The Charleston Battery came to Nippert Stadium on Saturday night hoping to leap over FC Cincinnati to third place in the USL Eastern Conference standings. After a scoreless first half, the teams traded goals in the second, resulting in a 1-1 draw. Both teams earned a point to stand pat in the table.
FC Cincinnati head coach John Harkes said, “We’re not happy. What I think that shows is that as a brand new club we set the expectations high on ourselves.”
The match started without much aggression, as both teams tried to feel each other out. The game opened up once the players got their legs beneath them. Charleston relied on the counter attack and long passes to their big man up top, Romario Williams. Cincinnati varied its attack and managed to create a few opportunities, but was missing a bit of quality in the final third.
“We were just trying to let them possess it a little bit and give it to their backs, and it was working. They actually had more success when they just kicked it long,” said Battery head coach Mike Anhaeuser.
FC Cincinnati’s Mitch Hildebrandt was only forced to make one save in the opening 45 minutes. Williams got through to face Hildebrandt alone and fired a low shot to the far post. Hildebrandt made a diving save, just getting his left hand onto the ball.
Not to be outdone, Alexander Tambakis made a spectacular save of his own later in the first half. Andrew Wiedeman scorched a volley from the top of the box, but Tambakis reacted quickly to make the diving stop.
Jimmy McLaughlin and Eric Stevenson both nearly scored for the home team before intermission, but both scooted their attempts wide of the right post.
Cincinnati opened the scoring in the 52nd minute. McLaughlin crossed from the left to right, and the ball skimmed off the foot of Sean Okoli, who was battling with a Battery defender in the box. When the ball came to Omar Cummings on the right, the forward had plenty of time to set up a curler to the far post.
“I tried to anticipate that ball coming off Ugo [Okoli], and as soon as it did I was the first one to the ball, and I just tried to wrangle it to the far post,” said Cummings.
Once Charleston fell behind, they began to open up the attack and apply more defensive pressure. It paid off with a goal for Heviel Cordoves, who headed in a Maikel Chang corner kick in the 70th minute.
“It worked out pressing with a little more energy up front. We caught them at the end, and I think we had a little more juice going up,” said Anhaeuser.
The Battery continued to press after the equalizer and almost took the lead on a couple of occasions. Late in the match Cordoves looked to become the hero as he drove toward Hildebrandt with the ball at his feet, but Harrison Delbridge delighted the home crowd with the defensive play of the match. Delbridge came from nowhere to make a courageous sliding tackle in the box to stop the breakaway.
Anhaeuser said, “Disappointed we didn’t get three points there. I mean we hit the post on two headers and got the one. We had them reeling a little bit, but if you can come in here and get a point, it’s not a bad thing. We’re pleased with the result, but I know the guys will be disappointed not getting the three points.”
- Harrison Delbridge picked up his 5th yellow card of the season and will be unavailable for FC Cincinnati’s match at FC Montreal on Wednesday.
- Charleston’s Taylor Mueller injured his shoulder making a tackle in the first half. Anhaeuser thinks it is a separated shoulder, but is waiting word from the team’s medical staff.
- The season series between Cincinnati and Charleston is now complete, with the Battery earning 4 points to Cincy’s 1.
- Although both teams only earned a point, they both made up ground on the conference leaders. Louisville City FC and New York Red Bulls II both lost by 2-1 scorelines on Saturday.
- An impressive crowd of 19,229 showed up for the match, but FC Cincinnati fans will have only one opportunity to cheer on the Orange and Blue in the month of August.
- Conversely, Charleston has more home matches remaining on its schedule than away dates.
All photos credited to Joe Craven.