Thursday, April 25, 2013

Open Fire!! Charleston 4-0 Antigua

The Charleston Battery got the ball rolling in the right direction, delivering a big win over Antigua in their home opener Saturday night.  The good guys netted four unanswered goals before a delighted home crowd of 4,546 at Blackbaud Stadium.  Prior to the match, team owner Tony Bakker presented the returning players with their 2012 Championship rings, as the Regiment proudly displayed their new banner, encompassing nearly the entire E10 section.  The win effectively rinsed out the bad taste of last week's loss to Richmond and the Battery can now set their sights on a firm USL PRO title defense in 2013.

At the opening whistle, Charleston were chomping at the bit and wasted no time in putting the Barracudas under pressure.  Having played at Wilmington the night before, the fatigued Antigua squad did their best to keep the hosts at bay, but the night was largely characterized by the Battery's goal-seeking offensive endeavors.

It was a nervy opening for the visitors and Charleston were unlucky to avoid the scoresheet in the first five minutes.  Nicki Paterson's screamer rose just over the bar in the 4th minute, followed by a good crack from former Barracuda, Quinton Griffith.  Cordoves and Azira joined the fray as well, taking full advantage of Antigua's shaky defense.  In the 11th minute, Paterson played in for Griffith who instantly smashed the ball into the net.  However, the joy was short lived as the play was ruled offside.  Moments later Cordoves followed suit, with his would-be goal dismissed for an even tighter infringement.  The Battery were on the front foot and it seemed they were managing nearly a shot a minute.  The breakthrough would come in the 21st minute when Ben Fisk lobbed an early ball, springing Antigua's offside trap.  Collecting the cross, Cordoves cooly drove a low shot past the keeper into the bottom left corner of the net...this time with no whistle.  "And the crowd goes wild!!"  Two minutes later, Fisk called his own number and tallied his first goal (of many!) in a Battery shirt.  Receiving the ball in the midfield, the youngster from Vancouver tore down the left flank and burned the Antigua defense like a jet-puffed marshmallow.  His low shot to the far post put the home fans in a frenzy.  Fisk managed another fine breakaway moments later and Charleston eventually earned a corner from the play.  On the half hour, Cordoves spurned a chance on an open goal as he failed to hit the target from close range.  In the 32nd, Patterson nodded in a magnificent diving header only to have the goal reversed by yet another dubious offside ruling.  The Battery went into the break content and yet frustrated, as their 45 minutes of target practice could have resulted in a 5-0 deficit.

Only seconds after the restart, Griffith was shown a yellow card for an aggressive challenge on the Barracuda's keeper.  Thankfully, after convincing the official of the "severity" of the foul, Antigua's number two in goal seemed to be just fine.  The visitor's suddenly began pressuring Charleston, looking sharp on the offensive, but the push forward led to a counterattack by the Battery.  In the 51st, Fisk threaded in a ball for Paterson and with a fine effort, the Scotsman found the net...only to have the goal ruled offside again.  Odisnel Cooper logged a top-drawer save in the 54th, only just nudging the ball past the post from full stretch.  They don't this Cuban net-minder "El Gato" for nothing!  Antigua were now clearly spent and Charleston resumed the offensive.  In an excellent run of play in the 65th minute, Cordoves rattled the crossbar and Nicki Paterson's rebound effort missed by inches.  Antigua's keeper had faced a firing squad already, but things were about to go from bad to worse.  Dane Kelly and Zach Prince came on for Cordoves and Fisk (the man of the match) and their impact was felt immediately.  What could have been described as a barrage had now become a full-fledged cannonade.  Prince earned free kick after being battered just outside the 18 and with Patterson and Griffith subbed off, he took the set piece himself.   Despite a blatant hand ball, Charleston were awarded a corner for their efforts.  In the 78th, Kelly neatly converted Prince's corner to put the Battery three goals in the clear.  To their credit, Antigua forced the issue and pressured the hosts to claw back some dignity, but the final nail in the coffin came five minutes from time.  Prince found the ball in acres of space and buried the ball with a highlight reel finish.

Any remaining doubt from Charleston's humbling defeat to the Kickers was dashed to pieces with the frenzied 4-0 landslide win and the post-match fireworks were well deserved.  The Battery host Pittsburgh this Saturday and will look to build on their momentum from last week.  The Riverhounds are winless in three and will be keen to get their first points of the season.  Oddly enough, the visitors have strong ties to the Lowcountry.  Pittsburgh's head coach, Justin Evans, served with the Battery in 2002 and the Riverhound's Renaissance man, Jason Kutney, (administrator, owner, and midfielder!) also spent time with Black and Yellow as well.  Taking a road swing through the Carolina's, Pittsburgh will first face the Charlotte Eagles on Friday.  While the deck is certainly stacked in Charleston's favor, they will again be without the services of Jose Cuevas, who is still recovering from a hamstring injury.  I simply can't wait for another Battery game and our boys look primed to work their magic Saturday night at Blackbaud.  I'm not sure about you, but my money's on Nicki Paterson to find the first goal of the game...if not the first three!!

Also, check out the post below for first half highlights and a look at the Regiment's sweet new tifo!

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