By John Ace
We can be nothing but proud. The Battery looked down and out, but didn’t give up in the 2nd half and were unlucky to lose 3-2 to Orlando City Lions.
The Battery had a start that was nothing short of disastrous. Orlando wouldn’t let up, and despite some early possession in midfield, Orlando quickly broke in the 5th minute through striker Long Tan.
Poor defending led to the ball falling to Orlando feet and the ball was passed to Tan deep inside the box, who slid the ball past Odisnel Cooper in goal.
It was quickly 2-0 a minute later. The Battery never recovered from the previous goal, and it showed. Orlando were simply the better team out of the gate, and Odama Mbengue capitalized on a chance inside the 5 yard box due to poor defending, putting the hosts firmly in front.
By this time, we were chasing shadows, and Orlando were 100% in front, looking to stamp their authority on the game before it even really started. Off of their first corner (which the commentators of USLNation made no mistake in telling us that they were dangerous from) Orlando found a third goal.
Poor defending left a man free on the post and it was an easy finish from Dennis Chin. We then looked completely dead.
To quote captain Colin Falvey, who had quite the night himself: “We didn’t start. We didn’t come out of the blocks. We were chasing it all night long.”
But, in the 33rd minute, Mike Azira gave us a lifeline.
A shaky header from a long ball from the ‘keeper left him stranded off his line and a long header found the net and got us a goal back.
After the goal, we looked a little better, but it seemed, rightly so, like we just wanted to get in at half-time with that lifeline, and so it proved as we went in at 3-1.
Mike Anheuser, the Battery manager, knew we were in need of a pep-talk. And he’s no stranger to giving them. We had turned a similar performance last season at Rochester around en route to winning the ‘ship last season, and it was time to give one again.
“The biggest thing was Mike Azira getting that goal. Because if you don’t pick up that goal you go in and it’s 3-0 and you don’t have confidence. I was able to tell the guys ‘Hey, it’s two goals… it’s 2-0. And we knew we could score against them.” he said of the team talk.
A dangerous free kick in the opening minute of the 2nd half got Amadu Sanyang booked, but nothing came of it and the match was clearly a game of 2 halves.
We came out miles better in the 2nd half and were able to get an early goal through Sanyang in the 60th minute.
A brilliant cross from Jose Cuevas beat the Orlando ‘keeper at his front post and Sanyang couldn’t miss from half a yard out as he was unmarked to give us a further spark of hope. Anheuser was impressed with the changes, saying:
“We settled down. We corrected, kinda, what they were causing a problem with, and we were able to get into the attack a little bit,” Anhaeuser said. “Jose played a great ball and made it 3-2.”
Orlando then tried to play keep ball when they got the ball back, knowing we still needed to press to get an equalizer. The game started to get chippy, as usual, especially in midfield, and as they all say, “The Play-Offs are for the big kids”. It was fully on show.
Tackles were coming in in all areas of the pitch as both teams battled for chances. Orlando to kill the game off and the Battery to find that all-important equalizer.
You could tell both teams knew what it meant, but the only real clear cut chance that came out of the attrition was to Orlando, and they could have had a penalty.
A long ball up the wing fell into the path of Long Tan, Orlando’s first goal scorer, who was beaten to the ball by Odisnel Cooper in our goal. Tan was also close to the ball, and it looked from a certain angle that Tan beat Cooper to the ball, got there and pushed the ball past him before going down in the box.
However, this wasn’t the view of the referee, and while Orlando Firm supporters were celebrating as if they’d won a penalty, the ref had other ideas. He booked the striker for diving.
It made things even more interesting when, while the striker was arguing in his defense, Battery captain Colin Falvey got involved.
He came over, by looks of things, to rush things along. He then started arguing with Tan, and he pushed his head toward Falvey, sending them both to the floor, obviously trying to get Falvey sent off.
Both players went down and were subsequently examined by their respective club doctors, but when they got back up, both players received red cards. Which, in a game of Football, is letter of the law. If a fight breaks out, both instigators are given an immediate red card without the referee having a second look.
So, both teams continued with ten men for the remaining 15 minutes. Falvey was less than impressed with the ref. “I’m arguing with the boy… and he’s come and he’s pushed his head towards me. A nice little tip on the nose. I said to the referee I’m dumbfounded how he’s given both red cards.
“I don’t want to say too much but I think he didn’t know what quite happened and he tried to even it up… which is a very strange decision.”
We continued to press for the equalizer, but having lost arguably our best defender, had to also be aware of the counter, especially on the wings, as we had gone with three defenders at the back.
We had begun to get desperate as we went to pumping the ball up field. A chance did fall to Jose Cuevas near the end, when he was on the edge of the box, but he played the ball too deep to the back post, when he only had an open man at the near.
It ended as such, and so it’s Orlando who move on to the final and play the winner of the Richmond Kickers and Charlotte Eagles, who play on Saturday.
In the end, Anhaeuser was proud of his team.
“Tonight, down 3-0, really heads down. We came out, made it 3-2, really right back in the game,” Anhaeuser said. “It’s not 5-0, it’s 3-2, and we were one little clip away, one little pass away, one little ball that flickers wide away from tying it up. You tie it up, just like last year, you go to overtime and penalties, and there’s no guarantee.
“That’s what this tells me about these guys. They left everything on the field. They didn’t want to lose, they did everything to come back.”
TOP IMAGE: Midfielder Amadou Sanyang heads home a brilliant cross by Jose “Chiva” Cuevas to bring the Battery within a goal of the Lions in the second half. The visitors would come no closer. Dan Conover photos.