Monday, May 20, 2013

Dynamo Defused!! Houston Reserves 0-1 Charleston

The Charleston Battery vaulted back into second place in the USL Pro standings with a resplendent performance Sunday morning, defeating the Houston Dynamo Reserves at BBVA Compass Stadium.  Making a strong argument for the virtues of lower division soccer, the Battery toppled arguably the best  Reserve Squad in the country (on their own turf), handing them their first loss of the season.

Although faced with a daunting road trip and a minor injury crisis, Charleston took the pitch as if they owned it.  Defender Taylor Mueller nearly opened the scoring in the 4th minute, but his headed shot arched over the crossbar.  And it was the Battery defense that kept things level, squelching several Dynamo attempts in the early going.  Momentum swung dramatically in favor of the visitors just after the quarter hour mark.  Springboarding from a critical stop by Odisnel Cooper, it was nearly all Charleston for the remainder of the half.  Jose Cuevas pulled the trigger before an open net in the 16th minute, but his effort sailed just wide.  Entering into a brilliant spell of possession, the Battery harried Houston's defense in a shot-a-minute term leading up to the half hour mark.  On 30 minutes, the Dynamo managed a lightning-counter and forced a fine punch save from Cooper.  However, Captain Colin Falvey collided aerially with the lunging goalie and was temporary removed from play in what proved to be a harmless but scary moment for Battery fans.

The eventual breakthrough would come in the 35th minute, as Charleston scored with play resulting from a free kick in Houston's defensive third.  Cuevas slotted the set piece to an advancing Emmanuel Adjety.  Crossing quickly, Dane Kelly was given the ball and room to work with.  The crafty Jamaican promptly put the Battery in front with a low shot to the far post.  Houston took the sucker-punch in stride and forced another save from Cooper within a minute of the goal.  However, long bouts of possession allowed Charleston to maintain the upper hand.

The second half was another chapter of the same story, with Charleston bossing the show by patient possession, running rings round their opponents.  The Dynamo certainly managed plenty of pressure, but the Battery defense was equal to the task.  In the final ten minutes of play, Houston's attack intensified with Brian Ching leading the charge, but Cooper held firm and recorded a handful of clutch saves to preserve all three points for Charleston.

This is an incredible result for the Battery and its no small thing for Charleston to dent the Dynamo Reserves' perfect record.  Now sitting firmly in second place in the standings, the Battery are well positioned to reset the bar in the USL Pro table.  The boys fly out of Houston this morning for Portland and the Timber's U-23's in their Tuesday night Open Cup tangle.  Thanks to the efforts of CHSSoccer.net, the Timbers have agreed to stream the match from JELD-WEN field.  With such a short turnaround and a good deal of travel time, the game will ask some serious questions about Charleston's depth and Cup credentials.  But if you ask me, I'm confident its another test we'll pass with flying colours!!

Oh and if you missed the Sunday morning match, the fine folks in Houston have already uploaded the full stream to YouTube!


(photo credit: Dynamo facebook)

Friday, May 17, 2013

Mixed Results in the Southern Derby

While a washing machine on the fritz and a host of other complications kept me from the computer this week, I always assume soccer news is better late than never!  With that being said, lets take a look at the past week for the Charleston Battery.

Charleston 4-2 Wilmington

Taking the game by the scruff of the neck, the Battery lit up the scoreboard in only the second minute of play!  Nicki Paterson supplied Dane Kelly and with the Jamaican's sparkling finish, the pair made sure all 3,699 fans were on their feet (whether they'd found their seat or not!).  Ten minutes later, Paterson notched a goal of his own, scoring his third in as many games, with an unstoppable missile.  Charleston continued the one-way traffic, netting another in the 21st minute.  This time it was Zach Prince who pounced on a loose ball and curled a shot just inside the far post netting.  Unsatisfied with three, the Battery would score again on the half hour, as John Wilson solidified his role as on-field legend.  Receiving a precision pass from Quinton Griffith, Wilson rifled a shot with his swinger and found the mark from a distance of about 30 yards.  There's scarcely been a more productive spell for the Charleston Battery, but it would prove to be only part of the story.  

It was truly a tale of two halves, and the Hammerheads took the pitch with something to prove.  A renewed Wilmington side was led by Paul Nicholson who scored twice in six minutes in the 53rd and 59th.  Sniffing an epic comeback, the visitors pressed harder than ever and an already physical contest would soon go progress to ejections.  Charleston's Cody Ellison was shown red for his role in a scuffle in the 69th minute and Wilmington's centre back Gareth Evans was dismissed only three minutes later. The discipline certainly deflated the tension a bit, but would not prevent the Hammerheads from forcing a good save from Odisnel Cooper and rattling the crossbar before it was all over.  

