Thursday, June 14, 2012

Demise Down South, Orlando 2-1 Charleston

 Charleston's perfect road form came to an end Saturday when the Battery fell 2-1 to Orlando City in a hard fought match at the Citrus Bowl.  City now command the USLPRO table, five points clear having played one more game than Charleston.

City opened the match with a cheap foul on Battery veteran John Wilson, setting the tone for an unruly first half.  Orlando were able to hold possession early and making the most their momentum, scored by the head of Alexander, who angled the ball into the net in the 7th minute.  Moments later Charleston responded with a good push into the area, but Jose Cuevas was entirely cleaned out in what should have been a penalty decision.  With no foul called, Bundu played a bouncing ball but his shot was blocked.  Shortly thereafter, Boyd slipped off a shot, but the precision was slipping as well and the shot went wide.  Despite conceding early, the Battery looked defensively solid in the first half, and Navion Boyd used his back line as a springboard for attack, finding space on several occasions.  Dykstra demonstrated good ball handling skills, looking confident in goal.  Even after being fouled, our keeper managed to smother a City corner and our defenders proved just as rigid, tackling hard and standing up straight.  

Charleston began to win balls in the midfield, giving Boyd the freedom to maraud down the right flank.  With a good long ball played to Bundu, the forward cut back for Donatelli, whose shot went wide left.  Suddenly the Battery frontman was allowed space enough to set fire to a rocket-shot, but Bundu's effort dipped just after it cleared the crossbar.  Clearly frustrated by the pressure, Orlando initiated a series of desperate fouls led by none other than former Battery midfielder Ian Fuller.  Surprisingly these blatant "professional fouls" were in plain sight of the refs!  Harassment aside, the Battery continued to press, earning a corner from Boyd's dangerous in-swinging cross in the 38th minute.  Somehow the ball popped out of the eighteen yard box and fell to Nicki Patterson.  The young Scotsman took a swing and hooked the ball into the corner of the net for his sixth goal of the season.  A twenty yard volleyed wonder-goal!!  Shortly thereafter, an obscene foul on Navion Boyd finally prompted the official to loose the card from his pocket but it took the Jamaican several moments to regain his feet.  After several more unchecked fouls, Cuevas was eventually awarded a free kick.  His distanced shot was on target and forced a diving save from OC's Gallardo.  The Lion's desperation culminated with an obvious dive from forward Chin as Dykstra moved in to stifle his run on goal.  Amidst a flurry of rude gestures from Orlando's supporters clubs, bottles thrown from the stands began to rain down on the Charleston players in that area of the field.  Consistent with City's unabated recklessness, Patterson was cut down in the box on the half time whistle whilst Charleston's protests went equally ignored.

The frenetic pace of the first half was never quite matched by the second, but the animosity on the pitch exceeded that of the first act.  Cuevas began brightly for the visitors, leaving five City defenders in the wake of a sparkling run.  However, the finishing ball was missing from his lengthy drive, allowing the Lions a strong counter of their own.  Orlando managed a fine chance from a corner kick, but failed to regain the lead.  Patterson arched another great volley in the 54th minute, his effort lunging just wide.  Like a boxing match, the sides exchanged blows and Boyd looked to have broken open the door with an impressive nutmeg but Charleston was soon halted by a surprising offside call.  Orlando's punch finally found its mark when Jamie Watson took advantage of a congested box, slotting home in the 57th minute.  Nearly ten minutes later Charleston had another good chance on goal from a corner kick.  As both teams began to tire, substitutions were called into action with Charleston forcing the issue and Orlando opting to sit on their lead.  Possession remained unsettled and fatigue was evident in both squads.  City's Alexander had another good effort sail over the goal and Orlando's momentum forced an excellent single handed diving save from Dykstra.  In the closing stages of the match, Charleston's Dane Kelly was gifted with a pair of half chances at leveling the match.  While his quickness surpassed the keeper's response, accuracy was lacking and both opportunities slid wide of the mark.  The gritty struggle could've gone either way, but City edged the Battery yet again.  The rivals will tango at least twice more this season as the Battery will look to avenge their loss.  

Next up for Charleston is the visit of Antigua Barracuda FC, returning to USLPRO action after having the majority of their squad in uniform for the Antigua national team in recent World Cup Qualifier matches against the United States and Jamaica.  Charleston will be intent on regaining their form after an arduous road spell and Open Cup run.  

Finally, on a more personal note, I feel the need to air a few grievances against the Orlando City Football Club.  In almost every encounter with this newcomer to the league, I find myself frustrated with their philosophy of play as well as the unsporting and simply revolting misconduct of City's supporters.  I understand passion, do not misunderstand me.  But I can hardly dismiss the sheer number of deliberately dangerous fouls, not to mention the diving incident, as simply passionate football.  And while throwing streamers and confetti is innocent enough, when you start hurling projectiles at the opposing players, you've crossed a line.  The Lion's edgy atmosphere may be catering to an more youthful crowd, but you can keep you're trashy sideline dancers and bird-flipping "supporters" for all I care.  This type of football culture is a malady to the sport and a black eye to the burgeoning American soccer scene.  My only hope is that Orlando's breed of hooliganism stays as far south as possible and that the league will take appropriate actions to ensure the safety of the players as well any respectable fans of the game.  

2 comments:

  1. Spoke with members of the Ruckus after the match about the event. They assured me that the guy who threw the bottle wasn't a ruckus member and was kicked out of the section and was identified for Orlando Staff.

    The Members of the Ruckus and Iron Lion Firm I have met have been gracious and welcoming. The Ruckus even put on a great Fish Fry for a tailgate while it was raining cats and dogs before the match last Saturday!

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    1. Well that is certainly good to hear. I still can't say I'd ever be glad for City to come to town, but maybe that will change in the future. Thanks for a bit of balancing perspective!

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