The Charleston Battery were known for their late drama last year, and it was a similar story tonight, as they earned a draw against the Seattle Sounders in their first match of this year’s Carolina Challenge Cup, when trialist Kotaro Higashi bundled the ball over the line with the last kick of the match in the 92nd minute.
Seattle took the lead with just over a half an hour gone. Full back Joevin Jones sent a low cross into the box, which bounced off of Battery center back Taylor Mueller and past the helpless Odisnel Cooper in goal. Both teams created a few chances for themselves as the match went on, but the score remained the same until Higashi’s equalizer late on.
US National Team star and Seattle striker Clint Dempsey started and played about an hour as he continues his return from fitness following a heart condition that kept him out toward the end of last season, where he also missed Seattle’s run to the MLS Cup title. He played well, and created the first chance of the match, separating himself just enough from defender Obi Woodbine and having a pop from distance after nine minutes. but the effort went well over the bar.
After 11 minutes, the Battery earned a corner after some good build up play as Maikel Chang found Heviel Cordoves, but the set piece was wasted as it was cleared away.
Dante Marini‘s effort on 21 minutes had the Seattle ‘keeper sprawling, but it went high and wide. A minute later, Marini would fight for a ball near the end line, and barely keep it in before it was cleared for a corner in order to stop a cross. This, however, was smuggled away at the second attempt.
Obi Woodbine would register the Battery’s first shot on target a little while later on 26′, cutting inside after Heviel Cordoves played him in. But the full back couldn’t get any power on the shot, which went harmlessly to the goalkeeper.
The Battery attacked well in the first half, pressing the ball and passing well whilst being comfortable in possession, which led to a chance for Dante Marini, who had a shot blocked before it rolled out to Maikel Chang, who scuffed his effort.
On 31’ came a really unlucky moment for the Battery and Taylor Mueller especially, as a cross from Oniel Fisher came in from the left and bounced its way across. Mueller, in his attempt to clear, redirected the ball past Odisnel Cooper to give the Sounders a 1-0 lead. For the most part, the Battery defended well up until that point, and the OG did belie a defense that had to deal with two International caliber strikers in Dempsey and Jordan Morris.
Four minutes later, the Sounders could’ve had a second, as a Jordan Morris-led counter down the middle of the park. He passed to Alvaro Fernandez on his right, who had a pop at goal from 18 yards out, but Odisnel Cooper produced a quality save to keep the score at 1-0.
On 40 minutes, a long ball forward from the back bounced off of Cordoves into Maikel Chang’s path, but his effort went wide, before Cordoves himself had an effort go wide from distance just before half time.
The Battery went in at half time and could very well be proud of themselves. They were 1-0 down, but were unlucky to have actually conceded through the Mueller own goal, and had created chances against a Seattle side that were always a threat with the likes of Morris and Dempsey up front. They came out in the second half with almost a completely different XI, filled with trialists and a few Atlanta loanees, including Alex Tambakis, Chris Goslin and Andrew Wheeler.
Nico Lodeiro forced Alex Tambakis’ first save of the evening, on 51′, after he was on the end of some tidy Sounders build-up play. Lodeiro received the ball inside the six yard box, but Tambakis stood firm, making himself big at his near post to deny the Seattle playmaker.
Seattle came close to finding a second goal again shortly after, when on 56′, a bouncing shot hit the inside of Alex Tambakis’ post and rolled along the goal line before being cleared by the hosts.
Will Bruin came on in the group of subs that saw Dempsey come off after an hour, and he got his first chance with roughly twenty minutes to go, getting a pass from the left and toepoking toward the goal, but the shot rolled harmlessly wide.
Chris Goslin did impress with his pace and close control, and on 71′, he jinked his way through a couple of defenders before taking aim at goal. He couldn’t get any purchase behind the shot though, which was an easy save for Sounders goalie Tyler Miller.
On 76′, the Sounders thought they had a second goal through Henry Wingo, who had been dangerous all second half, after he received a nice backheel from Will Bruin. Wingo stuck his chance home and had wheeled away to celebrate with his teammates, but the goal was waved off for offside and the score reained 1-0.
Three minutes later, Wingo was on the end of another ball, this time from Lodeiro, which he put on frame. But this time, Tambakis was able to save.
Despite set pieces for both sides in the last ten minutes, the two teams found themselves headed into two minutes of stoppage time still at 1-0. For some reason, the Battery have made a habit of finding late goals, and tonight they continued the trend, this time getting a throw-in about level with the 18 yard box. The throw was played short, and the ball was crossed in, finding Kotaro Higashi, who chested the ball down, aimed toward goal and hit the post with his effort. Bodies collided in the box before Higashi controlled again and shot into the roof of the net to level the match at 1-1.
The Sounders may be aggrieved that they didn’t put away their chances in the second half, but the Battery did hang in. Some alert defending and a couple of good saves from the Battery kept the score 1-0, and the hosts made good on the best chance they had, and so from their point of view, a draw is surely a fair result.
The Carolina Challenge Cup continues this coming Wednesday, February 22nd. The Battery will face the Columbus Crew, while the Sounders will face Atlanta United. Both matches are set to be streamed on charlestonbattery.com.