Lasso, Portillo Power Battery to opening day win
The Charleston Battery got their season off to a successful start after prevailing against FC Cincinnati by a score of 2-1 thanks to goals from Forrest Lasso and Justin Portillo.
Lasso put the Battery in front on 37′ following a bit of a shaky start for the home side, but they finished the first half strong before Djiby Fall drew things level midway through the second half. However, with 20 minutes left, Romario Williams earned a penalty after being brought down following a slick give and go, giving Justin Portillo the chance to step up from 12 yards. His initial shot was saved by Mitch Hildebrand in the Cincy goal, but he did the right thing, following in as the ‘keeper could only parry and putting it away on the rebound.
Despite the scoreline, it was Alex Tambakis who was forced to make the first save of the evening on four minutes, after the visitors orchestrated a chance on the left side of the area through good buildup play, but it was a tame effort and the ‘keeper collected easily.
The Battery would cause a few questions at the other end a couple minutes later, as a cross from the left played toward the back stick was looking dangerous, but Hildebrand in goal cleaned up as he cut it out before anyone could get on the other end.
Eventual goalscorer Forrest Lasso would put his defense in trouble a minute later though, as he committed a foul about 20 yards from goal. The ensuing free kick looked threatening as Tambakis in goal looked like he got a late jump on it, but was quick across the line to punch away before it was cleared for a throw in.
On 13′, Romario Williams latched onto a long ball flicked on by Naveal Hackshaw as he would go one on one with his defender for just the first of many times on the night. This time he would earn a corner, but it would be cleared by the Cincy defense.
Atlanta United loanee Mikey Ambrose would concede a free kick on the right which gave Cincy the opportunity to put a ball into the box, though Tambakis would collect.
After 21′, Attaula Guerra would force a save out of the Cincinnati ‘keeper as they began to turn the tide following a shaky start.
On 37’ Maikel Chang caused havoc for the Cincy defense as he drifted past three defenders on a run from the right before passing to Dante Marini on the edge of the box. Marini picked his head up and had a pop at goal, which was saved by Hildebrand at the expense of a corner.
Justin Portillo took the set piece from the left, and the in-swinging ball found Forrest Lasso back post, who powered a header into the back of the net.
The goal was the Battery’s first of the season, and, though perhaps a little bit against the run of play, the home side had definitely been coming back into the match following a sleepy start, and they took advantage of their chance to go ahead.
After 42′, the Battery had another corner played in that initially looked dangerous, but this time the visiting defense would smuggle the ball clear.
And that’s how we went into half time. The Battery came out a bit rusty to begin with, but could be pleased with the way they ended the first 45 minutes of the season.
And just a minute into the second half, a ball was played forward, making Romario Williams show a turn of pace as he latched on to it. But he would get inside the box and square up to his man only to slip on the grass as he attempted to cut back onto his left foot and Cincy would take possession looking to begin a counter.
As the Battery would then attempt to clear at the other end, Justin Portillo would slip, allowing a Cincinnati attacker to have a crack as the ball would bobble to him, but Tambakis would have it covered as the effort on the volley went sailing over the bar.
On 49′ a Cincinnati corner was headed down toward goal but blocked by Maikel Chang and cleared, but Williams would give away a free kick, though it would be cleared before it could cause any danger.
After 52 minutes, a Battery free kick from the right was placed with pinpoint precision onto Romario Williams’ head, but the striker put too much power on the header as it went wide.
Four minutes later, Dante Marini found space on the wing, beating his man and cutting inside into the area, but didn’t look up to see a man free on the edge of the box, instead trying to curl a shot into the far post, which went over the bar.
And on 59′, the Battery would pay for their wasted chances, as Andrew Weidemann would place a cross from the right onto the head of Djibi Fall on the back post, which beat Alex Tambakis and drew the scores level.
The goal came as a consequence for not making their chances count, and the travelling Cincinnati fans were loving it.
But Quinton Griffith would cause problems just a minute later after getting on the end of a switch of play and cutting inside, passing off to Maikel Chang, though his shot was saved.
Williams would be a handful again on 63′ after staying onside and beating his man, but just before he could pull the trigger, the defender would make a crunching last ditch challenge to clear the ball for a corner, which went hopelessly over the bar.
After 69′, Attaula Guerra would set up a tasty give and go with Williams, and before he could return the favor to set up an opportunity, he was taken down from behind, which gave the referee no choice but to point to the penalty spot, and Justin Portillo would step up to take.
Aiming for the bottom left corner, he didn’t quite get his bearings on the effort, and Mitch Hildebrand would save, but could only parry and Portillo would make up for his poor effort by following in and finishing into the opposite corner to put the home side back in front.
The home crowd went mad as the smoke bombs went off and Portillo raced over to the fans in E1 to celebrate, as with 20 minutes, all the Battery had to do was hold on, and the three points were in the bag.
The visitors wouldn’t make it easy though, and would push forward more and more to try and find another equalizer.
The set pieces were especially dangerous, as the Battery were more than happy to break up the fluidity of Cincy’s attack, though at the expense of free kicks. After 81′, it was a free kick that made Battery fans sweat as a header looked dangerous, though it went over the bar for a goal kick.
A Cincinnati corner two minutes from time led to a bit of pinball in the box before finally being cleared by the Battery defense, now with everyone behind the ball to prevent the visitors at any cost.
The allotted three minutes added on time at the end seemed to drag on for the home side, but eventually the final whistle blew, giving the Battery all three points in their first match of their silver anniversary season.
The Battery next travel to North Carolina to face the Charlotte Independence on April 1st. You can watch the match on MyTV Charleston, or stream online at the club’s website or on YouTube.
TOP IMAGE: FORREST LASSO RISES BEFORE PUTTING THE BATTERY IN FRONT WITH A HEADER FROM A JUSTIN PORTILLO CORNER. ALL PHOTOS CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY AND NICKI ACE.
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