Saturday, July 7, 2012

Midseason Slump...Charlotte 1-0 Charleston

The Charleston Battery broke the wrong kind of record Saturday night, losing two consecutive games to the Charlotte Eagles for the first time in club history.  I'd love to say we were outmatched and outplayed but I'd be lying.  The Battery controlled the match and outshot their opponents by an impressive margin.  However, Charlotte capitalized every opportunity on goal, hitting the net first and the goalpost twice before full time.

Dane Kelly boasted what might have been Charleston's best chance after only three minutes of play.  Finding space in the final third, the pacey Jamaican striker ripped his shot a foot wide of the far post.  It wasn't long before his second attempt, a shot that dipped just over the crossbar.  Charleston continued to build on the early pressure and saw several shots swing ever so slightly off target.  In spite of the Battery assault, the Eagles conjured a stinging counterattack in the 36th minute as Charlotte's D. Roberts lifted a brilliant volley into the side netting, burning Charleston's last defender and putting the hosts in front.  Responding with pluck, Charleston pressed forward again but were unable to dent the lead before halftime.

The second period was much like the first, the only difference being a multitude of shots on goal.  The Lowcountry Boys exploded out of the break and forced save after save from Charlotte's Eric Reed.  The Eagle's were content to hold a tight defense and continue their counterattacking forays.  Jorge Herrera was sharp for the home side, nearly scoring on three opportunities.  The long-time Charlotte man hit the woodwork twice and came close to scoring with another effort as well.  Try as they might, the Battery were unable find the equalizer.  Nicki Paterson claimed the best effort in the second half with a rocketing free kick only inches off the mark.  The Scotsman also saw a powerful shot driven squarely into the keeper's hands in the closing stages of the fixture.  Bundu and Williams came on for the Battery and combined nicely to add speed and fervor to the Battery attack.  Bundu received a warm welcome from the Charlotte faithful but the former Eagle's frontman went straight to work, pestering his former club.  Bundu has a knack for being in the right place at the right time and before long found himself hauled down inside the penalty box.  However, Charleston's appeal for foulplay fell upon deaf ears.  Jose Cuevas also entered the game from the bench to leave his mark on the match.  Fatigue from Friday's match in Charleston became evident and the Battery began to look a little leggy.  The Eagle's reasserted themselves, sparking dangerous runs in the final minutes, nearly doubling their lead on more than one occasion.  As the clock wound down, the Battery were simply out of chances and out of luck.  At the end of a hard fought game, Charlotte's lone goal was enough to separate the two, leaving Charleston empty handed, having bested their rivals twice in as many nights, carrying three goals, six points, and a daunting lead in the Southern Derby.

Having lost three on the trot, Charleston need to snap out of it...and fast.  With double losses to Charlotte and last Sunday's reverse in Antigua, the Battery have slipped to third place in the USLPRO standings.  They now sit one point behind Rochester and only five points ahead of Wilmington.  Speaking of the Hammerheads, they're coming to town next week.  A win here would be the perfect chance to right the ship and end our midseason slide.  Its important to remember that in all three losses, the Battery have performed well and even controlled the possession and run of play.  However, our opponents have improved since the outset of the season and with goals no longer coming by the bucketful, we must make our shots count and polish up that finishing ball.  All is not lost, but there's plenty of work to do if we want to stay in the title hunt.  Heads high boys and UP THE BATTERY!!!!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sun, Sand, and Goals, Antigua 0-2 Charleston

While most travel to the Caribbean to relax or "get away", the Charleston Battery took a weekend trip to Antigua, but their intentions were strictly business.  Continuing the tradition of trouncing the Barracudas, Charleston won the first  two match trip two-nil.  However, those well earned goals required considerably more work as Antigua forced a spirited contest from the Battery at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium.

It was nearly over before it began as Charleston's Navion Boyd carved up Antigua and delivered a fine cross for Donatelli in the 3rd minute.  The header rose high and the Battery continued to fight for possession for the rest of the half.  The Barracudas managed to string some passes together and had several good chances of their own.  The first was a long shot gone high, but they soon had another effort ping of the upright before being smothered by Dykstra.  Moments after, Dysktra was called for time wasting and Antigua were given another shot at goal.  The hosts would nick the goalpost one more time in a daring effort just before the whistle.  On the other end, Jose Cuevas forced a fine save from Molvin James as the Barracudas managed to keep the Charleston at bay and the first half finished deadlocked.  

