Saturday, September 8, 2012

Fastest Goal in US History Not Enough to Down Reggae Boyz

While it took only 36 seconds for Clint Dempsey to find the net in the US vs Jamaica World Cup Qualifier match, it would take far more to overcome the Reggae Boyz.  In what ESPN deemed "A Bad Night at the Office", it was all downhill for the USMNT after the first minute of play.

The loss sees the US slip into a tie for second place in their group at 1-1-1 and the Yanks could find themselves in some real trouble without dramatic improvement...and fast.  A listless midfield performance and shaky backline raised some serious questions about the national squad.  And while that was certainly part of the equation, give credit where its due; Jamaica came to play.  With little time to adapt, the US have the opportunity to make amends as they host the Reggae Boyz Tuesday night at Columbus Crew Stadium.

There's certainly work to do, but please make sure you enjoy the wonder-goal first!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

It's Championship Time!!

We find ourselves on the eve of what promises to be a phenomenal and truly special Championship match as the Wilmington Hammerheads come to town to face our Charleston Battery and vie for the 2012 USL PRO title!!

Stick it to 'em boys!!
Part local rivalry, part cinderella story, throw in a slight chance of thunderstorms and this could be one for the ages!!

If you don't have your tickets yet, get 'em now, they're going fast.  I'm fairly certain this will be a sellout match, besides we want those ticketholders to be BATTERY fans, not those punks up the road.

Can't make it out to Blackbaud for the match?  No worries, UNATION has you covered with a free live stream of the game.  There will also be a special preview program live from the Three Lions Pub, Friday at 1:00pm. 

Watch Chucktown's Chiva take 'em on three at a time!
Still can't make it happen?  Well, support your team however you can.  Wear your black & yellow, fly your Battery flag from your car, and keep that scarf handy!  (Plus you can always watch the replay :)

Let's cheer on the boys as they battle for the title and try to put another star on the shirt!!  Its time to TANK the Hammerheads!


(photo credit: UNATION, Charleston Battery FB page)

Looking Back on a Summer of Soccer (pt.2)

Continuing our roundup of soccer action throughout the warmer months, we'll now take a closer look at some football happenings here in the States ending our tour with a special focus on what has transpired right here in the Palmetto State.  Now of course the best place to start is the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.  Thanks to our temporary internet blackout, I was unable to convey the results of the Semi- and Final matches.  So, without further ado, lets pick up where we left off.  

US Open Cup
The Seattle Sounders made history in the Cup's Semifinal round by repeating history in a 4-1 whipping of Chivas USA before a capacity crowd at Starfire Sports Complex.  Becoming only the third team in cup history to appear in four finals, the Sounders went in search of an unprecedented four consecutive Open Cup titles.  In a sloppy and otherwise uninteresting match, Sporting KC bested the Philadelphia Union 2-0 in Philly, thus earning the right to host the final match.  

You could not have written a more dramatic script for the Cup Final.  Turbulent weather and a downpour of hail were the precursors to this incredible match.  The defending title holders and Open Cup legends, the Seattle Sounders entered a frenzied, sold-out Livestrong Park to take on a Kansas City side with something to prove.  The match was a defensive war of attrition as each team seemed content on simply survival.  But things changed in the 83rd minute as Sporting were awarded a penalty courtesy of a Zach Scott handball.  The eleven year Sounders veteran was punished as Kansas City took the lead by converting the kick.  However, the scapegoat turned hero by redeeming himself with a finely placed headed goal two minutes later.  Extra time could not separate the two and the game was to  be decided on penalty kicks.  In the third round, a spectacular Gspurning save gave Seattle the edge, only for the score to be leveled with a Sounders miss in the next round.  The drama reached a crescendo when another Gspurning save was called back because the keeper was off his line.  The Sporting player righted his wrong, and Seattle's Eddie Johnson missed his penalty to hand Kansas City the Cup.  
Although history eluded the Seattle Sounders, they didn't leave Livestrong Park empty handed.  Oddly enough, since the match ended in a draw, the Sounders unbeaten run in the Open Cup remains intact and the boys in Rave Green have the potential to continue the streak when the tournament begins again next year.  Also, former Charleston Battery Osvaldo Alonso was distinguished as the Player of the Tournament owing largely to his prolific scoring habit and incredible midfield form en route to the Cup Final.  

