Charleston was on the road, playing in cold weather against a team that was having its first-ever match, and they were without three starters from last week. But despite all of that, the Battery left Charlotte with a 3-2 victory and three more points Friday night.
It’s only the second game of the season of course, but considering the odds stacked against them, it was a fantastic win for Charleston.
The Charlotte Independence are a new franchise. The Charlotte Eagles, a longtime Charleston rival, self-relegated to PDL for 2015, and the Independence took the USL slot. So this was their first game. Ever. The players came out on fire, dominating possession and getting several good shots off that Odisnel Cooper did well to save.
Then Heviel Cordoves scored in the 10th minute, totally against the run-of-play. Then Charlotte quickly tied it, before Charleston scored two more in the first half and held on for the win. (Don’t worry, we’ll break the goals down further below.)
Mike Anhaeuser fielded a different lineup Friday night, for a variety of reasons. Here’s how they lined up.
There were two changes on defense. Emmanuel Adjetey got the start at left back in place of O’Brian Woodbine, who was on the bench. At right back was Zach Prince. Prince usually plays in a midfield role where he can go forward and help create chances, but he has rotated around to play some defense during the preseason.
Prince took the place of Quinton Griffith, who likely wasn’t 100 percent after being slightly injured in the season-opener against Toronto. Also out with an injury was forward Dane Kelly. He appeared to injure his ankle in the first game, so Anhaeuser said he would sit him if he thought Kelly needed a little more time. Better to rest him now than rush him back and lose him for longer. Cordoves replaced Kelly in the second half last week and helped give a second wind to the offense.
The midfield was mostly the same, with captain Jared van Schaik and Justin Portillo playing defensive midfield. Mikel Chang and Navion Boyd played on the outside and Ricky Garbanzo and Cordoves played as forwards.
So the personnel was a little different, but the formation looked to be the same 4-2-3-1. Prince playing right back added an interesting option going forward, since he is so comfortable with that. The defense looked composed and organized, for the most part, despite having two changes from last week.
And what a game Cordoves had. Two goals and an assist. It’ll be interesting to see how Cordoves is used going forward when Kelly is fit to return.
But Anhaeuser has choices, that much is clear. He was able to make three changes to the team and didn’t see a decline in quality. That depth will be crucial when injuries and fatigue start to pile up in the long summer months coming up.
As for the home team, it looked like they also lined up in a 4-2-3-1, and it seemed like almost everyone was getting involved in the attacks. Charlotte looked very good, especially considering they are a brand new team. Their offense has the ability to score a lot of goals, and that can take you a long way in USL.
— 10th minute, Charleston goal (Cordoves)
Charlotte came flying out of the gates offensively, earning the first corner just 21 seconds after the opening kick. Defender Andrew Ribeiro nearly scored on it too, but his header was off by just a few inches. It hit the post before bouncing off of a Battery defender and out of bounds for another corner.
Ryan Finley had another great chance for the home team in the fourth minute, when he received the ball in the box with major space between the defense. Finley turned and launched a low shot, but Cooper was once again there for the save.
That was really the story for almost the first 10 minutes of the game. Charleston could not keep possession, and when they did go forward they would have an offside call stop their play.
But somehow, before the clock read 10:00, Charleston had the 1-0 lead. It started when Chang intercepted a pass near midfield. He played a great ball ahead to Cordoves, who was able to catch up to it inside the top left side of the box. Charlotte goalkeeper John Berner sprinted out to cut off the pass, but Cordoves beat him to it.
Berner dove at the last second, likely realizing he wasn’t going to get there before the Battery forward could get a touch on the ball. Well, Cordoves chipped the ball up and over the keeper, and it rolled into the open net.
When someone asks what it means to score against the run of play, show them this goal.
— 13th minute, Charlotte goal (Thompson)
It didn’t take the Independence long to respond. Their opening goal came from a beautiful sequence. After getting the ball on the edge of the box, Ribeiro played a ball on to Jorge Herrera in the middle, who used the side of his right foot to flick the ball behind him to a waiting Jack Thompson. The forward was wide open, as the defense had tightened up around Herrera.
