The Charleston Battery hit the road for a second consecutive week on Sunday, taking on Bethlehem Steel FC.
The Battery had a tough night away from MUSC Health Stadium last week, falling 2-3 at Charlotte's Ramblewood Soccer Complex, in a match that saw very little go Charleston's way.
Charleston looked to rebound strong after Last Saturday's performance embarking on the 11 hr bus trip to beautiful Goodman Stadium, to face a Steel FC team that has had a fair share of ups and downs early on this season, stumbling to a 2-2 record. Bethlehem entered Sunday's match coming off a solid victory over Richmond after a crushing 4-0 defeat at the hands of Red Bulls II.
There were several changes to the team sheet this week for the Battery with several key players returning from injury. Mikel Chang made a much needed return to the Battery midfield allowing Q Griffith to drop back to his usual spot at RB, and Dante Marini notched his first start of the season at RM in place of suspended Zach Prince.
Perhaps the most intriguing change to the Battery lineup was in the goal. 2015 USL Goalkeeper of The Year finalist Odisnel Cooper, got his first start of 2016. Atlanta United signee Alex Tambakis started the first 4 matches for the Battery.
Tambakis has had a solid start earning 2 clean sheets, though he has gone largely untested early on this season.
Sunday's match opened up evenly, in what would prove to be a very physical and at times chippy battle. Both clubs exchanged trips back and forth into the attacking third in the opening minutes, but the Battery looked to be the greater goal scoring threat, with Bethlehem handing Charleston set piece after set piece off of early fouls.
The Battery nearly captured the lead in the 16th minute as Dante Marini nearly found Ataullah Guerra with a nifty ball into the penalty area, but Guerra couldn't quite find Marini's pass.
Marini came close to finding magic yet again in the 20th, putting a well placed pass across the face of the goal just out of the reach of Romario Williams.
Steel FC looked to counter the Charleston attack in the 29th, but Battery keeper Odisnel Cooper would have none of, scooping up a dangerous ball into the box.
Cooper looked determined to impress Sunday, making two key saves in the clean sheet performance.
Bethlehem had a much better go offensively to start the 2nd half, proving to be a serious test of the the Battery defensively. Steel FC nearly broke the stalemate with several fast break counters that had the Charleston defenders scrambling to keep up. In the 66th minuet Steel forward Fabian Herbers nearly found daylight with a breakaway shot, only to find the chest of Cooper.
The field tilted back in the Battery's favor in the waning moments of the match, bringing on forwards Ricky Garbanzo and Chris Tsonis, providing a boost of speed and fresh legs to the Charleston attack.
Tsonis, who had signed with the club just hours before the match, made his presence felt right away, finding several chances in the closing minutes.
The late push wouldn't be enough to break the deadlock as the match ended in a scoreless draw. Sunday's result bumped the Battery to 5th in the Eastern Conference table with 8 points, just behind FC Cincinnati.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Odisnel "SUPER" Cooper
Cooper was solid in his return too the starting role at keeper. It will be interesting to see if Cooper will remain the starter ahead of Tambakis.
KEY TAKE AWAYS
After an ugly showing the defense went out and earned a clean sheet. The defenders displayed displayed great composure in dealing with the Bethlehem counterattacks. Particularly Ferguson, who on several occasions ran down Steel forwards on breakaways, displaying the speed that sets him apart from most CBs.
"We got a shutout at a place that had a pretty physical team, that had, I think, four of their MLS players sent down (from Philadelphia Union) for the match,So we're glad to get the shutout."
Much Better at Mid
The Battery midfield was much improved, showing fantastic passing and teamwork. Chang's return was a huge help, and Marini's performance in his first start was a pleasant surprise.
Chris Tsonis came in late in the game and looked dangerous in his debut. With more minutes he could prove to be a key weapon for the Battery up front.
HOME SWEET HOME!
The Battery return to MUSC Health Stadium to take on the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Saturday 4/30.