It was another fascinating year in the nation's most exciting soccer competition and well met with a thrilling conclusion with the Final.  With the trophy only just engraved, I'm already anticipating next year's draw!!  

Palmetto Bantams FC
The Bantams faced a steep learning curve in the South Atlantic Division of the Premier Development League.  Their season finished 4-5-7, not bad considering the club was built from the ground up in only a year's time.  The Bantams discovered how to play to the crowd, kicking off the campaign with a win and finishing their schedule with a rousing franchise-best performance, flattening the Northern Virginia Royals 4-0 in their home finale.

Austin Savage led the team offensively, with four goals and one assist.  Defender Jamie Ramm led the team in appearances and minutes with 16 games played, 1431 minutes logged, as well as bagging a goal of his own.  Easily one of the better outfitted squads in the PDL, the Bantams owe their colors and crest to their partner's in the English League Two, Bradford City.  With continued support and a widened fanbase, the Bantams are destined for bigger and better things...especially if they manage those exhibition matches with City!  Cheers to the Bantams and here's to many more seasons!!

Myrtle Beach Mutiny FC

The story of the Mutiny's inaugural season is in many ways much like that of the Palmetto Bantams.  In addition to MBFC, the National Premier Soccer League's Southeast (East) division is home to the Atlanta Silverbacks U23 squad as well as last year's NPSL champion Jacksonville United.  With former Charleston Battery striker Patrick "Thunder" Olalere coaching the new outfit, the Mutiny quickly established a local reputation and a loyal following.  Despite finishing last in their conference, MBFC displayed quality football with an international flavor and demonstrated strong community involvement.  Ending the season with a bang, the Mutiny drubbed the Georgia Revolution 4-1 in front of a live-wire crowd at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium in their home finale.

Myrtle Beach's flag waving, band playing fans in the stands, the Lowcountry Crew, were in full force at every home match and practically every preseason match as well.  With a strong grass-roots initiative and an already powerful group of supporters, the Myrtle Beach Mutiny FC is sure to go far.  Let's here it for excellent football and tradition in the Palmetto State!!

(photo credit:,, MBFC FB)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Looking Back on a Summer of Soccer (pt. 1)

Its Championship week for the Charleston Battery and I figured a good way to pass the time til the big match on Saturday would be to take a look at all that's happened in the world of soccer throughout the summer.  Dividing this post into two parts, the first will take a more global tack while the second installment will recap events a little closer to home.

Euro 2012
The fourteenth edition of the European football championship was co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine.  The tournament boasted a number of brand new and renovated venues in anticipation of the event.

The Czech Republic carried Group A despite a negative goal differential.  The Germans dominated Group B with a perfect record as the Netherlands registered three shocking defeats in an early exit.  Spain carried Group C, checked only by a 1-1 draw with the Italians.  England impressed with a strong showing leading Group D.

The Knockout Round was rife with drama and penalty kicks, as England was edged by Italy in the Quarters and Spain squeaked by Portugal in Semifinal.  "Super Mario" Balotelli proved too much for the confident German squad, sent home in the other Semifinal tie.  In the end, Spain defended their title, becoming the first nation to win consecutive Euro's by putting Italy to the sword in what could scarcely be called a competition.

London 2012
Of course football was one of the marquis events at the London Summer Games and the Men's and Women's tournaments both drew impressive crowds across Great Britain.  In the past, soccer at the Olympic Games has been overlooked because many high profile footballers aren't competing in the tournament either due to the age cap or a club team's unwillingness to risk injury in international play.  However, this Summer Games, there was plenty of great football, a good sprinkling of controversy, and some very surprising results.

In the men's tournament, Great Britain (not England) fielded a unified team for the first time since the Summer Games in Rome in 1960.  Team GB carried their group which included a lively tie with Senegal.  Mexico and South Korea made it out of Group B, followed by Brasil's sweep of Group C with Egypt advancing as well.  Japan were dominant in Group D but the big story there was Spain's failure to even register a goal, finishing last in the competition.

Great Britain lost a heartbreaker to South Korea in PK's and Mexico survived a thrilling 4-2 decision over Senegal in extra time.  Mexico ended Japan's run for the gold and faced Brasil in the final match.  The story of the tournament was told in that final match.  Mexico found the net after 28 seconds and went on to dominate Brasil whose injury time goal fell short as the game finished 2-1.  Shocking fans and even the players themselves, Mexico's miraculous upset was one of the best stories of the London Olympics.

In the women's tournament, the United States was billed as the favorite and did they deliver!!  In terms of drama and entertainment, it was top-drawer stuff from the USWNT.  Opening play with an exciting 4-2 comeback win against France, it was an adrenaline trip all the way to the gold medal match.  With familiar heros Abby Wambach, Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, and Megan Rapinoe there was a steady supply of goals each time our girls took the pitch.  Handling New Zealand in the Quartfinals, the US faced a stern test in Canada in the Semis.  In an iconic Olympic moment, Alex Morgan's clutch header goal with seconds remaining in stoppage time of the second period of extra time lifted the US over the Canadian in the 4-3 result.  That dramatic win set the stage for a gold medal rematch of last year's World Cup Final against the women of Japan.  Scoring early and again just after the break, Hope Solo and the United States survived a furious assault by the Japanese squad yet emerged victorious!
US 1-0 Mexico
Closing the chapter of this summer's international football, the US Men's National Team achieved a historic triumph by defeating the Mexico national team in a friendly at the Azteca.  There has always been a fierce rivalry between the two sides and the 'North American Clasico' is highly anticipated by fans of both squads.  Needless to say, the USMNT managed a major coup when Michael Orozco Fiscal, an uncelebrated substitute, came off the bench to net the winner with only nine minutes in regulation.  The win marks the United States first victory in Mexico in 75 years!  Congrats boys!!

(photo credit: wikipedia, US Soccer FB, London 2012 FB)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Gunners Find Their Mark

Arsenal returned to winning ways this afternoon with a triumphant trip to Anfield.  New boys Podolski and Cazorla found the net but it was the Gunner's defense that shined in another classic EPL showdown.

Barring a few minor slips in the opening stages, Arsenal were firmly in control of the first half.  While some would say it was well overdue, the Gunners first goal of the 2012-13 season came on the half hour mark.  Podolski sparked a run from deep in the backfield and allowed Cazorla to carry the ball past midfield.  Continuing to streak down the left flank, the German goal-getter one-touched a through ball from his teammate and then confidently finished in front of the net.  Like a persistent nat, the Reds would sporadically test the visitors with Luis Suarez' dramatic "You'll Never Dive Alone" antics leading the way.

Play after the restart was decidedly more open and chances were flowing at both ends of the park.  In the 68th minute, Podolski returned the favor, putting Cazorla into a spit of space on the left side.  Working a difficult angle, the Spaniard forced home a goal with a powerful shot that took a turn off of Pepe Reina's left arm.  The Gunners exuded confidence after the second score and were content to absorb heavy amounts of pressure from the home side.  It seemed a bit unnatural to leave Arteta with a defensive midfield assignment but he completed the task with ease.  Diaby was a force to be reckoned with and it was encouraging to see his return to form.  Vito Mannone looked confident between the sticks and came up with a handful of big saves late in the game.

This Arsenal team are growing in chemistry and confidence and although they're off to a late start, its already an improvement over last year's beginning.  Next up for the Gunners, after a two week international break, hosting Southampton at the Emirates, but its all uphill from there.  Three days later Arsenal travel to France to face Montpellier in Champions League play, then away at Manchester City. As if that weren't enough, three days after that fixture, they return home to open their Capital One Cup (formerly Carling Cup) campaign.  A tough run to be sure, but plenty of excitement either way.

