Friday, June 22, 2012

Barracudas Hooked Again, Charleston 3-0 Antigua

In another exciting round of USLPRO action, the Charleston Battery trounced Antigua Barracuda FC 3-0 last Saturday at Blackbaud Stadium.  A crowd of 3,444 was treated to an exciting match full of controversy and bristling with attacking flair.  Quietly proving a point, Charleston have upstaged the US men's national team, who not a full week ago faced Antigua & Barbuda in a World Cup qualifier.  While the Yanks won 3-1, they struggled to polish off the A&B national team which shares the coaching staff and essentially the same starting lineup as Barracuda FC.

The Battery began brightly as Ryan Richter got things rolling with a good burst down the left side.  The cross is never found its mark, but Charleston continued to apply pressure creating several good opportunities early on.  Antigua managed some slick one-two passing to dart into the final third and forced a fine kick save from Andrew Dykstra.  The Battery responded in kind, stringing together superb triangle passes to work their way back down the pitch.  In the 9th minute, a nasty foul on Navion Boyd prompted a yellow card from the official.  After the restart, Charleston continued to dominate possession with accurate passes and intricate footwork.  Earning a start in the backline, Battery rookie Micheal Izira did well to deflect several counterattacks from the Barracudas, despite Antigua's very physical style of play as the young Ugandan boasted a solid performance throughout the evening.
Charleston soon edged a deep through ball to Patterson who nicked a pinpoint cross in for Dane Kelly. The Jamaican mistimed his header, but Boyd picked up the loose ball and swung a cross over the goalpost.  Moments later, Kelly was entangled in an assault of a very different kind.  Bumped off the ball, the forward was fouled by Antigua's Lawson Robinson and took issue with his assailant.  Responding with a curt slap, the ref called for a Charleston free kick and appropriately handed Kelly his caution.  Apparently unhappy with the final decision, the red haze descended as Robinson absolutely pummeled Kelly, striking his opponent in the head, right in front of the onlooking official.  Fortunately for the Battery, a red card descended as well and cooler heads prevailed as a large scale brawl was averted.  When Kelly finally pulled himself from the turf, Skipper Colin Falvey immediately gathered the team to recollect and regroup, now with a one man advantage.  Somehow, a member of the Barracuda's technical staff managed to earn a yellow card in the midst of the fray.

It took several minutes for the game to regain its pace as both sides looked a bit uncertain.  Eventually Charleston took up the offensive and Richter earned a free kick as Antigua's Blakely earned a yellow card in the 32nd minute.  Predictably, the Battery's set piece specialist, Nicki Patterson stepped up to take the kick.  Defying the wall, the sweet-footed Scotsman buried a curled ball into the side netting to give his side the lead after a tense half hour of play.  Smelling blood, Charleston pressed their advantage.  Boyd managed a half chance, and then Richter made a fine play in the box but a heavy cross sent the ball into touch.  With a minute left in the half, Wilson collected a longball from the back and played Kelly into space, allowing the feisty frontman to rifle home his fourth goal of the season with a flawless finish in front of the net.  Further stoking the flame, Kelly celebrated his goal by kissing the ground before the Antigua bench, ending a riveting first half of football.  

Coach Anhaeuser wisely brought on Donatelli for Kelly after the break and the revived Barracuda's pushed forward early.  Patterson balanced things for the home side, checking Antigua with a good headed shot on target.  Boyd had a series of excellent attempts on goal, but was unlucky to see a trio of shots go wide.  Hammering a shot from congested play at the far end, the fantastic crack was just over the far left corner of the net.  With another screamer, Boyd frightened the right post with his next attempt.  Richter took his turn with a curled effort over the bar as Charleston sought a third goal to put the game on ice.  Wilson opened up a run for Donatelli who's shot gone wide mirrored the tries of Navion Boyd.  Caught napping, the Battery defense were left flatfooted when Byers suddenly broke through, but his placed shot flew just wide of the far post, marking the Barracuda's best look at goal on the night.  At 63 minutes, Kyle Hoffer was manhandled by Antigua's beastly defender, Hakeem Thomas, after receiving a longball in the box from John Wilson.  Charleston was awarded the penalty and Patterson drilled a low shot into the right side netting, fooling the keeper and ending the contest.  With a comfortable lead, Prince and Wiltse came on for Patterson and Sanyang, the latter returning from a longstanding groin injury.  Charelston were on cruise control for the remainder of the match and looked like adding on another goal or two.  Boyd had another powerful shot drift high as the continued pressure forced Antigua to field their back-up goalie to bolster their threadbare roster.  Seeing off the final few minutes, the Battery danced to another brilliant victory.

Some lasting impressions from the match:

Let's hear it for the official maintaining control of the match.  Not often do you see hockey brawl scenes on the soccer pitch, but this guy really held it together.  Perfect example of officiating the sport; he was smart, kept the misconduct in check, and even cut short stoppage time to prevent further incident.

On a similar note, kudos to Colin Falvey for keeping his squad in line.  Calling the players together to calm down and refocus proved to be the turning point in the game.  Such composure was instrumental in Charleston's first two goals.

Lastly, Coach Anhaeuser has truly assembled a legendary strike force in terms of the Battery's offensive arsenal.  And that arsenal broadened it scope again this week.  Charleston have agreed to terms with Dino Williams, Jamaican national team forward and resident goal-getter for JPL's Village United.  Moving on, Ryan Richter is certainly making his presence felt in the midfield and sparking incredible opportunities up front.  He looked as dangerous as ever against Antigua.  And Nicki Patterson?!?  My goodness, no one else in the league has made a habit of snatching goals two at a time!    As far as I'm concerned, who needs the likes of your Beckham's and Ronaldo's when you've got shooting boots like Mr. Patterson??

Next up for Charleston, the Harrisburg City Islanders come to town for the Battery's 'Christmas in June' Toy Drive benefitting Toys for Tots.  See you at the match!!

(Thanks to the Regiment for supplying a link to game highlights)

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