Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Empire Strikes Back, Charleston 0-3 New York

Historically, New York has had a pretty rough time winning in Charleston, particularly in the Open Cup.  Unfortunately for the Battery, history was not on our side in last night's loss to the Red Bulls.  Despite the score-line, our boys put on a good show and made the Bulls earn their spot in the next round.  And although we may have had to fight a tropical storm to get home, for my brother and I, it was well worth the trip.

A crowd of over 3500 awaited kickoff and there were many a Gunners jersey in the stands.  And while King Henry himself failed to make an appearance, there was plenty of great football just the same.  In the opening stages, Charleston were chomping at the bit, fighting hard, controlling possession and creating opportunities.  The first of these came in the seventh minute when Charleston cracked the backline and took a swing at goal.  The shot was off target but the boys were making their presence felt on the pitch.  More Battery pressure and more buildup followed.  The Red Bulls simply couldn't get the ball away from Charleston and were forced to defend.

With New York's first real chance came the first goal of the game.  A pacy counterattack let the Bulls get men down the field and cross in to MLS's leading goalscorer, Kenny Cooper.  Before Tuesday's match, I had no idea how big Cooper was.  This dude is like a bull stuffed into a soccer jersey with shoulders as wide as a doorframe.  Needless to say, Cooper edged off two Battery defenders and with his back toward the goal ripped a shot into the lower left side of the net.  It was against the run of play, but at fourteen minutes New York had their goal and were content for the moment.

A surprised Battery responded admirably and continued to pester and wear down the Red Bulls defense.  We were winning set pieces and forcing good saves from NY's Ryan Meara.  Charleston's best efforts on goal came around the half hour mark with a pair of corner kicks.  Patterson swung one in from the right, and after some brief confusion was narrowly scrambled away for another corner.  Pushing up from the back, Captain Colin Falvey received the next kick from Jose Cuevas.  There was a collective gasp in the East bleachers as the onlookers watched the header pierce the melee and descend on the net.  At the last possible moment, Meara managed to scratch the ball, by a fingertip at best, and send it just over the bar.

That's one way to stop John Wilson...
In the forty-first minute, Dax McCarty made good use of a short corner and assisted Heath Pearce to his first goal for the club from the Empire State.  Of course, the traveling fans, presumably those that populate the South Ward at Red Bull Arena, were already singing but redoubled their efforts after taking a two goal lead.  Charleston were deflated and had little to show for their hard work going into the break.

Refusing to abdicate, the Battery manned the trenches and dug in for the second half.  Charleston had several more good chances from set pieces and New York gave John Wilson all kinds of space to make runs down the left flank.  But as the game wore on, fatigue set in and Charleston were unable to find the net.  The duel was all but finished in the seventy-first as Connor Lade laced a fine strike from the edge of the box, placing the ball in the upper right corner of the net.  Coach Anhaeuser threw everything forward after the goal, subbing Mueller and bringing on Kelly, opting for a 3-4-3 formation. His tactics took effect, but Charleston could never perfect the final through ball.  As the clock wound down, the rains came up and the crowd was amused by some major league misfires as the Red Bulls embarrassed themselves by playing a little too fancy.  Brock Duckworth recored several fine saves, one in particular requiring great acrobatics.  In the end, an essentially first-string Red Bulls side proved too hot to handle, and advance to the next round of the cup.

Here are some of my lasting impressions from the game:

-Kenny Cooper is a monster.  Seriously, this guy is huge...with his control and sheer brute force, its no wonder this guy is topping the charts in Major League Soccer.

-Brock Duckworth is one incredible GK.  He pulled off some pretty fantastic saves against perhaps the most dynamic offense in the country.  Lets hope he gets a contract extension!!

-The Red Bulls are a club worth supporting.  While they had a few hot-shot moments and dramatic fouls, their players (and fans) for the most part were very respectful and brought something special to the match.

Its always disappointing to get knocked out of the cup, but with the way our boys played and considering the opposition, the Charleston Battery left little to be desired.  It was a wild night in the Cup's other fixtures with upsets aplenty.  Look for a third round recap in the next few days.

With no time to dwell on what could have been, the Battery hit the road taking on Pittsburgh Thursday night, and Dayton on Saturday.  Heads up boys!  Time to climb the table remind our league foes what we're famous for!!


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