(photo credit: Arsenal FB page)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Battery Trample Rhinos 4-3 in Extra PK's Advancing to Championship

In the world of sports, good games are usually remembered for a few days but often forgotten when the next match rolls around.  Great games sometimes become the high point of the season with maybe a play or two finding a place in our mental highlight reels.  Then, in an entirely separate category, are the monumental contests in which legends are born, showcasing such passion and persistence, where seconds of brilliance become defining moments, to be remembered forever from the smallest fan to the seasoned executive.

My friends, Charleston's semifinal playoff tie with Rochester was one such contest.  In my years as a Battery fan there have been countless ups and downs, but last night's extra-time penalty-kick winner shines among the brightest and best as one of the most dramatic showdown's I've experienced in any sport.  This game was truly something special.

An odd mix of history accompanied the Charleston Battery as they took the field Friday night at Sahlen's Stadium.  On their last visit, nearly three weeks ago, Charleston handed the Rhinos their worst home defeat in franchise history.  However, the Battery had only beaten Rochester once in postseason play, that playoff victory coming en route to their Championship in 2003.  With the weight of that tension hanging thick like a fog, the epic struggle commenced.  In the blink of an eye, halftime arrived and both sides entered the changing rooms seething frustration.  The hard-fought forty-five minutes ended in a stalemate with both teams deserving goals and each having none.

The blow came ten minutes after the intermission as the Rhinos dogged persistence fused with a touch of fortune to give the hosts a slender lead.  Rochester's Danny Earls sparked the play with a dangerous cross into the penalty area that was quickly skittered away by the Battery back-line.  The clearance fell to Rosenlund whose reflex shot was countered by a diving Andrew Dykstra.  But the game was up as Rhino's Kendell McFadden was on hand to poke home the parry, leaving Dykstra in no-man's land.

As the minutes elapsed, it seemed enough to send Rochester through to the final and Charleston's hope eroded with every tick of the official's watch.  But that watch saw fit to allow four minutes of stoppage time, just enough time for the visitors to resume the fight.  Punished in nearly the exact manner of their previous goal, former Rochester midfielder Tony Donatelli was the man who inflicted the critical wound.  John Wilson struck first and his shot was barely scuffed off the line.  Applying the pressure, Charleston put the ball right back into the box and a wild scramble ensued.  Charleston's Hoffer finally nabbed the ball and served it up for Donatelli.  The Battery forward used his head to level the game and send the match to extra time.

Both tension and exhaustion characterized the nervous half-hour with the Battery owning the early initiative.  JC Mack nearly netted twice, having been narrowly denied in the finish.  Rochester countered with immense pressure of their own, but this game was destined to finish in the most dramatic way possible.

While no wants a game to finish on penalty kicks, in terms of excitement, its pretty hard to beat.  The Rhinos were up first and Dykstra managed a colossal save right off the bat.  Patterson's penalty was flawless and the Battery had the lead.  Donatelli's kick went over the bar and with Captain Colin Falvey's shot stopped, Rochester were poised to finish the job.  Shockingly, Rhino's captain Troy Roberts dribbled his shot wide to send the affair into sudden death.  With astounding composure, Dykstra quenched two more penalties placing JC MACK on the spot, with the match to win.  Cooly converting, Charleston's comeback man fired them into the USL PRO Championship and into the realm of legend.

Bordering on the unbelievable, the Wilmington Hammerheads convincingly routed the Orlando City Lions, a defeat nearly as gratifying as the Battery's extra-time thriller.  These amazing results mean that the Charleston Battery will be hosting the Wilmington Hammerheads in the USL PRO Championship game at Blackbaud, this Saturday September 8. | Charleston, SC | News, Weather, Sports

History is in the making and the Battery have managed their most memorable post-season run to date.  This is the Beautiful Game and I'm proud to have been a part of this incredible season.

As always, thanks for reading The Beautiful Game.


(photo credit: USLPRO facebook page)