The Charleston Battery’s front four were firing on all cylinders Saturday night as the Black and Yellow beat the Harrisburg City Islanders by a score of 4-0.
Heviel Cordoves continued his hot streak with a brace, as Attaula Guerra sandwiched a goal in between from his strike partner. Maikel Chang put in what was arguably his best performance of the season, notching three assists, with Kotaro Higashi on tap for the other, and to top it off, Quinton Griffith would score his first goal in his five years at the club in the last minute of normal time to give the Battery an important win as they look to lock up a Home game in the first round of the playoffs.
Despite the final score, it was the home side that conceded the first chance, when Odisnel Cooper had to smother quickly and carefully to cut out a 1-on-1 with a Harrisburg forward in only the second minute.
From the distribution that followed, a flick on in midfield found Attaula Guerra, who went looking for Heviel Cordoves with another quick pass, but he was given offside.
A Harrisburg corner on nine minutes only led to a Battery counter through Tah Brian Anunga, who ran at the defense with deceptive speed, but got the ball stuck under his feet and the attack would break down.
A great takedown from Cordoves on 12′ would find Justin Portillo in the middle on the edge of the box, who would try a touch pass inside for Attaula Guerra, but would put the ball just out of reach.
But then, the home side would finally take the lead the early pressure deserved three minutes later, when Maikel Chang’s impressive through ball to Cordoves left him 1-on-1 with the ‘keeper, and he would keep composed to take it around him and fire the Battery in front.
And so, knowing that the game was a must win in order to earn a home draw for the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal, the pressure would ease just a little bit as Cordoves continued his great late-season run.
The next five minutes could’ve seen the Battery score just as many goals, as just two minutes after his opener, Cordoves could’ve had his second. A great cross from the right by Chang found the striker, and he was able to toe-poke the ball on frame and past the goalkeeper, only to be given offside by the linesman at the far side of the pitch.
Not more than a minute later, Kotaro Higashi would stand up his man on the far side and wiggle enough room at the byline to get a ball across, before a shot went wide as the Harrisburg defense tried their best to get as many men at the near post as they could.
Next, The Battery had a corner on the far side that was swung in, and Cordoves would rise highest, only for his header to clang off the bar. The onrushing Higashi was too close to get to a rebound, and the chance was gone.
A ball in from Higashi on 23′, once again using a bit of fancy footwork to get past a defender before passing off to Cordoves, but the striker would get the ball stuck under his feet and the chance was cleared.
But just before the half hour mark, the Battery would indeed have another, when Higashi played Guerra after some sublime one touch football in and around the edge of the box, and Guerra shot between the diving defender’s legs toward the far corner to add to the lead.
Only a minute later, Maikel Chang would find himself free on the right of the box and send a curling effort just wide of the far post.
But three minutes later, Skylar Thomas, in for the suspended Forrest Lasso, would misclear a ball off his toe and out for a corner, but did well to atone for his mistake and was involved in ultimately clearing from danger from the set piece.
Three minutes later, Guerra and Chang would combine to create another chance, but this was again sent wide as the Battery were still searching for more.
And on the stroke of half time, Cordoves found himself in space with room to run at the Harrisburg defense. He had Attaula Guerra in space, but played the ball slightly behind him, which slowed the run of play. Nevertheless, Guerra would slide the ball to his left and force a save from the ‘keeper, and the rebound would be forced out for a corner, which came to nothing.
So, in what was the Battery’s final home game of the season, they seemed determined to send the fans home happy, with two goals to their name and feet still firmly on the gas pedal.
On the other side of the break, it was Cordoves again who would threaten, before he shot just wide, though the flag would eventually go up for offside.
On 58, the Battery would find a third after a great give and go between Maikel Chang and Heviel Cordoves, Cordoves using pace and power to get past a man before playing off to Chang and continuing the run inside, and then slotting past the ‘keeper at the far post on the return. The goal was important as it did again relax the team more and more, and will hopefully only give the team confidence going into what will still be an all important final week of the season.
Kotaro Higashi was then replaced by Nico Rittmeyer on 67′, and while the winger opposite him in Chang did more on the stat sheet, Higashi still put in an impressive display, getting himself an assist and continuing what’s been a debut season that’s gotten better and better for him as it’s progressed.
Heviel Cordoves would make way with just over 15 minutes to go, and received a well-deserved standing ovation from the Battery faithful after a brace as he was replaced by Patrick Okonkwo.
Tah Brian Anunga then was replaced by Jeffrey Otoo with ten minutes left, after having picked up a knock that had him limping. Despite not getting on the score sheet, Tah covered almost every blade of grass and was excellent in the air, while allowing Justin Portillo more license to get forward and create while he sat back and was the typical defensive midfielder. He would also receive a rapturous applause leaving the pitch, a player of his type and caliber being something that Battery have needed for quite some time.
A Battery free kick inside the last ten minutes wasn’t cleared, bounced around and eventually found itself in the net, but the offside flag would again go up.
With three minutes left, Odisnel Cooper made a flying save to his left to deny a stinging drive on the counter after a run up the right.
And on 89′ came the sweetener. Quinton Griffith would receive the ball on the right before running up the touchline and playing Maikel Chang, who initiated another give and go as the right back would continue the run and slot home at the near post for the Battery’s fourth.
The crowd would go mental as Griffith celebrated what was his first goal for the club in his five years in Charleston, and his team mates surrounded him to commemorate the occasion.
And that was how the game finished. The Battery would close out their regular season home schedule with an important win against the Harrisburg City Islanders.
With a win and a Rochester loss to Pittsburgh, the Battery could’ve secured a home draw in the playoffs this evening, but the second half of that scenario didn’t come to fruition after Rochester picked up full points against the Riverhounds.
However, as it stands, with Louisville beating Charlotte and San Antonio and Tampa Bay sharing the points, it means that a draw would be enough to see the Black and Yellow gain an all important home game in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, but it is important to note that a scenario without the Battery in the top four positions to end the season is still in play.
With the win, the Battery were crowned inaugural Old Guard Shield winners, a separate league tournament, not unlike earlier runnings of the Southern Derby Cup set up between fans of the oldest members of USL, which came down to the final day.
The Battery conclude their regular season away to the Charlotte Independence on Saturday October 14th. Kick off is at 7:00PM, and you can watch the game on MyTV Charleston, or stream it on the club’s website.
TOP IMAGE: HEVIEL CORDOVES, ATTAULA GUERRA AND MAIKEL CHANG SHOW OFF THEIR MOVES FOLLOWING GUERRA’S GOAL IN THE 28TH. PHOTOS CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY