The nightcap of the first doubleheader of the Carolina Challenge Cup was settled by goals from Fanendo Adi and Darren Mattocks as FC Cincinnati beat the Charleston Battery by a score of 2-1.
Things didn’t start well for the tournament’s hosts. As little as two minutes were on the clock before a blistering counter found Darren Mattocks, who found Fanendo Adi in space with a hint of offside, and while his initial shot was saved by Joe Kuzminsky the rebound went straight back into the path of the forward who bundled the ball over the line. Ian Svantesson would square things up early in the second half, as Dante Marini‘s shot would strike the arm of a Cincy defender. Svantesson stepped up and dispatched the spot kick, but Adi would earn one down the other end after being pulled down, which Mattocks himself buried to put his side back in front and ultimately settle the score.
Former Battery defender Forrest Lasso would play the majority of the game against his former side after being in Black and Yellow at this tournament on two occasions. He spent 2018 with the USL FC Cincinnati before becoming one of their first signings as an MLS side after winning USL’s Eastern Conference title.
Tonight’s game mirrors the first game of each of Cincinnati’s three years in the USL, as the Battery and Cincy were each other’s first opponents in all three years, the Battery winning twice, and Cincy winning in 2018.
It was FC Cincinnati who would get the ball rolling, as the visitors struck quicky down the left side, as good buildup play found Darren Mattocks, who crossed low from the top of the box to Fanendo Adi. Joe Kuzminsky got a hand to the effort and originally looked to have kept it out, but couldn’t hold onto the ball as the rebound went straight back into the striker’s path and into the net to put his side in front. There were fans chanting for VAR which was present on the far side of the field as the original pass was potentially offside, but no check came, and we played on.
Despite going behind early, the Battery would win the ball back high up the pitch just seconds after kick off, and Nico Rittmeyer put a teasing ball into the path of Ian Svantesson, who sent the guilt edged chance high over the bar.
The Battery looked threatening when on 20′, they earned a corner on the right, but it was cleared away and the danger was past.
Cincinnati nearly doubled the lead after 24 minutes, when, again through Mattocks they created a chance with a give and go with Alvas Powell, who pulled the ball back toward Adi in the center, but his shot went wide.
Another Battery corner was cleared on 31′ before someone was there to fire it back towards goal on the edge of the area, and the shot was deflected behind for another, which finally paid some dividends as it required the ‘keeper to leave his line to claim under pressure. However, he couldn’t handle the ball, which then bounced around in the box but no one in a Battery shirt could turn the ball home following the scramble.
Kuzminsky was again called into action on 33′ after a dipping free kick forced him to take no chances and tip the ball over the bar.
A host of Battery changes came at the break, with virtually half the team coming off, including Joe Kuzminsky in goal, and some trialists getting minutes in their quest for a permanent spot with the team.
The second half began the exact opposite of the first, with only one crucial change. A sloppy giveaway in the back led Ian Svantesson in with a 1-on-1 against the goalkeeper, but he put it high over the bar and out for a goal kick.
But Svantesson would get a chance at redemption shortly after. A cross was deflected away but only into the path of the onrushing Dante Marini, and although his shot was somewhat mishit, it struck the arm of a covering defender and the referee pointed to the spot.
After a couple of minutes of deliberation from both sides, likely a VAR check and players wanting to know more about the referee’s decision, Svantesson stepped up and slotted the ball into the net to draw the Battery level.
But Cincy would come right back. Just five minutes after the equalizer, in the 57th minute, the referee was pointing to the spot again, this time for the visitors. Fanendo Adi looked like he was clean through before being pulled back, and though he stuck the ball past substitute goalkeeper Robert Beebe, the ref had already blown for a penalty, and waved the goal off to give the spot kick.
It was a strange situation. In most cases, the referee will allow the goal in a play of advantage for the attacker, which is why you sometimes see referees hesitate to point to the spot while a play could still develop after a foul. The situation presented tonight happens rarely when a referee makes up his mind before the play ends. Luckily for Adi, and unluckily for the home team, Darren Mattocks would convert from 12 yards to put his side in the lead again.
On 63′, Cincy nearly had another as Justin Hoyte’s cross went all the way across the face of goal on the ground before finding Fanendo Adi at the back stick, but his shot was into the side netting.
A Battery corner after 68′ was headed out for a throw, which was launched into the edge of the box and redirected toward goal, but the header lacked power and went straight to the ‘keeper.
After a poor clearance with seven minutes left, Cincinnati again had the chance to put the game beyond their hosts with a powerful effort from the top of the box, but it went over the bar.
And so, the match finished 2-1. There was plenty to be desired from a home standpoint, but it’s important to remember that the Battery have only been together for about a week, after holding the start of open trials at the end of January.
Next up is night two of the Carolina Challenge Cup, on Wednesday, February 20th, where the Battery face the Columbus Crew, and Cincinnati plays Chicago Fire. Kick off of the Battery v Crew match is set for 5PM, before Cincy v Chicago will be at 7:35.
TOP IMAGE: IAN SVANTESSON SENDS THE KEEPER THE OTHER WAY TO EQUALIZE FROM THE SPOT, HIS THIRD GOAL IN FOUR CCC MATCHES AFTER TWO IN 2018. PHOTO CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY