Last night, in front of 4,083 spectators at Blackbaud Stadium, the Charleston Battery opened up their 2011 USL Pro campaign with a 1-0 win over the Charlotte Eagles.
The first 10 minutes of the match was dominated by Charlotte. Most of the possession was in Charleston's half, and the Eagles managed a couple of shots.
The Battery did have their chances though. Zaher and Coleman showed good chemistry in the 8th minute, when Zaher came down the left wing and had a good give and go with Coleman to give himself some space. He then crossed to Coleman, who was just outside of the 18 yard box, for a shot, but he couldn't get it on goal.
Charleston's arguably best chance of the first half came in the 13th minute, when Stephen Armstrong stepped up to take a free kick from about 20 yards out. His shot was deflected off the wall, but came out to Kevin Jackson for a volley that was saved by Eric Reed. Reed couldn't get a clean handle on the powerful shot, and it came out to Kelly who was caught offside.
Kelly and Coleman showed good chemistry with each other in the first half, and this would lead to some early opportunities that they couldn't capitalize on.
The first half was highlighted by Charlotte's opportunities on the counter attack. Charleston lost many balls in the midfield that led to quick counters by the Eagles, but they couldn't find the back of the net.
In the 41st minute came the Eagle's chance to take the lead.
After a scrum just outside of the 18, the ball came down to Moore who found Dykstra off his line. He attempted to chip Dykstra, but the Battery's John Wilson was on the line to make a jumping headed save. This was the play of the game.
Going into the half, the Battery showed some signs of promise, but Charlotte seemed to dominate possession. The play by Wilson gave Charleston some real momentum going into the half.
No teams made any changes to the line up coming out of the half.
Charleston went on the attack in the second half, getting some early crosses in. Zach Prince tried to receive one of these crosses, but committed a handball and got a yellow card.
Nicki Paterson came in for Zach Prince in the 56th minute, just as the game started to open up.
Finally, in the 58th minute the Battery broke through, when Dane Kelly got around his man on the right and ran onto goal. His attempted cross for Levi Coleman was deflected by Charlotte's Mark Bloom and into the net.
After the goal, Kelly really stepped his game up after playing poorly in the first half. The one thing that Kelly did that I didn't like was after he shot the ball off Bloom and into the net, he went over to the crowd pointing to his name on the back of his jersey.
Now I think that celebrating your goals in soccer is perfectly fine, but when you cross in a ball that hits off a defender and into the net, pointing at your name just makes you look like a cocky moron. I was happy that Charleston scored nonetheless.
Charleston and Charlotte would continue to make substitutions, and the Battery's defense held strong. They had many younger players step up and make crucial tackles in the last 30 minutes of the game to preserve this victory.
Charlotte's last chance was in the 88th minute, when a ball was crossed in from the right and into second half substitute Miguel Ferrer.
Ferrer had what looked to be an open shot on net, but he shot the ball off one of his own players and it went wide.
After 4 minutes of added time, the whistle blew and Charleston attained their first 3 points of this young USL Pro season.
Dane Kelly: Kelly created the only goal for Charleston, and after a slow start played he was very effective in the second half. In the first half he had trouble keeping the ball, and took some shots that were speculative to say the least. He showed how fast he is, getting around Charlotte's back multiple times, but being caught offsides a few times as well.
Levi Coleman: You could tell that Coleman had been playing with some of the veterans for awhile now, as he had some good passing with the experienced midfield. He showed his great pace throughout the 70 minutes he played, and earned Charleston multiple free kicks and throws in the attacking third.
Zach Prince: Prince showed a lot of confidence on the ball in the early goings, but trickled off towards the end of the first half and the time he played in the second half. I wanted him to be a little more effective on his passes, and he had trouble gathering a couple long balls that were supplied for him.
Kevin Jackson: Kevin showed that he still has it today. He didn't play outstanding, and lost a couple of balls in the center of the midfield (which seemed to be the theme of the night for the whole team), but he played well enough to stay in the starting eleven for next week.
Cole Peverley: Peverley was very effective in getting the ball forward from the back, and showed that he could cross the ball well. He had a couple of diagonal balls from near the half-way line that resulted in some chances for Charleston, and made some nice tackles as well.
Stephen Armstrong: Armstrong, as usual, had the best performance by a midfielder today. He was all over the place, making tackles in our own third, moving the ball forward down the wings, as well as supporting Coleman, Kelly, and Bah well up front.
Nigel Marples: Not much to say about Marples. The whole back line played outstanding, but Marples didn't do anything to special. A couple of decent clearances, and one or two crosses after getting forward.
Graham Dugoni: For his debut, Dugoni played very well. He did really well defending corners and crosses, having some great headed clearances to preserve the Battery's lead late in the game. He also came up for corners and got one shot on goal.
John Wilson: Wilson played magnificently. He had many tackles inside the 18, moved the ball forward the best of any of our defenders, and had that goal-stopping save off the line in the 41st minute. Wilson showed that he can still stand tall on the back line.
Mike Zaher: Zaher played very attacking today. The highlight of his play was a nice give-and-go with Coleman, on one of the few times that he got far forward.
Andrew Dykstra: Dykstra played pretty well today. Obviously, anytime you keep a clean sheet, your play will be considered a success, but Dykstra looked like a true keeper today. He had one major mistake, when he came off his line in the 41st minute, but Wilson saved him from giving up the goal.
Nicki Paterson: Paterson made his debut today, and took the half of an hour he played to put forward a couple of good long balls, and he fed Coleman well once, but Coleman took a shot that was well wide.
Seedy Bah: Bah came in for Coleman, and was quiet. He showed some decent play when teamed up with Kelly up front. Had one or two shots on target.
Brandon Massie: Came in for Stephen Armstrong and did well enough. He had one nice clearance to clean up a mess in Charleston's 18 yard box in the 81st.
Alex Caskey: Caskey replaced Jackson. He got very few touches, and didn't do anything of note.
Mark Wiltse: Wiltse was brought in for Kelly to add another defender to the group to preserve the Battery's lead late in the game. He had a fair clearance in added time.
Man of the Match: John Wilson
Wilson was the biggest player for either side today. The play he had to prevent the goal was huge, and gave the Battery so much momentum going into the second half. He moved the ball forward very well, and really led the back line.
Players: Andrew Dykstra, Nigel Marples, John Wilson, Graham Dugoni, Mike Zaher, Zach Prince (Nicki Paterson 57), Kevin Jackson (Alex Caskey 79), Cole Peverley, Stephen Armstrong (Brandon Massie 72), Dane Kelly (Mark Wiltse 89), Levi Coleman (Seedy Bah 69)
Shots (on goal): 13(6)
Cards: Prince 52nd (Yellow)
Players: Eric Reed, Mark Bloom, Jo Connor, Josh Rife, Luke Williams (Chad Smith 79), Alan Sanchez (Diego Matrins 60), Jorge Herrera, Walter Moore (Miguel Ferrer 72), Juan Guzman (Ben Page 66), Darren Toby, Sallieu Bundu (Chris Salvaggione 69)
Shots (on goal): 12(2)
Cards: Moore 70th (Yellow)
Charleston plays next Saturday, April 16th away, at the Dayton Dutch Lions.
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