Taylor Mueller scored what he’ll likely remember as one of the oddest goals of his career Thursday night as the Charleston Battery cruised to a wind-aided 4-1 win over visiting Georgia Southern University.
With the Battery up 2-0 in what the club reported as the 31st minute (this being a preseason scrimmage, the scoreboard was never activated), Mueller pushed up just beyond midfield from his spot at right back and chipped the ball forward in what looked to be a routine attempt at creating a chance for another player. But as the Georgia keeper came forward to smother the pass, the wind seemed to alter the ball’s flight, suspending it in the air for an additional moment. With the keeper suddenly too far forward, it carried over his head, bounced once inside the penalty area, and rolled into the empty net.
(Honestly, I had to ask the team after the match to find out who had kicked the fluke goal. From my spot in the stands I couldn’t really tell — and I wasn’t watching the play with the kind of attention you pay to those moments when a threat appears to be under way. If the ball caught the GSU keeper by surprise, the same could be said for most of us in the stands, too.)
Jose Cuevas, who once again filled the central midfield role typically occupied by the injured Nicki Paterson, started the sequence that led to the opening goal in the 10th minute. When Captain Colin Falvey misjudged his timing on another baffling long ball, his uncharacteristic whiff appeared to open a scoring opportunity for Georgia Southern, but Cuevas swooped in from behind the play and broke things up before the Eagles could get anything underway. The Battery pushed the ball forward , with midfielder Jarad van Schaik eventually driving a low cross to Evier Cordovez, the Battery’s thunderfooted Cuban striker. Cordovez tapped the ball home from close range.
In the 28th minute, Zach Prince — who logged another impressive performance Tuesday night — found Cuevas and put the ball at his feet on the right side of the penalty area. Despite the acute angle, Cuevas finished precisely.
According to my notes, starting Battery keeper Kevin Klasila only had to make one play in the first half, coming up to snuff out a remote chance in the opening minutes. He could have knitted a sweater for the next 40 minutes.
Early in the second half, GSU got its only goal of the night when substitute Battery center back Cody Ellison made a mistake on an aerial clearance (Are you noticing a theme yet? Everything in the air looked dicey as a blustery cold front moved in over Daniel Island) and headed the ball past backup keeper Odisnel Cooper. Ellison, who has been enjoying a stalwart preseason, dropped his face into his hands in disbelief. Though the own-goal seemed to bother him at first, he redeemed himself late in the match when he played a highlight-reel 50-yard long-ball ahead to rookie trialist Austin Savage, who stayed onsides, chested it down on the run and got off a shot that went just wide left. What made the pass even more remarkable was that he launched it into the wind on a night when gusts played havoc with just about everything else.
Gibson Bardsley, who spent last year with Dayton, came on to start the second half and continued to make the most of his Battery preseason with another intriguing performance that featured a couple of attempts and the night’s final goal. After a scrappy possession that brought the ball in front of the GSU goal, Bardsley wound up with the ball on the left side of the penalty area. Using a bit of technical skill to create space on his man, he buried a far-post shot from about 15-yards out. What made
Unlike Klasila’s half, Cooper was actually called upon in the final 45 minutes, though only one of the shots on his goal required much effort on his part.
“The first half was a very good performance,” Coach Mike Anhaeuser said. “I don’t think we gave up a shot, but we had the wind. Defensively we looked good, because they did pass it a little bit, but our shape looked very good. We tried to play two up-top again just to kinda tinker with that, to see Dane and Cordovez and see how that goes in case we’ve got to do that to have a little more offense.
“Overall I thought the performance was very good. Amadou (Samyang) did very well in there, I thought, in the first half. Moving the ball a lot better. Getting it and playing it and switching the field, and we attacked well out of the back, especially on Johnny (Wilson)’s side in the second half, which was good to see, because that’s what we want to do, get our outside backs forward.”
BATTERY STARTERS: Kevin Klasila, goalkeeper. Defenders: Taylor Mueller, right back, John Wilson, left back. Center backs, Sean Ferguson and Colin Falvey. Midfielders: Jarad van Schaik, left mid; Amadou Samyang, defensive mid; Jose Cuevas, central mid; Zack Prince, right mid. Forwards: Evier Cordovez, Dane Kelly. Substitutes: Austin Savage, Cody Ellison, Gibson Bardsley, Odisnel Cooper.
NEXT UP: With Coastal Carolina University coming to town on Thursday for a 6 p.m. preseason scrimmage, this is something of an unusual week. Anhaeuser said he’ll probably get the goalkeepers a little work tomorrow and give the rest of the team a little “fun finishing” to get everyone ready for the next match.
THE-NOT-SO-GOOD NEWS: After speaking to Anhaeuser and Nicki Paterson on Monday about the injury that’s kept the box-to-box midfielder on the sidelines since the final night of the Carolina Challenge Cup, this Tweet Monday night wasn’t exactly a good omen.
Just what I didn’t want to hear!
— Nicki Paterson (@nickipaterson8) March 4, 2013
Paterson spent Tuesday night in street clothes in the stands with members of The Regiment, shouting advice to his teammates on the pitch. I asked Anhaeuser about his status after the match.
“He’s got to go back to the doctor,” said Anhaeuser. “He’s got a little problem with his groin, so they’re going to double check. So we’ll find out what’s happening.”
That’s a bit more than what we knew on Monday, when it sounded like he was sitting out training as a precaution after logging a bunch of minutes during the Cup, and “groin” injuries can be complex. So there’s nothing official yet. Stay tuned.
Amadou Samyang took a knee to the side of the head on a collision late in the game, and after coming off the pitch got the word from the staff that he should take the rest of the night off. Jose Cuevas, who subbed out at the half, was in his warm-up jacket at this point, but this being “preseason rules,” he encouraged Samyang to stay where he was, took off his sweats, and went back into the match in his place. Asked after the match why he was so eager to pick up more minutes with another game just two nights away, Cuevas laughed and said. “I promise it won’t happen again. Maybe.”
With Paterson out and Cuevas playing less of a pure attacking role, other players stepped up. Guys who got lots of mentions in my notes tonight include Dane Kelly, who played a physical game, Zach Prince, who continues to impress with smooth play, and Jarad van Schaik, who was strong both in the attack and on defense.
The wind out of the west was strong enough that it blew what at first looked like snowflakes horizontally across the stadium. They turned out to be seed pods.
Several Battery players have taken ill since the weekend. One of those players, recently signed winger Quinton Griffith, watched the match from the stands and said he was close to being back to normal.
See you on Thursday.