After Columbus Crew’s 2-0 win over Minnesota United meant that they were the competition’s back to back winners, the Charleston Battery and Atlanta United squared off in the final match of the Carolina Challenge Cup, ultimately settling for a point each in a 0-0 draw.
Atlanta, who drew their second game on Wednesday against Minnesota with their team at full strength, and a little over a week until their March 3rd season opener against the Houston Dynamo, they decided to rest much of their first team players. This did, however, give a chance for a few familiar faces to the Battery to suit up for starts against their former team.
Goalkeeper Alec Kann, who was with the Battery during their title winning campaign in 2012, Miles Robinson at center back played six games for the Battery in 2017, scoring one goal, Andrew Carleton, who played four times on loan for the Battery in 2016, and most notably, the Battery’s leading scorer last year in 2017, all returned to their old stomping ground and earned significant minutes.
Early on, the Battery old boys were making an impact, when Carleton flicked on to Tito Villalba, part of the team due to a need for minutes, who in turn would volley toward Williams in the center, who would head wide under a challenge from Taylor Mueller.
Midfielder Kevin Kratz would play Villalba in the box on the right with 15 minutes gone, but the angle quickly closed and his shot went wide.
Romario Williams nearly latched onto a through ball on 27′, but it was quickly cut out by the on-rushing Odisnel Cooper who smothered the ball, and the chance was gone.
On the half hour mark came the Battery’s first real chance. It came, somewhat unsurprisingly, from a counter-attack led by Quinton Griffith, who intercepted a pass on the wing and took advantage of the open space to run at the defense before eventually winning a corner. The set piece was played into the back post, played back across and cleared off the line before it could drop into the goal.
And then, three minutes later, Attaula Guerra won an errant pass back in midfield, and beat the ‘keeper, who left the goal wide open. Perhaps unselfishly, he looked up and found Ian Svantesson, who looked to have an easy tap in for his third goal in as many games.
However, his feet first finish into the back of the net was called offside. There was a man on the line, and so there was confusion at the start. The rule is normally that an attacker is offside if he’s behind the last defender. This, however, is expectant of the fact that the ‘keeper is on the goal line. When the ‘keeper comes off his line, he becomes a defender, and the rule actually pertains to an attacker being ahead of two last men instead of one. Svantesson, with his late run into the box to get ahead of the second runner back for Atlanta, was indeed offside. This kind of scenario is why there have been countless hours wasted on debate of how and when a player should be offside, and more often than not, has ended with all parties advocating for a simpler explanation of the offside rule.
On 40’, a Jose Hernandez cross was mishit, but found Tito Villalba on the opposite sidem who put the ball back in the middle for it to bounce around before Andrew Carleton rose to head it toward goal as Odisnel Cooper scrambled across to barely get a hand on it to tip it around the post to concede a corner that was eventually cleared.
And that’s how the first half ended. Both clubs had their chances, but just couldn’t seem to take them. The game had gotten to the stage that if the game were going to open up, someone needed to score.
And a 51st minute cross in by Tito Villalba could’ve been what unlocked the Battery defense, but Brandon Vazquez‘ header was mistimed and went over the bar.
A few minutes later, Andrew Carleton had a shot deflected behind for a corner that bounced around in the box, but eventually led to nothing
On 64’, substitute Jon Gallagher also had a shot blocked by Taylor Mueller, but the ensuing corner was waster.
And shortly after, Gallagher looked destined to break the deadlock, when Carleton aimed a pinpoint pass to the edge of the box for him to run onto. He got there just before the goalkeeper, Cooper, who was required to make himself big in order to keep his clean sheet intact before smothering the rebound on the left edge of the box.
With ten minutes to go, another great forward run by Quinton Griffith on the right meant he was able to cut in and cross to substitute Kyle Murphy, but he was unable to keep his shot down as it sailed over the bar.
And that’s how it finished. The two teams would play to a 0-0 draw. The Battery would finish in second in the round robin tournament with 4 points, and a record of 1-1-1.
The MLS clubs begin their season next week, the weekend of the 1st of March, while the Battery still has two weeks of preseason before taking on FC Cincinnati in their season opener.
TOP IMAGINE: VICTOR MANSARAY AVOIDS A COLLISION WITH ATLANTA ‘KEEPER ALEC KANN. PHOTO CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY