MVP and shows no signs of stopping.  Sporting's defense absolutely smothered the Galaxy attack and apart from Mike Magee, it was hardly worth mentioning.  Kansas City are cruising, but it looks like it may take some creativity to lose against such a lackluster Galaxy team.

San Jose Earthquakes 3-1 Vancouver Whitecaps
The Whitecaps achieved an impressive milestone, breaking the record for the longest clean sheet run to open an MLS season.  After a quiet first half, Hassli and Le Toux combined to give the Caps the lead...Enter Chris Wondolowski.  In a ten-minute offensive outburst, Wondo and the Quakes undid Vancouver.  The Wonderboy himself led the charge scoring at sixty eight minutes.  A diving header by substitute Gordon gave San Jose the lead and Wondo's strike at seventy-eight minutes effectively put the game to bed.  San Jose are shaping up to be quite the west coast strongman so far, annihilating with ease.

DC United 0-0 Seattle Sounders
Its about time this season put forth a scoreless draw worth watching.  When all was said and done, the goalpost would easily take 'man of the match' honors from this one.  The play was very back and forth and neither side expressed real dominance in the fixture.  Both teams had brilliant efforts denied by the woodwork while the slightest touch of finishing and poise could've tilted the game dramatically either way.

Real Salt Lake 2-0 Colorado Rapids
RSL swept the first edition of the Rocky Mountain Cup with a convincing win over rivals Colorado.  A defense-minded gameplan has ensured the Clarets steady climb to the top of the table.  Espindola inspired the home side early on and Saborio reaped the reward at twenty minutes.  The Argentine would score himself in the second half despite allegations of handling the ball.  Colorado came to life after the second goal but were helpless to turn back the tide.  RSL head next to Kansas City for a mouthwatering matchup between the league's two best sides!

Portland Timbers 1-2 Chivas USA
Suffering another gut-wrenching loss at home, the Timbers succumbed to a Chivas team that is growing in confidence.  Portland owned the first half and a defensive blunder gifted Timber's DP Chris Boyd a goal just past the quarter-hour.  But the second 45 was a different story altogether.  Three minutes into the half with an incisive cross allowed Moreno to head the Chivas level.  Similarly, in eighty-second, LaBrocca headed home the game winner.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Battery Kicks Richmond 2-1 in Season Opener

The Charleston Battery started the USLPRO 2012 season with a bang, downing the Richmond Kickers in the inaugural edition of the Pioneer Cup.  Both teams are celebrating twenty years of football this season and to mark the anniversaries, the Battery and the Kickers donned retro jersey's reminiscent of their first ever tangle two decades ago.  Marking the long-standing rivalry between two of the oldest soccer clubs in continuous operation in the US, the Pioneer Cup is a home-and-away series celebrating the history of the Kickers and Battery.  The winner will claim the fan trophy, but bragging rights are definitely the prize of the tournament.  Winning 2-1, the Battery repeated the scoreline of their first encounter with the Kickers twenty years ago at Stoney Field in Charleston.

Entertaining a crowd of over 4,000, the game was worthy of its billing and made for a fantastic season opener.  It was an even contest between the two in the first half, but the Battery nudged ahead at forty one minutes.  Charleston's John Wilson threaded through the Richmond defense and found himself deep in Kicker's territory.  Crossing into the box, the defender's ball was headed home by Battery newcomer Jose Cuevas.  The lead was short-lived however, as Richmond found an equalizer just before the break.  Matt Delicate, one of the league's most talented frontmen, set up Stanley Nyazamba who curled home a shot from just inside the box.  

Wilson shreds the Richmond defense
The second half was end to end stuff as both sides fought for pride and points.  Charleston regained their lead at seventy-seven minutes.  It was Cuevas again who found the net, having volleyed a raging cross from Bundu in the corner.  Once again, Richmond pressed hard for the equalizing goal but the Charleston back line stood firm and the Kickers were nearly punished for their aggressiveness.  Nicki Patterson managed a late drive from a distance of thirty yards but Richmond GK Pascale recovered to keep Charleston at bay.  

Jose Cuevas was unquestionably the man of the match and his double on the day was certainly a bright start to his professional career.  The Battery defense also did a fine job of standing up the Kicker's attack.  Charleston looked sharp in the tie, earning points in a difficult road game.  The win was not only a fine kick off to the  20th anniversary season, but also a signal of intent to the rest of the league.  The Battery will look to sweep the series against the Kickers Saturday in their home opener at Blackbaud.

Oh yeah, here are highlights from the match!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

MLS Rewind: Week 4 'The Highs and Lows'

Think you know Major League Soccer??  Think again!  The MLS is becoming one of the most exciting and entertaining leagues the game has to offer, and with all the upsets and head-scratchers offered up from over the weekend, it no surprise why.

In the midweek, Toronto FC made a defiant stand at BMO field in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champs League Semifinals against Mexican side Santos Laguna.  Deserving the win, but earning a draw, the Reds kept their hopes alive with an inspired performance despite the odds.  An unsightly scuffle after the final whistle will hamper the Saints in the next round as two red cards were issued to the visitors.  But TFC will be forced to travel south of the border this week for the replay at Santos and remember...the Sounders were mauled 6-1 on their last visit.

Kansas City remains undefeated, grinding out wins wherever they go.  And while there were some fantastic team performances this week, all of the sudden the MLS is starting to look the like the Thierry Henry show.  Netting an impressive hat trick (his first in MLS) and a sly assist to boot, the Arsenal legend won Player of the Week honors again, as he continues to expand the Major League Soccer fanbase one brilliant goal at a time.

Now, on to the recaps:

DC United 4-1 FC Dallas
Dallas got absolutely torched Friday night at RFK Stadium as the Screaming Eagles finally got their campaign rolling in the right direction.  Although DC were lively from the outset, the game seemed an even match at the half with the score tied 1-1.  That pictured changed rather quickly, thanks to United's De Leone.  A smashing shot crashed off the bar at fifty-nine minutes, but the rookie had his reward moments later, collecting a long cross on the chest then rifling home from short range.  The DC youngster then supplied teammate Cruz with a vital assist six minutes later, popping another nail in the coffin. Maicon Santos finished the affair in the seventy-third, smartly heading home for the second time in as many games.  FCD's resolute defending from recent weeks was nowhere to be found, and even GK Kevin Hartman looked surprised at his team's misfortune.

Toronto FC 0-1 Columbus Crew
Far from being the most exciting game of the week, the Crew managed another win against a sub-par foe.  Clearly spent from the champs league tangle at midweek, TFC were already reeling from a depleted and injury stricken roster.  The black and gold got the benefit of another questionable penalty call, but Red's keeper Kocic was up to the challenge.  He may be second in the depth chart, but the big man swatted away Mirosevic's half-hearted attempt to convert the PK in the first half.  After the break, a poor clearance by TFC's defense and the ball dropped favorably for Crew frontman, Anor.  Not wasting the chance, it was the only goal in the match.  The win gives Columbus an edge in the Trillium Cup rivalry, while Toronto remain winless in the league this year.

New York Red Bulls 5-2 Montreal Impact
Game of the week?  Definitely.  The Red Bulls ended the month on a 'march' of their own, stampeding the Impact, despite Montreal's early lead.  New York have finally figured out how to win...and his name is Thierry Henry.  This guy oozes beautiful football.  However, things didn't start so well for the Red Bulls.  Montreal snagged an early lead from a defensive flub to stun a less than capacity crowd at Red Bull Arena.  Allaying fears and inspiring fans, Henry brought New York level at nine minutes with a fantastic header, thanks to Rafa Marquez, whose attitude seems to have considerably improved this season.  Justin Mapp seized another opportunity for the Impact, making the most of New York's sloppy defending and giving Montreal their second lead of the game.  Just as things began to drift in Montreal's favor...they didn't.  A penalty kick decision went to the Red Bulls and Kenny Cooper doesn't miss from the spot.  So it was all square at the break.  New York assumed more responsibility, and therefore possession in the second half.    Henry grabbed another goal and provided an assist to teammate Medhi Ballouchy.  The Frenchman's trademark back-heel, as potent as ever, let Ballouchy tap in effortlessly.  Henry went on to record his first (and I do emphasize first) hat-trick as a Red Bull one minute into stoppage time, latching on to the rebound of a Kenny Cooper rocket, igniting the fans and claiming his match ball.

You missed this one?!?  Don't worry, I've included all that beautiful footage for your viewing pleasure:

Philadelphia Union 0-0 Vancouver Whitecaps
I wish there was something good to say about this match, but for all the buildup, these two really seemed to put the "stale" in stalemate.  Despite the hype surrounding Sebastian Le Toux's return to Philly, the fact that this Union original and fan favorite "almost" scored is less than compelling.  The Caps continue to post clean sheets, but then again, they were never really challenged this weekend.

Portland Timbers 2-3 Real Salt Lake
JELD-WEN field is a difficult place for any visiting team to leave with points, but RSL took all three in a last-gasp shocker.  The Clarets went up in the first half from a penalty kick, but Portland showed grit as the league's new wunderkind, Darlington Nagbe earned a fine brace.  Beating one of the league's best midfielders in Beckerman, and best keepers in Rimando, the Portland man confidently fired his team level just after the restart.  Scarcely fifteen minutes later, Nagbe juggled and volleyed another fine strike, maybe one of the season's best yet.  But just as the Timber Army and the rest of the Portland's sell-out crowd were congratulating themselves on a fine night of football, Real Salt Lake found the net.  As deflating as it was go from a win to a draw in the last minute of regulation, it was nothing compared to the disappointment of going from draw to loss in the third minute of stoppage time.  Kyle Beckerman lifted RSL to victory, burying the ball and the crowd as well.

Seattle Sounders 0-1 San Jose Earthquakes
The Sounders found themselves on the wrong side of a scrappy match at CenturyLink field Saturday evening.  At twenty-four minutes, the Quakes won a penalty and Chris Wondolowski was more than obliged to make it count.  The rest of the game was back and forth with the Sounders holding the edge in the second half.  But that edge wouldn't matter as San Jose's lone goal was enough to secure the win in hostile territory, issuing a challenge to the rest of the western conference.

LA Galaxy 1-3 New England Revolution
Perhaps the biggest shock of the week was when the Revolution paralyzed the LA Galaxy at the Home Depot Center.  Scoring twice in the first thirteen minutes of play, New England took command of the match and gave LA no breathing space at all.  It was all over with but the crying when the Revs netted again in the sixty-fifth minute.  Robbie Keane linked up with Edson Buddle for a nice goal in the dying stages, but on the night, the Galaxy embarrassed themselves playing with all the composure of a rec league squad.  Thats two wins in a row for New England...and a bad sign for the flagging Galaxy, who travel to face league leaders Kansas City next week.

Chivas USA 0-1 Sporting Kansas City
And speaking of Kansas City, Sporting can't seem to stop winning at the moment.  Fighting out another tough one with the Chivas at the HDC, their ugly wins have them sitting atop the table.  Graham Zusi, KC's renaissance man, supplied CJ Sapong with a powerful headed goal in the forty-seventh minute.  The workhorse win continues Sporting's perfect start this year.

Colorado Rapids 2-0 Chicago Fire
And finally, the Rapids looked more like themselves in the 2-0 win over Chicago, Sunday at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.  The return of Jeff Larentowicz meant the return of Colorado's midfield dominance.  Omar Cummings, who has a habit a of scoring against the Fire, found the first goal early in the second half and the Rapid's newest signing, Kamani Hill iced the cake in stoppage time.

All in all another thrilling week of MLS action with plenty of ups, downs, penalty's and wonder-goals.  Having been a fan of the league for a few years now, Major League Soccer just keeps getting better.  The on-field talent as well as the fan culture and media coverage has steadily increased, and unlike most leagues in Europe, the MLS seemed to be a fairly balanced league.  Despite some big budget gaps and facility issues for smaller market teams, the "any given Sunday" mentality is present in every weekend of MLS action.

Don't forget, this weekend USLPRO will kick off the 2012 season!!!  The Charleston Battery travel to Virginia to face the Richmond Kickers in the first installment of the Pioneer Cup!!  The game will not be broadcast via, but the Battery's website will have a radio feed of the match.  Cheer on the Charleston Battery as they celebrate their 20th Anniversary!!  Two decades of glorious football!!