BY JOHN ACE
The Battery picked up three points against Arizona United in a crucial game as the season winds down. Dane Kelly scored a brace early on in the first half to give the home side early control of the match, and they never relinquished their grip having finally converted their chances.
The Battery are looking less and less likely to make their way into the playoffs at this stage, and they knew that tonight, especially at home against a team only just above them in the table. So three points were a must. This meant their lineup had to be adventurous, to say the least. The intent in the side meant that usual starters Taylor Mueller and Zach Prince were dropped to the bench in favor of the more attack-minded Quinton Griffith, and Justin Portillo.
Maikel Chang and Jose Cuevas would also start in midfield as the Battery lined up in an apparent 4-5-1 with Cuevas playing in an advanced role behind eventual matchwinner Kelly.
The three would link up to create the Battery’s first chance after just nine minutes. Jose Cuevas played an excellent ball out to the wing for Chang to run onto before he crossed the ball for Kelly to win in the air, but the striker’s header went just over the bar.
The early chance gave the Battery some confidence as they bossed possession of the ball, playing deep in the opposition half and controlling midfield.
Really and truly, Arizona’s only chance of the first half came from ex-Orlando standout Long Tan, who’s been the scourge of the Battery at times, with his goals and his antics, but thankfully his shot after 15 minutes went wide of Odisnel Cooper’s near post.
After that is when the Battery began to shift completely into the next gear. Adam Mena had a shot go over the bar after some excellent midfield play led to an inch perfect through-ball from the edge of the box, but it was a sign of things to come.
And come they did when, on 26 minutes, Dane Kelly latched onto a long ball, toe-poking it past the onrushing Arizona ‘keeper, putting just enough on it to make it slowly trickle into the net to give the Battery the lead.
The tails were definitely up for the black and yellow as Quinton Griffith made a great run up the wing just a few minutes later, creating space and popping a shot from a good 25 yards. One could only view this as a sign of clear intent.
It didn’t take long to make good on another chance. Just after the half hour mark, defender Colin Falvey cleared an errant pass by Justin Portillo back to the midfielder and continued his run, while Portillo would eventually link with Cuevas, and he would find Maikel Chang, who would play a brilliant over-the-top through-ball to Dane Kelly, who fired home on the half volley for his second goal of the match.
The goal was brilliantly rounded off, but it was the midfield who made it. Colin Falvey’s run from his defensive position gave the Battery an extra man that Arizona found hard to handle, and it helped create more space for the midfield.
The move found Kelly via Chang, who earned his first assist in a Battery shirt to go along with his first Battery goal in the US Open Cup game against Panama City, followed by his first league goal against Charlotte earlier this month.
It was obviously time for Arizona to change something, and that change came in the form of attack-minded Sam Garza in the 39th minute.
By that time, the Battery were content to give Arizona just a little more possession than they had had previously, mostly in order to tire out an already exhausted team, having played on Friday night, but were able to keep them safely contained in their own half.
And that’s how the first half ended. The Battery were in full control, but had to make sure they wouldn’t get complacent on either side of the ball. They couldn’t commit too many men forward and go for an all out bloodbath, but couldn’t sit back and take their foot completely off the gas for fear of getting bogged down in defense.
There wasn’t much to talk about in the second half until around the hour mark. Both teams had possession of the ball, though mostly in non-threatening positions. To change this, Arizona brought on another defender, but also subbed out a midfielder for a striker.
Looking ahead to the next match against Montreal Impact’s reserves in midweek, Dane Kelly would soon after be subbed for Heviel Cordoves, while Zach Prince, and Aminu Abdallah would make their way on for Adam Mena and Jarad Van Schaik as the home side began to sit back and soak up pressure in order to play the game out.
After that, Jose Cuevas would be replaced by Dante Marini, as with the last game, the Battery would create a couple of late chances.
First, Justin Portillo would find space and turn in enough to attempt a curler toward the left bottom corner, but his shot went hopelessly wide, not even troubling the ‘keeper.
The best chance to extend the lead came by way of Dante Marini, who found himself one-on-one with the ‘keeper on the edge of the six-yard box, but scoffed his shot, which surprisingly, while saved by the ‘keeper, slipped under his arm and found its way onto the crossbar, and the player who collected the rebound, Maikel Chang, looked for space to take a shot of his own before being seemingly impeded by a defender, but a penalty wasn’t given.
And so, the match ended with the Battery emerging as 2-0 winners. While the scoreline didn’t exactly show it, there was only going to be one winner in the end, with the home side putting in what was probably one of their best performances of the year.
After the match, the players took time to go over to E1, the Regiment end, who have seemed to organize chants, providing for a bit of extra atmosphere.
The Battery’s next match is on Monday, July 28th, as they take on Montreal Impact’s reserve side in a game that was moved forward due to fixture congestion at 10:30AM.
TOP IMAGE: Jose Cuevas controls the ball early in the Battery’s eventual 2-0 win over Arizona United SC. VIN DUFFY PHOTO courtesy of Charleston Battery.