Charleston's impressive offensive showcase in the first half was followed by an equally solid defense performance in the second.  Given their recent form, most would be impressed by the fight in the fatigued Hammerheads squad and I'd say it was one of their best outings this season.  Continuing to climb in the USL Pro table, the Battery also bagged their first points in the 2013 edition of the Southern Derby.

Charlotte 1-0 Charleston 

With a rare Tuesday fixture, the boys traveled north to lock horns with long-time rivals the Charlotte Eagles in the second installment of the Southern Derby saga.  The in-form Eagles are flying high this season as they stand alone with Richmond as the only undefeated teams in USL Pro.  And with only four goals allowed (1st in the league) Mark Steffen's defense surely means business.  

While it may not have been described as beautiful, the match featured some hard-nosed, quality play from both sides.  Chances on goal were certainly few, but Charlotte had the first opportunity, firing high in a corner kick scramble ten minutes on.  The Battery responded with a fine volley off a Charlotte clearance in the 18th minute.  Emmanuel Adjety placed the ball well, but his shot was found firmly lodged in the side netting.  It wasn't long before the game evolved into a war of attrition, as both teams locked into defensive formations.  The breakthrough would come in the 65th minute when Charleston surrendered a free-kick just outside the penalty area.  Eagle's defender Shaun Francis took the kick, skirted the wall, and beat Cooper to put Charlotte in front.  The Battery countered immediately with offensive substitutions and chased the game for the rest of the match.  In the final ten minutes, Charleston managed a few good scoring chances but were unable to make them count.  

The loss in Charlotte is certainly a frustrating one, but should not be a great discouragement.  The Battery played well but were punished for a momentary defensive lapse.  Perhaps worse than the result was the injury to Amadou Sanyang early in the first half.  Having already suffered a concussion in preseason, taking the hard knock on Tuesday was undoubtedly the last thing he needed.  

The Battery look forward to another busy week traveling to face the Houston Dynamo Reserves in inter-league play at BBVA Compass Stadium Sunday morning.  The Pride of the Lowcountry will then fly out of Houston and head for Portland, Oregon to take on the Timber's U-23's in the Open Cup Tuesday night.  Its a lot to ask of any team, but we have high hopes and I don't expect those hopes will be disappointed in either affair.  Here we go boys!!

Up the Battery!!!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Its Finally Here! Open Cup Kickoff!!

(photo credit: TheCup.US facebook)
One hundred years of US Soccer have led to this...the Centennial edition of the the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.  Without a doubt, the nation's longest standing athletic tournament, the Open Cup is one of the purest, most exciting competitions you'll find anywhere in the wide world of sports.  Prone to historic upsets and Cinderella stories, I've always found myself cheering for the little guys, even if they're up against a team I would normally root for.

The Charleston Battery are no strangers to success in the Cup, and have made quite a name for themselves as giant-killers, in their own right.  In 1999, the Battery topped DC United 4-3 in an extra-time thriller.  Two years later, the Pride of the Lowcountry drubbed the New York MetroStars 4-1 at Blackbaud Stadium.  Charleston are one of the only lower division sides to ever make an appearance in the final stage of the tournament, falling 2-1 in heartbreaking fashion to DC United in 2008.  Perhaps my favorite Battery Open Cup match was the 3-1 rout of Chivas USA in Charleston...Not only did Charleston net three fantastic goals, the goats were so upset at their own manhandling that by the end of game they started a fight and several of their players were ejected with only seconds to play.

The powers that be have made it clear that another successful Open Cup run is a priority for the Charleston Battery this year, and with a huge bundle of cash and Champion's League spot up for grabs, why not??  Unfortunately, as its slated up, May is one of Charleston's busiest months in terms of fixture congestion, but it will interesting to see how the pieces come together when the Battery enter the fray in the second round.  For an in-depth analysis of how Charleston enters the draw, check out CHSSoccer.net.

But first things first.  Technically, the dance has already begun.  Two play-in matches took place Tuesday night to determine the final field in the first round.  In typical Open Cup style, even these preliminary matches were high scoring nail-biters.  FC Hasental (NPSL, and yes their crest bears a rabbit) downed the Fresno Fuego Future with four straight goals as the match finished 5-3.  Interestingly enough, the other match finished 5-3 on PK's, as the Georgia Revolution (also NPSL) squeaked by the Colorado Rovers after extra time.  If you haven't already seen it, here's a look at the first round of play:


FIRST ROUND SCHEDULE

May 14Mass Premier Soccer (USASA) at GPS Portland Phoenix (PDL)8 p.m. ETMemorial Field, Deering High School;
Portland, Maine
May 14Icon FC (USASA) at Brooklyn Italians (NPSL)8 p.m. ETAviator Sports Complex;
Brooklyn, N.Y.
May 14New York Red Bulls U23s (NPSL) at Ocean City Nor'easters (PDL)7:30 p.m. ETCarey Stadium;
Ocean City, N.J.
May 14FC Lehigh Valley United Sonic (NPSL) at Reading United AC (PDL)7 p.m. ETDon Thomas Stadium;
Reading, Pa.
May 14Ocala Stampede (PDL) at Red Force (USASA)7:30 p.m. ETFlorida International Soccer Stadium;
Miami, Fla.
May 14VSI Tampa Bay FC (USL PRO) at Orlando City U-23s (PDL)7 p.m. ETSeminole Soccer Complex;
Sanford, Fla.
May 14Chattanooga FC (NPSL) at Carolina Dynamo (PDL)7 p.m. ETMacpherson Stadium;
Greensboro, N.C.
May 14Dearborn Stars (USASA) at Michigan Bucks (PDL)7:30 p.m. ETUltimate Soccer Arenas;
Pontiac, Mich.
May 14RWB Adria (USASA) at Pittsburgh Riverhounds (USL PRO)7 p.m. ETHighmark Stadium;
Pittsburgh, Pa.
May 14River City Rovers (PDL) at Dayton Dutch Lions (USL PRO)7 p.m. ETBeavercreek High School;
Beavercreek, Ohio
May 15Madison 56ers (NPSL) at Des Moines Menace (PDL)7:30 p.m. CTValley Stadium;
West Des Moines, Iowa
May 14NTX Rayados (USASA) at Austin Aztex (PDL)7:30 p.m. CTHouse Park;
Austin, Texas
May 14Phoenix FC (USL Pro) at FC Tucson (PDL)7:30 p.m. Arizona TimeKino Sports Complex Grandstand;
Tucson, Ariz.
May 14Sacramento Gold (NPSL) vs. Portland Timbers U23s (PDL)7:30 p.m. PTJELD-WEN Field;
Portland, Ore.
May 14Doxa Italia (USASA) at Sounders FC U23s (PDL)7 p.m. PTSunset Chevrolet Stadium;
Sumner, Wash.
May 14PSA Elite (USASA) at Laredo Heat SC (PDL)8:15 p.m. CTTexas A&M International Soccer Complex;
Laredo, Texas
May 14Real Colorado Foxes (PDL) at Georgia Revolution (NPSL)7 p.m. ETRYSA Soccerplex;
Conyers, Ga.
May 14FC Hasental (NPSL) at Ventura County Fusion (PDL)7 p.m. PTVentura College;
Ventura, Calif.

There are a handfull of oddballs from smaller conferences and associations and its always nice to have those wildcard darkhorse teams to spice things up.  You'll also notice there are several representatives from the ever-expanding grassroots league, the National Premier Soccer League.  Of course there are several PDL clubs in the mix and even a few USL Pro squads in the first round.  Here are the teams to keep your eye on:

Ocean City Nor'easters: Ever the underdog, these boys understand what the tourney is all about.  In a previous USOC tangle with DC United, their fans managed to intimidate the screaming eagles and only just fell short of a glorious upset.  

Reading United AC:  The Battery hosted this side last year and the PA squad can be tough competition.  Reading's alumni have really begun to go places...we're talking MLS and beyond.

Chattanooga FC:  These boys are known for quality football and their supporters, the Chattahooligans are largely responsible for inciting a football culture revolution in Middle Tennessee.  Nos vemos, El Conductor!!

Michigan Bucks:  Drawing on a wealth of college talent, the Bucks have won the PDL title and had an excellent run in the Cup last year.  Don't be surprised if they knock off a few big names this go around.  

I love this competition and what it means for the Beautiful Game in America.  I'm practically beside myself with anticipation!  Let it begin!  Let it begin!!

Who will be the next to lift the Cup??  I can't wait to find out!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Heinemann Lifts 'Caps in Canadian Cup

Passing quietly under the North American soccer radar, former Charleston Battery forward Tom Heinemann did some heavy lifting to push the Vancouver Whitecaps into the Amway Canadian Cup Final last week.  Toppling FC Edmonton in a two-leg semi, the Caps move on to battle Montreal for the Canadian title and a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League.

Heinemann netted the game winning goal, deep into stoppage time as the first legged ended 3-2.  He was also heavily involved in the 'Caps productive offensive in the successive 2-0 win, proving instrumental in forcing an own goal.  Since his early career this personable striker has had a knack for being in the right place at the right time, and these days its earning him more minutes in Vancouver.  Combined with the goal scoring exploits of fellow USL product Cory Hertzog, the Whitecaps are becoming potent example of the talent USL athletes can bring to the table.

