At the end of pregame warm-ups Saturday, Charleston Battery Captain Colin Falvey gave his teammates a motivational speech that could best be described as “animated.”
“The last two or three times at home, we’ve started really flat,” Falvey said roughly two hours later. “I don’t know what it is. On the road we’ve come up brilliant. At home here, we’ve kinda tried to feel our way into the game. I was just reiterating what the coaches have been drilling into us all week, that we have to come out flying tonight. No excuses. Get after it. High pressure. Win your tackles, win your headers, set the tempo, try to get our nose in front. And all them things they asked, we managed to to.”
Which is actually something of an understatement. Charleston logged its first truly complete performance of 2014 at Blackbaud Stadium, hanging three goals — including one by the fired-up Falvey — on a Los Angeles Galaxy II team that started the night in second place in the league table.
How completely did Charleston shut down the highest-scoring attack in USL PRO? Not only did the Battery hold LAGII scoreless, it didn’t allow a team that averages more than 2.20 goals per match a single on-target shot. Total number of shots produced by the Galaxy attack? Four.
Falvey cracked the ice in the 25th minute when rookie attacking mid Andre Lewis’ in-swinging free kick set him up for a header in the midst of a far-post scrum. In the minutes that followed, Charleston put Los Angeles under a series of withering attacks, wresting control of the midfield from the visitors while launching Lewis and forward Dane Kelly on swift forays into the final third. Galaxy keeper Cody Laurendi’s steady work kept matters from getting worse in the first half. But his luck wouldn’t last five full minutes in the second.
In the 50th, Kelly took a pass from central midfielder Jarad van Schaik, cut to his left with the ball at his feet, and then fired from a tight angle at the near post to beat Laurendi with a shot that cut back against the flow of the play.
The Battery kept up the pressure in the second half, out-shooting the Galaxy 7-3 (11-4 on the night) in the final 45. Substitute forward Heviel Cordoves cracked the defense one last time in the 85th minute. Like Kelly’s goal from the opposite side, Cordoves got close enough to freeze the keeper at the near post, and then put a fastball past him to the far post.
The win kept Charleston in contact with the eighth and final playoff spot, while allowing Richmond to climb over Los Angeles and into second place on 27 points and goal differential.
“They’re up in the table, and we need to close the gap right now,” said Coach Mike Anhaeuser. “And it’s one step at a time. Three points tonight. We need to go into Charlotte next week and get the job done. But it’s going to give these guys a lot of confidence that they deserve.”
One man who certainly deserved credit for the shutout was Battery defensive mid Amadou Sanyang. Patrolling the center of the pitch in Classic No. 6 beast-mode, Sanyang repeatedly blew up Galaxy possessions and keyed the Battery counterattack. He also drew the 84th minute foul that produced the free kick that resulted in Cordoves’ nightcap finish. Falvey called the 22-year-old Gambian’s performance “brilliant.”
“What Amadaou does for us, a lot of people don’t see,” Falvey said. “He does the nasty side of the game, I like to say. The businessman-like. Wins little — like, it might be getting tight enough to hit off his knee or his shin and it restarts the counter attack for us. He’s always in there in their faces. He’s the one that people sometimes say ‘Oh, was he out there?’ Until you play with him and train with him and realize how important he is.”
Sanyang credited his night to Anhaeuser’s match planning.
“Coach prepared us very well for this game,” he said. “He talked to me about the role he wanted me to play. I think that helped a little bit, the information that he gave me. It’s about them having the ball in the middle. And I think coach knows them very well. That’s what he put in our minds: This is how they like to play. They like to keep the ball, and we didn’t let them do that.”
The Galaxy II brought plenty of offensive firepower, but left behind their leading scorer, eight-goal forward Chandler Hoffman. Rising stars Jack McBean, Charlie Rugg and Bradford Jamieson IV started the match, with 35-year-old first-team French veteran Laurent Courtois subbing on in the 54th minute. But with Sanyang controlling the central midfield, Charleston’s back line of Falvey, center back Shawn Ferguson and fullbacks John Wilson and Emmanuel Adjetey (making his first Battery appearance of the year) had few anxious moments. Battery goalkeeper Odisnel Cooper was never forced to save a shot.
“They score a lot of goals,” Falvey said when asked if he was happier about the clean sheet or the three goals. “They’re young kids. Plenty of energy. They always get extra runners in the box because they throw caution to the wind. So the clean sheet is a big bonus. I think after this week we must be stats-wise No.1 in our league defensively.
“But I was pleased to get the three goals I see the boys everyday training, trying to get the ball hitting the back of the net.”
TOP IMAGE: Battery Captain Colin Falvey played one of his best matches of 2014, firing up his teammates before kickoff, scoring the game-winner, and leading a defense that recorded its fifth clean sheet of the season. Dan Conover photos.