The Battery were held to a scoreless, but not uneventful, draw against Bethlehem Steel FC on Sunday afternoon. The game remained open the entire time, but both defenses were staunch and neither team could find the push they needed to get over the line.
The match saw the return of Odisnel Cooper in goal for the Battery, in place of Alex Tambakis, who had a tough evening against Charlotte last time out. The match also gave us the debut of Chris Tsonis, who signed just a few hours before kick off.
The first ten minutes were a bit tense from both sides, but the match would find its feet in the 12th minute, when Walter Restrepo latched on to a pinpoint cross and picked out Derrick Jones, whose volley was fired over the bar.
It was Dante Marini’s first start of the year, with all previous appearances coming in the cameo fashion, and he nearly played in Attaulah Guerra on 15 with a nice ball inside his marker, but Guerra’s first touch was heavy and the chance was wasted.
Restrepo would continue to cause the Battery problems, again getting space for a cross after 17′, but the ball was cleared, and not before the Battery were given a free kick.
Attaulah Guerra then turned provider on 19 minutes, playing through to Romario Williams, but his shot was saved as it was too close to the Steel ‘keeper, John McCarthy.
Marini got himself to the byline a few minutes later, but his cross failed to find anyone in the box.
On 27 minutes, it was Obi Woodbine who picked up a bit of space, and played the ball low for Justin Portillo, but the midfielder couldn’t find any room for the shot and the ball was cleared away.
After 32′, Fernandes found Restrepo in the area, but the ball was cleared. Restrepo would get the ball back and go down under a challenge from Obi Woodbine, and a free kick was given. The set piece was eventually cleared with the hope of starting a Battery counter, but it broke down in midfield.
Three minutes later, the Battery had their best chance of the half, and perhaps the entire match. Guerra would get the ball on the left edge of the box with his back to goal, and eventually turning his man before firing toward the opposite corner, but his shot was just wide of the target.
With less than 10 minutes of the first half to go, it was Woodbine again causing trouble for the opposing defense. His cross was blocked for a corner, which was played in by Justin Portillo, then cleared away for another, which was played in and pinged around a couple times before Maikel Chang was called for a foul.
McCarthy would clear a quickly taken Battery free kick on the stroke of half time, which eventually led to a dangerous looking counter attack for the hosts, but Eric Ayuk‘s shot from a Ryan Richter cross was wide of Cooper’s left hand post.
The two teams went into the half time break with a good feeling, knowing that there would probably be another few chances in the game, so all was not lost
And the first of those chances would fall to the home side. It was again Ryan Richter, who was having a decent afternoon against his former side, who found Fabian Herbers in the middle, but his header lacked power and went wide.
The next chance was Steel FC’s too. Herbers would latch onto a ball from Fernandes which was pinpoint and took it in stride to run at Cooper, but the 2015 team MVP would make a good save down low to deny him.
Romario Williams did well this afternoon, but was at times left up on his own up front, meaning that even though he was solid, the day would end up as frustrating for the striker than anything else. However, after 67, his day was done, and he made way for Chris Tsonis, who had signed a few hours before the game. Tsonis was with the team in preseason camp, and remained in Charleston to train during the season, but only signed recently.
Tsonis caused a problem with his first touch, latching onto a throw-in and catching Bethlehem napping, nearly getting in behind to put in a through ball had it not been for a last ditch challenge by an oncoming defender, who cleared it for a corner, which led to nothing.
Maikel Chang would give away a dangerous foul on 72, setting up a free kick roughly 25 yards from goal. The set piece was taken by Fabian Herbers, who got it up and over the wall, but it lacked power and went safely into the arms of Cooper in goal.
With four minutes left, it was Chang again who would play in a ball from a free kick, but it had too much power and wafted over everyone.
And the last chance was played in by Justin Portillo with two minutes left. His cross was met by the debutant Tsonis, but he couldn’t be the hero as his header went wide.
And so, both sides would share the spoils, with the Battery earning their 2nd draw of the season. They return home to face the Pittsburgh Riverhounds on Saturday, April 30th, at 7:30 PM.