Thompson took a touch and blasted a shot in the right side of the net, leaving Cooper flat-footed. It looked like the defense was a little out of position on this play. The whole thing started off of a turnover in the Battery’s third. The far side of the field was crowded, and Charlotte moved very quickly once they intercepted the ball.
Adjetey moved up to cut off the man with the ball, and van Schaik recognized the move and dropped back to cover, but the cross got past both of them and to Ribeiro. The Battery defense slid over to their left, where the play still was, but Thompson slipped in unmarked.
The defense got caught out on this one, but if Herrera doesn’t make that great play and tries to shoot it himself, the Battery likely stops it with no problem. But it was a really nice play by Charlotte.
— 20th minute, Charleston goal (Garbanzo)
Cordoves added to his impact on the game with his assist on the Battery’s second goal. Chang played the ball out to Cordoves, who had room to run at the top of the box. Cordoves was able to cross it to Garbanzo who beat the defense and was waiting to tap the ball into the net.
It was Garbanzo’s first goal with Charleston, and a special one as he is from Rock Hill, which is just across the border from Charlotte. As such, he had family and friends who were able to see him score in person.
The Coastal Carolina alum continued to play well in his attacking role. He has been listed on the official team sheets as a forward, and he definitely spends a lot of time up top, but he also drops back more than Cordoves, whom he plays underneath. Garbanzo seems to be playing more as an attacking midfielder who will provide midfield support when needed, but is mainly needed to help distribute the ball, and put them into the goal.
— 39th minute, Charleston goal (Cordoves)
Cordoves’ second goal came from almost the same spot as the first. This one came on the end of a beautiful long ball from Chang. Chang saw Cordoves making a run, and lofted a ball from deep inside the Battery’s side of the field over everyone. Cordoves was able to bring it down in stride and calmly chipped it past Berner to extend Charleston’s lead.
Once again, the scoring play came from the left wing, where Cordoves operated the most Friday. Charlotte had a lot of players forward when Chang played the ball for the lightning-fast counter.
— 47th minute, Charlotte goal (Finley, PK)
Not a lot to say about this one. Finley made a run into the box and Mueller appeared to trip him while trying to make a tackle. Finley took the penalty and shot it to his left, while Cooper dove the other way.
Charleston did not decide to park the bus when their lead was cut to one, however. They kept playing the way they had been in the first half, pushing for a fourth goal. This mentality was evident by Anhaeuser’s substitutions in the second half, bringing on Austin Savage for Cordoves and Dante Marini for Garbanzo.
In the final minute of stoppage time Charlotte threatened to tie it with a free kick and two corners, but the Battery defense was able to fend off the final attacks.
— Charleston’s six goals this season have come from five different players. (Kelly, Cordoves twice, Shawn Ferguson, Mueller and Garbanzo.)
— Last year the team had four games where they scored three or more goals. Now they’ve done it twice in the first two games.
— Last year the Battery’s second win came on May 4.
This being the first road game of the season, it was also the first time for the viewing party at The Sparrow in Park Circle. About 20 Charleston fans came out to watch the game, which was streamed onto the TV. The fans, led by members of Queen Anne’s Revenge, came out in Battery gear and chanted throughout the match as if they were back in Blackbaud Stadium.
If you’re the type of person who believes in superstition in sports (I’m including myself in this) then listen to this story. Sometime after Charlotte tied the game at 1-1, fans started the chant that goes like “Come on Battery score a goal…” And during that chant, guess what happened? Yep, the Battery scored a goal. It was a cool moment. I’d encourage anyone to come out and watch the next away game at The Sparrow, located at 1078 E. Montague Ave.
As for the home team, the official attendance was announced as 2,241. The official supporters group is called Jack’s Militia, but due to the fact that the camera is on the same side of the field as the stands, there were very few shots of the crowd. According to one Charlotte fan on Reddit, there was a separate group of fans with their own chants. It’ll be interesting to see how the culture melds and grows with the new team in Charlotte, and how many fans come down to Charleston on May 23.
Top photo credit Janet Conover.