Things heated up after the break and the Barracudas held the attacking advantage, pressing Charleston into a counter-attack style of play.  As the tie seemed to peter out, Jose Cuevas sparked life into the game with a quarter hour left to play.  Bundu received a ball from the back, burned his marker and slipped a deadly through ball past the back line.  The "Chiva" latched onto the service and after dazzling two opponents ripped the ball into the net.  Antigua pushed forward attempting to level the game, but the Barracudas were punished for their aggressiveness and conceded another goal, confirming the result.  Super-sub JC Mack tacked on the second in stopped time, scoring from short range with an assist from Dino Williams.

The Battery have now earned ten wins this season and are closing the gap with Orlando City.  Having crossed the halfway point of the season, there's not much wrong with this Charleston side.  With several different attacking options up front, and a few key defenders returning from injury, the latter half of the season has the potential to eclipse the first.  If we can maintain our current momentum and form, there's no doubt we can claim the top spot in the table and capitalize on a good playoff run.  Well done boys!  Keep up the good work!!

Monday, July 2, 2012

And Then There Were Four, USOC Quarterfinal Round

San Jose Earthquakes 0-1 Seattle Sounders

The fiery match-up between these west coast rivals began with a bang but things turned sour as the match wore on.  Cordello Cato, a former Quakes trialist, was Seattle's lone goal hero of the evening.  The Trinidadian knocked in his first goal as a Sounder, scoring from a difficult angle by slipping the ball between Bingham's boots in the 19th minute.  San Jose are practically the comeback kings of the MLS and the Supporter's Shield leaders switched on to recovery mode.  Despite throwing everything forward, including the talismanic Chris Wondolowski, Seattle's stubborn defense, led by would-be Earthquake GK Andrew Weber, refused to yield.  Things got nasty in the final stages of the game when San Jose's Alan Gordon was ejected in stoppage time. The Sounder's Eddie Johnson threw a punch after the whistle and the host from up the coast were forced to wait at midfield to be escorted off the pitch by security detail in a scene uncommon to and unbecoming the American game.

Philadelphia Union 5-2 Harrisburg City Islanders
Defensive miscues buried the Islanders early on, and despite some second half splendor, the hole they'd dug was too deep to crawl out of.  Sapped by a weekend road trip to Orlando City and Charleston, Harrisburg simply ran out of magic and ran out of steam.  Surrendering a PK by means of a handball in the 6th minute, Harrisburg gifted Freddy Adu and the Union with an early lead.  Three minutes later, an errant headed ball was gobbled up and struck home by Philly.  With half an hour gone, the Union's Pajoy torched the Islander's defense leaving the hosts three goals to the good.  Refusing to throw in the towel, Harrisburg mustered two goals in as many minutes shortly after the restart.  And while the lightning strike goals were impressive, giving up another PK in the second half all but scuttled their hopes of an upset.  Another Union goal in the 81st tacked the final nail in the coffin as Philadelphia handily polished off their USLPRO affiliate.

Sporting Kansas City 3-0 Dayton Dutch Lions
Sporting will look for a double dose of vengeance when they face the Union in the Cup Semis on July 11.  Philadelphia recently treated KC to their worst league result of the year, an embarrassing 4-0 loss.  And last year, Kansas City was ousted from the Open Cup by USLPRO's Richmond Kickers in a 2-0 shock defeat at home.  Finding redemption by dismissing the compliant Dutch Lions, Sporting strolled as a Sapong brace and Zusi strike proved more than enough to advance.  The Semifinal tie with the Union should be a rather lively encounter.

Chivas USA 2-1 Charlotte Eagles
On the heels of their recent conquest of the Lonestar state, the Eagles were looking to prolong their historic cup run.  And after twenty minutes, Charlotte were dominating the Chivas as the Eagle's Jorge Herrera and Mark Bloom tested former Battery keeper Tim Melia.  At the close of the first half, the Chivas had wrested a touch of momentum from the visitors and they would cash in on that momentum shortly after the break.  At 64 minutes, Jose Correa netted for the Chivas and the Goats would ride the slim lead nearly to the end of the match.  In the 89th minute, Herrera forced the issue by slamming a powerful shot.  His shot ricocheted off James Riley and was pounded home but Charlotte's Maricio Salles.  The match looked destined for another dramatic extra time finish, but the official was rather generous with his allowance of extra time and Correa headed in the winner from a free kick to vanquish the Eagles deep into extra time.