Monday, June 25, 2012

Battery Roll in Home Win, Charleston 3-1 Harrisburg City

The Charleston Battery are firing on all cylinders as evidenced by their big win Saturday night over the Harrisburg City Islanders.  A bumper crowd of 4,634 filled Blackbaud Stadium on a warm evening in the Lowcountry.  The win gives Charleston nine on the season and further solidifies a second-place berth in the USLPRO standings.

The Black and Yellow looked like scoring from the opening whistle but were foiled in their early attempts.  Jose Cuevas slung a fiery shot goalwards but his effort was extinguished by Harrisburg's Nick Noble, who had his hands full defending against Charleston's fifteen shots throughout the match.  Navion Boyd had a good chance or two but couldn't convert.  Further provoking the Islander's defense, Sanyang whipped a cross into John Wilson, whose header was only just scuffed off the line.  While it was far from one-way traffic, the Battery spent most of the half behind the ball.  And just as it seemed the sides would enter the break on level pegging, Nicki Paterson delivered a ball to Boyd on the right.  In a lunging effort, the Jamaican offered up a pass to the onrushing Cuevas.  Collecting the turbulent ball, Charleston's "Chiva" struck a fine volley from the bounce, stunning Noble and his Harrisburg compatriots.  The stands erupted and the Battery finished the first half a goal to the good but more importantly, they'd earned a decisive psychological edge.
Charleston were all business at the restart and secured their second goal within five minutes.  A splitting through pass was played upfield for Bundu who placed the ball perfectly for Boyd at the far post.  Tapping in from short range, he notched his first goal for the Battery!  Responding immediately, Harrisburg found the net minutes later after they turned the tables and placed Charleston under pressure.  From the flurry of players inside the area, the Islander's Drew Yates rifled a shot which somehow found its mark.  I'm not entirely sure what seemed that Dykstra got a hand on the shot, it popped back out, only to be slammed again, striking the arm of a Battery defender.  My guess is that it was ruled a goal from the first shot since Yates was credited with the tally.  Regardless, the game opened up and the ball was dashing from one end to the next.  Harrisburg forced an important game-changing save from Dykstra at 68 minutes.  Paterson and Sanyang both received cautions for reasons unbeknownst to me and the majority of those in attendance.  Somewhat balancing those decisions was the delivery of a second yellow to Harrisburg's Welker in the 83rd minute, and Charleston held a one-man advantage for the remainder of the match.  Assisted by Donatelli, Battery substitute Ryan Richter grabbed the go-ahead goal three minutes from time to seal the result.  With plenty of fresh legs on the field, the home side nearly bagged a few more goals in extra time.  Zach Prince had a fine shot and new signing Dino Williams very nearly scored in his Charleston debut.  While the match surely lacked the controversy and violence of our last few fixtures, it was never lacking in excitement or entertainment!!

The Battery will be cruising down to Antigua & Barbuda for a pair of matches against the Barracudas this Friday and Sunday at Sir Vivian Richards stadium.  Charleston have won 4-0 and 3-0 in their previous encounters this season at Blackbaud but can expect to work a bit more for their goals once in the Caribbean.  After this week's trip, they return for a home-and-away fixture with the Charlotte Eagles next weekend.

Let's keep up that incredible form and bring home six points from Antigua!!! UP THE BATTERY!!

Here are some first half-highlights from the match:

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)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Fantastic First Father's Day!!

Today I celebrated my first Father's Day!!  In the morning, we went to church and then enjoyed spending time with friends after the sermon.  

Then, we went out for lunch at my favorite restaurant, a soccer pub called the British Bulldog.  What a gorgeous afternoon!  

After that, we came home and tried to take a nap...but ended up playing with two crazy babies instead!

We met my wife's family for supper and the girls got to play with their cousins.  

I'm so thankful to be my Chloe & Mercy's dad!  And I loved spending the day with my three girls!!  

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.  

