The Battery opened their 2016 USL campaign Saturday against newcomers FC Cincinnati in an absolutely thrilling match. Cincinnati came into their USL debut riding high off a very successful preseason that included an 1-0 victory over MLS side NYCFC. Cincinnati have built a surprisingly strong roster for their inaugural season, deep in both MLS and USL experience.
The match got off to a late start after a string of heavy thunderstorms delayed kickoff by 45 minutes. Charleston came in strong out the gate, dominating possession for the first 10 minutes or so, striking the first threat on goal of the match, as Heviel Cordoves stuck an absolute cracker from just outside the top of the penalty area, but the ball went just a tad too high bouncing off the crossbar. Cincy struggled to find their footing early, the condition of the pitch playing a definite factor, but the boys in orange and blue managed to find their groove evening the position battle.
The two clubs went to the locker room scoreless after the 1st half with the Battery and Cordoves finding the lone shot on target.
FC Cincinnati got off to a great start in the second half earning quite a few free kicks. But the Battery D managed to keep Cincy at bay on the back of another strong performance by keeper Alex Tambakis. Battery Coach MIKE ANHAEUSER on the defense's performance, "We gave the ball away pretty cheaply. We gave them some free kicks.It's not like us, and we put ourselves under some pressure. But Alex was very sound in the back."
Just as Cincy did in the 1st, Charleston managed to find their groove as the two teams traded possession evenly for much of the remainder of the match. Cincinnati nearly found the lead in the 61', as a breakaway shot just made it passed a sliding Woodbine, only to find the sure hands of Tambakis.
At 69' the Battery made what would be the key substitution of the match as Romario Williams made his Battery debut. The 3rd overall pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft immediately changed the game for the Battery, as Cincinnati struggled to contain the speedy Williams. In the 78' Williams left the Cincy defenders in the dust on a breakaway but couldn't quite get passed the keeper who made a tremendous stop.
As the match entered it's final 10 minutes the Battery made their final push, keeping the ball away from Cincy with a stellar display of ball movement. At 83' the Battery's Ataullah Guerra, who had a fantastic performance, made a stellar shot across the keepers face, barley glancing off the far post.
Just as the 90th minute expired the official announced 4 minutes of added time. The Battery kept the pressure on and in at the last possible moment of stoppage time, lightning struck again at MUSC Health Stadium , not from the storm clouds overhead, but from the left foot of Romario Williams.
With about 3 and a half of the 4 minutes of stoppage time gone, Chang made his way up the left wing getting the ball to Obi Woodbine, who split the Cincinnati defense with a beautiful pass to his fellow Jamaican Romario Williams. Williams showed off a bit of wizardry, his right foot gently tapping the ball back to his left, which connected beautifully putting away the go ahead goal.
Romario on the goal, "He picked his head up and I just made a run to the near post. The coach emphasized it before the game. Just run to the near post: You never know what may happen. And I was able to tuck it away."
MAN OF THE MATCH:
On the win and his move to Charleston,"We have a great group of guys. Guys that are hungry. They want to make some noise in the USL. Charleston has always been successful at this level. I'm coming in in with that same mentality, the same drive, the same hunger, the same desire to help this team any way I can."
This team is nothing to sneeze at. Cincinnati has done a remarkable job building a team in their 1st year and is sure to be a contender looking forward.
Once again the Greek hero had a monster performance earning the clean sheet.
What more can I say? Williams stepped in after being with the Battery less than a week and was immediately a game changer.
The Streak Continues
The Battery extend their unbeaten streak at home to 26 games, dating back to May of 2014.