The Charleston Battery took on the back-to-back NASL Champion New York Cosmos Saturday night, in their final preseason tune-up before opening league play. Charleston came into the match after closing out the collegiate portion of their preseason friendlies with a 2-0 win over the South Carolina Gamecocks.
This was the first meeting between the two historic clubs, and both teams came out the gate strong for the early part of the 1st half, firing on all cylinders. The Cosmos managed to find the bulk of possession throughout the first 20 minutes or so, but the Battery defense, led by captain Shawn Ferguson, held strong.
While the Cosmos found most of the possession early, the Battery had the lion's share of threats on goal. The play of the Battery midfield was an absolute work of creative brilliance, with all 4 mids creating chance after chance. And in the 32' the creativity payed off as a cross from O'Brian Woodbine found Maikel Chang at the back post. Chang promptly headed the ball back to forward Ricky Garbanzo who then crushed a header past the Cosmos keeper, giving the Battery a 1-0 lead, which they carried into Halftime.
New York came out swinging the 2nd half, managing to make a few shots on target, passed the Battery's solid back line. Unfortunately for the Cosmos, Battery Keeper Alex Tambakis would have none of it. Tambakis, who won the start over Battery vet and USL GK of year finalist Odisnel Cooper, was an absolute monster between the post racking up save after save.
After the Cosmos early 2nd half surge, Charleston managed to regroup as the Battery midfield once again took control, turning up the pressure, pushing the attack, and putting the Cosmos defense on it's heels.
Somewhere around 60' the Cosmos defense began to crack under the constant pressure of the Battery attack. Conceding corner after corner, and a slew of Battery chances.
In the 73' the Battery, smelling blood in the water, went for the Cosmos' jugular. Battery midfielder Justin Portillo dumped the ball out to the left flank, finding Chang, who struck an absolute laser of a cross to...Guess who? "Pretty" Ricky Garbanzo, setting up yet another headed goal.
Down 2-0, New York never managed to recover, with Charleston dominating the remainder of the match. In the 78', Battery sub Dante Marini checked in for Garbanzo. Less than 2 minutes later Marini broke the game wide open, burying a goal off a deflected cross from Maikel Chang.
The 80' goal would prove to be the nail in the coffin, as Charleston would go on to close out their dominant performance, winning the match 3-0.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Garbanzo on the win:
"The key was just staying focused to be honest. Just knowing when to pick our spots, and on the goals it was mostly just being alert on goal. Chang knew where I was gonna be both goals. All he had to do was pick up his head and pick me out. But yeah it was simple we were just focused."
KEY TAKE AWAYS:
- RICKY FREAKIN' GARBANZO
The Battery come into 2016 trying to fill the void left by the departure of Charleston's top goal scorer in 2015 Dane Kelly. Could Garbanzo be Charleston's go to up front? He certainly looked the part Saturday night. But with Romario Williams on his way to Chucktown, the Battery's position battle at forward is far from over.
- STRONG PLAY BY THE MIDFIELDERS
Mids Zach Prince, Justin Portillo, and Maikel Chang played beautifully. Newcomer Ataullah Guerra also had a strong showing after making the move from forward to midfield.
- THE DEFENSE
Shawn Ferguson was solid as always, leading the back 4 to a clean sheet.
Alex was a beast. Atlanta United fans, Tambakis may be something special.
The Battery open up USL play at home next Saturday, March 26th, against FC Cincinnati.