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Open Cup Update: Fourth Round Recap

Another exhilarating installment in this year's Open Cup drama saw half of the fourth round fixtures finish in extra time, and three of the eight games were decided by late penalties.  At this stage in the tournament, there were some predictable results but a record three lower division teams (all USLPRO) have made it into the quarterfinals.  Here are the latest results from the Cup:

Chivas USA 2-1 Carolina Railhawks
The Railhawks were brought to earth in heartbreaking fashion, losing the match to a penalty decision deep into stoppage time.  This game was strangely similar to Carolina's encounter with the Galaxy last week.  The Goats held nothing back, fielding a strong first team and the result was a goal in the 31st.  The Railhawks looked more confident after the break and after an impressive attacking burst found their equalizer with eleven minutes in regulation.  It seemed overtime was in the cards, but a handball decision was called in favor of the Chivas and Juan Pablo Angel buried the PK to end the fixture in stunning fashion.

The Chivas will host the advancing Charlotte Eagles June 26th at the Home Depot Center.

Charlotte Eagles 2-1 San Antonio Scorpions
                       (Final after Extra Time)
The Eagles are officially 'Kings of Texas' after routing three different opponents in their Open Cup tour of the Lone Star State, as Charlotte continue their impressive run in the tournament.  Their latest victims, the NASL's San Antonio Scorpions, were finally beaten with a penalty kick at the end of extra time.  Charlotte asserted their dominance early, making the most of their chances and netting in the 28th  minute.  However, a flagging Scorpions unit clawed their way back into the match, scoring a goal with a quarter hour left on the clock.  San Antonio had chances in extra time, but a handball in the box brought things to a bitter end for the hosts.  

The Eagles have conjured their best cup run to date, defeating the El Paso Patriots, FC Dallas, and now the Scorpions.  The win earns Charlotte a draw with Chivas USA at the HDC.  Interestingly enough, their second best OC performance, in 2005, was a win at El Paso and then an hotly contested 3-2 overtime loss to the Chivas.  

New York Red Bulls 1-3 Harrisburg City Islanders
                       (Final after Extra Time)
Harrisburg scored early in the 13th minute against the run of play.  However, it was New York who bossed the match, owning nearly every minute of regulation.  A heavy spell of pressure after the restart gave the Red Bulls a goal in the 59th.  The game proceeded to extra time and Harrisburg found the net almost immediately in the 94th.  The Islanders were then subjected to a New York onslaught but held on and even bagged one more goal just before extra time ended.

Harrisburg move on to face the Philadelphia Union in the Quarterfinals.  Oddly enough, the Islanders will have a chance to feel out their opponent in an exhibition match with their MLS affiliate on June 12 before their Open Cup date two weeks later.

Philadelphia Union 2-1 DC United
                       (Final after Extra Time)
In a lively tangle between the two Eastern Conference foes, Philly got the better of United but needed extra time to do so.  Both teams scored in first half stoppage time, the Union notching the first goal and DC responding hardly a minute later.  The match was a scrappy one and there were send-offs for each side in the extra period.  But more importantly, there was a Philadelphia goal that came just after that extra time started.

Dayton Dutch Lions 2-1 Michigan Bucks
                       (Final after Extra Time)
For a team with little to no league success, the Dayton Dutch Lions are making Open Cup history.  Coming off a massive win against the Columbus Crew, the Lions advanced with a dramatic victory, visiting the PDL's Michigan Bucks.  Unfortunately for the Bucks, it will be remembered as a match they "could have won", as they dominated play but failed to capitalize on their scoring opportunities.  Dayton struck first in the 13th and the teams continued to exchange shots in minor skirmishes.  Michigan leveled the game just after half time, but could not find the game winner.  Despite an audacious surge by the Bucks in extra time, they conceded a penalty and Dayton's Joel DeLass stamped the Lions ticket to the next round.

The Dutch Lions will challenge Sporting KC at LiveStrong Park in the Quarterfinals.

Colorado Rapids 0-2 Sporting Kansas City
Sporting were the beneficiaries of a Colorado own goal in the 29th minute.  A free quick took a turn off the keeper, then the post, then keeper again on its way into the net.  A CJ Sapong header put the game beyond doubt in the 79th minute.

Cal FC 0-5 Seattle Sounders
Crushing the dreams of the would-be Cinderella Cal FC, the Sounders thrashed their opponents with a torrent of five goals in a twenty minute span.  To their credit, the visitors kept Seattle at bay for the entirety of the first half, but the floodgates were opened shortly after the break.  As in the Silverback's fixture, Alonso led the way, scoring from the spot in the 50th.  Freddy Montero delivered a brace and Andy Rose found the net again in the 65th minute.  Combining once more with Caskey, Alsonso bookended the scoring with a brace of his own, thus completing Cal's epic Open Cup run.