But don't take my word for it...see what the editors over at MSL Soccer had to say about Charleston's beloved "Wildman."  And you may wanna check out his game-winning goal while you're at it:





(photo credit: Whitecaps facebook)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Double Deuce!!

Two games.  Three goals.  Six Points.

The Charleston Battery passed their first real road test with flying colors, coming home with all six points and confidence to spare after last week's fixtures at Harrisburg and Dayton.  Improving to fourth in the league table, Charleston lengthen their current winning streak to four games.  Here's how it all happened:

Harrisburg City 1-2 Charleston

The Battery rolled into Harrisburg last Wednesday with the difficult task of unseating one of the only unbeaten teams in the league.  The City Islanders were still riding the high of walloping Rochester 5-1 in their home opener and looking to make that momentum count when Charleston came to town.

After a bizarre delayed kickoff on account of some athletic tape, the first few minutes of the match were rather tame.  Seemingly out of nowhere, Mark Wiltse sent a hopeful cross far along the pitch, eyeing Mike Azira.  The Ugandan met the ball with a flawless volley, dropping it just inside the top right corner of the net.  With no attempts at modesty, this goal was highlight reel material...I don't mean 'Goals of the Week'...I'm thinking contender for goal of the season at least!  Stunning the fans, the players, and likely the officiating crew, the game took a different tack after Azira's 10th minute golazo.  Charleston were in the ascendency and effectively bossing the show.  The visitor's repeatedly made foray's into the Harrisburg final third and kept Nick Noble (who's no netminding greenhorn) on his toes for the better part of the evening.

In the 38th, the Battery were awarded a penalty following a handball inside the box and Nicki Paterson skillfully converted.  For a moment the goal was adjudged to be wide, as Paterson's powerful placement burst the seems of the net, but a correct call was soon to follow.  Harrisburg were able to pull a goal back just before the break when Hernandez picked his spot and arched a 20 yard shot.  And while it was a quality strike, Odisnel Cooper seemed to be obscured by his own defender and the resulting reaction was unequal to Hernandez' delivery.

The second half would prove much like the first, continuing to flatter the Charleston Battery.  To their credit, the Islanders fought hard for the equalizer, but Charleston were content to maintain possession, hold their defensive shape, and blitz their hosts with furious counterattacks.  Without making the scoresheet, Dane Kelly had another impressive performance registering a number a chances while harrying the Islander's back line for most of the match.  Quinton Griffith was also key in Charleston's assault, and his pace caused more than a few problems for his markers.

Check out all the goals from the match...but especially Azira's strike!




The real lesson learned against Harrisburg is that the Charleston Battery are very versatile and capable of adapting to a multitude of styles of play.  They certainly had their work cut out for them, but the 2-1 win over the Islanders is a fantastic result.  The great news is, the winning didn't stop there...

Dayton 0-1 Charleston

Despite a reverse at the hands of Orlando City, the Dayton Dutch Lions have been enjoying a run of good form this season.  Continuing to grow and strengthen, the young franchise has high hopes for their third USL Pro season, and when the Battery came to town, the mood was optimistic to say the least.  

Charleston started well and had a near miss in the 8th minute.  The match began to open up and the hosts created a few chances of their own.  Goalkeeper Kevin "Godzilla" Klasila earned his first start of the season and did well between the sticks.  In the 33rd minute, Charleston had the good fortune of earning yet another handball-penalty decision.  It goes without saying, Paterson stepped to spot and put the Battery in front.  Surprisingly, it was to be the game's only goal.  

In the second half, a reserved Battery side looked comfortable riding the one-goal lead in the face of heavy pressure from the Dutch Lions.  Klasila logged five saves on the evening and with Falvey and Mueller in the center, Charleston's defense seemed as resolute as ever.  Emmanuel Adjetey did some fine work of his own, carving up a few chances for the visitors.  For the all their determination, Dayton's attack was toothless in the finish, and Charleston would climb onto the bus with a neat six points in their pockets.  

With several players out of action due to injury, the Battery demonstrated their depth in the tie against the Dutch Lions.  While it might not have been the most heart-pounding, goal scoring match of the season, winning two road games in only three days is an accomplishment for anyone.  Charleston host the Wilmington Hammerheads this Saturday in Blackbaud's Kick for the Cure, a fun annual initiative in the fight against breast cancer.  Oh yeah... and its the first match of the Southern Derby!!!  So be sure to cheer for the boys either in the stands or on the livestream!  

Up the Battery!!!



(photo credit: USL Pro facebook)

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