Minnesota Stars FC 0-1 San Jose Earthquakes
It took them eighty-five minutes to do so, but the Quakes finally managed to unlock a stubborn Minnesota defense.  Still relishing the footballing lesson they delivered to RSL a week before, the Stars engaged San Jose with confidence.  They opted to play defensively, coming out of their shell on incisive counterattack runs.  And although the Stars did shine, Lenhart's late goal was just enough to sink the NASL squad.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Defensive Victory in Dayton, Dayton 0-1 Charleston

The Battery maintained their perfect road form with a gritty win Saturday, coming on the heels of last Thursday's 3-1 win at Pittsburgh.  The match was less than beautiful as a flurry of yellow cards and needless fouls marred the closing stages of the game.  Despite their league record, the Dutch Lions showcased some real quality and the three hard won points gained in Ohio will prove vital in Charleston's ascent in the USLPRO table.

The first half truly belonged to Dayton but lacking quality in the finish, the Dutch Lions were unable to make the most of their possession.  Charleston also had several chances early and tended to play up to Ryan Richter down the right flank.  Amadou Sanyang had an impressive game for the Battery, battling hard in the midfield and digging in for some physical tackles.  The Lions first chance came at seven minutes with a strong corner crossed in the box but there was no one on the other end of the ball.

Both sides looked sharp on the attack and the Battery managed some great buildup working the length of the pitch.  Charleston popped a weak shot on goal and Dayton countered with intensity.  Forcing a stretch from Dykstra, their shot zipped just over the crossbar.  The Battery then earned a free kick but the Lions implemented a speedy counter yet again.  Dayton was awarded another corner, but the Battery defense held firm.  The Lions were very aggressive in the attacking third, forcing another save from Dykstra.  Shortly afterwards, the ball pinged around dangerously inside the box before being collected by Dykstra, ending another scary spell for the Charleston back line.  And although Dayton controlled the tempo of the match, Sanyang and a rugged Battery defense kept the scoreboard expressionless.

As the momentum began to shift, Navion Boyd ignited a drive leaving defenders in his wake.  His run was cut short by a bad foul and the Dayton man was given a yellow card...the first of many on the evening.  Charleston had several long range free kicks in the first half of play.  The Lions responded but fluffed a chance on an open net and then buried the rebound into the side netting.  Ceuvas linked up with Cody Ellison but the defender's header was off target.  Bundu was afforded the best opportunity for Charleston in the first with a nice, low shot, but the Lion's netminder picked his spot and smothered the attempt.  As the ping-pong style persisted, Dayton shirked another fine scoring chance with Charleston's keeper beaten but the shot sailed wide.  Another series of Charleston free kicks and the first half ended, just as it had begun.

Charleston fired a shot from distance seconds after the restart, but the effort had no punch and no effect.
The Battery mounted some good pressure, as Mike Iriza initiated some good runs.  Much like the previous half, both sides took turns on the offensive but the pace was far more relaxed.  Charleston opted to play the longball and Dayton's Matt Williams whiffed a clearance leaving Bundu alone with the goalie.  The shot was wide but a goal was in the making.  Another poor kick from Williams allowed Richter to slash a quick throw-in.  Kelly broke down the line and cut back for Jose Cuevas in the seventy-second minute.  With nearly no angle, Cuevas nicked the far post with a tricky shot and found the net to give the Battery the lead.  Charleston made several substitutions, moving in for the kill.  Kelly and Boyd would both have more chances on goal, but the match was growing increasing chippy.  The official went a bit overboard and I doubt there was an unbroken minute of play in the last twenty of the match.  Yellow cards were handed out like candy but Charleston were able to see off several late pushes by the Dutch Lions.

Two successive road wins at Pittsburgh and Dayton ended a busy week for the Battery.  The six points move Charleston into second place in the USLPRO standing are we're within easy striking distance of league leaders Orlando City.  Traveling to Orlando this weekend, Charleston can overtake the Lions with three points Saturday night.

Up the Battery!!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Open Cup Chaos

Once again, this competition has been turned on its head!  Tuesday was certainly a great night for the underdogs as third round Open Cup action saw several of the nation's premier soccer clubs suffer shock defeats at the hands of their lower division opponents.  In total, eight of the fourteen MLS sides were knocked out of the competition.  And while it may be old news by now, here's a recap of all the Open Cup action from the past week:

Richmond Kickers 1-2 DC United
United squeaked by their in-state rivals with an overtime thriller in Richmond City.  Salihi grabbed the early goal at twenty-four minutes but Nyazamba brought the Kickers level from the penalty spot in first half stoppage time.  United's Saragosa netted the game winning goal deep into extra time to give DC the win.

Harrisburg City Islanders 3-3 New England Revolution (Harrisburg advance 4-3 on PK's)
Without question the wildest game of round three, Harrisburg showed fans of the game what this competition is all about.  All six in extra time; three for the Revs in the first fifteen, followed by an Islanders rapid-fire comeback.  Harrisburg downed New England when it came to penalties, and while its a terrible way to lose...its pretty dang exciting.

San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 Ft. Lauderdale Strikers
A forty-five yard bomb put the Strikers ahead when Mark Anderson caught the Quakes keeper napping just before the break.  But the upset was overturned when San Jose rookie Sam Garza found two goals in seven minutes midway through the second half to help the Quakes move on to the next round.

Charleston Battery 0-3 New York Red Bulls
Despite spirited play from the hosts, the Red Bulls proved to much for Charleston on the evening and progress in the cup. Read the full match report here: The Empire Strikes Back

Sporting Kansas City 3-2 Orlando City
Soony Saad was Sporting's two goal hero in their scrappy win over Orlando City.  As Orlando is prone to do, City made a poor show of things with a revolting foul and sending off twenty minutes from time.
Although the victory was a narrow one, margin matters little in the Cup.

Philadelphia Union 3-0 Rochester Rhinos
Scoring twice, Freddy Adu led Philly in their convincing victory over the Rhinos.  W's have come at a premium this year for the Union and any win is certainly good news.  Outlasting the lightning delay and subsequent monsoon, Philadelphia progress to the next round.

Michigan Bucks 3-2 Chicago Fire
More heartbreak awaited the Fire this year in the Open Cup.  Fielding largely reserves, Chicago met their match in the Michigan Bucks.  The PDL unit took the early lead and then impressively fought back to level a 2-1 game.  Scoring three minutes into overtime, the Bucks made Chicago pay the price for failing to give this competition enough respect.

Columbus Crew 1-2 Dayton Dutch Lions
The Dutch Lions left Crew Stadium with a shock upset after two goals in as many minutes at the end of the match.  An uninspiring game was punctuated only by a Crew PK to take the lead in the sixty-fourth minute.  However, Daniel Holowaty had other ideas when entered the match for Dayton with twelve minutes to play.  Assisting a pair of Dayton goals after just taking the pitch, Holowaty led the Lions to the next level.

Tampa Bay Rowdies 1-3 Colorado Rapids
While the scoreline certainly flatters Colorado, the Rapids handled a lively bunch of Rowdies in Tampa Bay.  Finding the net from a penalty in the fifteenth, the visitors took control early and didn't let up.  Wells Thompson led the charge, spurring both first half Rapid's goals.  The Rowdies showed some grit striking the frame of the goal several times, but Colorado's second half strike put the game to bed.  Despite scoring a consolation goal in stoppage time, it was 'lights out' for Tampa Bay.

San Antonio Scorpions 1-0 Houston Dynamo
In another gritty and surprising affair, San Antonio dumbfounded the Dynamo.  Scoring off the crossbar from a penalty, the Scorpions took the lead early in the second and then poured on the pressure.  Houston had virtually no response and were deservingly eliminated from the competition.

FC Dallas 0-2 Charlotte Eagles
The Eagles pulled off an impressive upset in the Lone Star State in a costly match for the Hoops.  FCD lost several key players to injury, while Charlotte thrived, scoring at the end of both halves.

Ventura County Fusion 0-1 Chivas USA
The Chivas, a team who know what it means to be lambasted and laughed out of the tournament, fielded a strong team against the Fusion.  They were rewarded for their investment.  The Goats took an early goal and although County pressed for the remainder of the match, they were unable to find a breakthrough.

Carolina Railhawks 2-1 LA Galaxy
A vibrant Railhawks side escorted the reigning MLS champs to a new low in Open Cup defeat.  Noonan put the Galaxy ahead in the first, but Carolina netted two in the last fifteen minutes as the team most likely to earn the next MLS expansion spot redefined shame for the visiting LA squad.

Real Salt Lake 1-3 Minnesota Stars
The intrepid Stars milked RSL for all they were worth in a landslide victory that was never even close.  Claiming their Major League scalp, Minnesota advance while Salt Lake are left wondering "What just happened?"

Seattle Sounders 5-1 Atlanta Silverbacks
Seattle decimated the Apes in a rout led by Osvaldo Alonso and Alex Caskey.  There was little to separate the two in the first half, but the break was bookended by two Sounder's goals.  Alonso provided the spark and Caskey lent his speed as the former Charleston midfielder scored his first goal in a Sounders uniform.

Portland Timbers 0-1 Cal FC
Finally, a historic win by amateur underdogs Cal FC at JELD-WEN capped an already exciting third round.  Despite a whopping forty-three chances on goal, including a Kris Boyd PK, the Timbers failed to make a single one count.  Cal found their goal five minutes into overtime and became the first amateur team to score (much less defeat) Major League Soccer opposition.

Here's the moral of this third round story: Respect the Cup.

So many of the small fry's and amateur clubs are honored to even be included in this naturally they're gonna fight like crazy to earn the right result.  Its insulting when the big money MLS teams send out they're reserve squads.  Teams like New York and Chivas came to play and won their games.  Teams like LA, Houston, Colombus, and Chicago did not...and they were simply embarrassed.

So cheers to lower division football and the growth of the beautiful game in throughout the States!!

(Also, if you're looking for a bit more detailed recaps, click here.)

Friday, June 1, 2012

Patterson Owns Pittsburgh, Charleston 3-1 Pittsburgh

Quickly rebounding from Tuesday's Open Cup exit against the Red Bulls, Charleston powered past Pittsbugh as Nicki Patterson netted two goals in as many minutes to lift the Battery in Thursday night's win over the Riverhounds.

Coming on strong, despite facing a highly competitive New York team only two days earlier, Charleston enjoyed possession in the first half.  The game seemed to lack pace and the ball soon became bogged down in midfield.   However, towards the end of the first half, the Battery began turning the screw.  Intricate combination play from Zach Prince to Ryan Richter afforded Dane Kelly a fine shot on  goal in the forty-second minute.  The Jamaican's effort was palmed away, resulting in a Charleston corner.  Entering stoppage time, Charleston managed a lobbed throw-in which fell squarely for the advancing Patterson.  The Scotsman blasted an unstoppable goal from point-blank range to nudge the visitors ahead.  Merely seconds later, Kelly was felled just outside the box by a grim foul from Pittsburgh's Flunder.  Ever the set piece connoisseur, Patterson lifted a bending ball over the wall and  into the top right corner of the net, earning his brace in scarcely a minute!

Continuing where they left off, Charleston again pressured the Riverhound's defense, and forcing another bad foul, Dane Kelly's loss was the Battery's gain when Pittsburgh's Matt Kassel was shown red in the fifty-eighth minute.  A man down but driving with conviction, the Hounds were awarded a penalty on the hour and Costanza converted neatly from the spot.  Sensing another goal, Pittsburgh surged and forced a save from Andrew Dykstra.  The would-be equalizer was transposed to a counterattack as Richter and Prince collaborated once more to stride the full length of the field.  Finding Kelly on the inside, the second year Charleston striker avenged his earlier losses by redirecting the ball and netting a goal of his own.

With the win, Charleston sit a scant five points adrift of league leaders Orlando with a game in hand and could overtake them in the table if they win Saturday against the giant-killing Dayton Dutch Lions, and again in a week's time against the lions of Orlando City.  Its been a demanding week for the boys already but they've been fantastic so far, so lets cheer them on to another three points in Ohio!!