DANIEL ISLAND, SC - Gordon Wild's 83rd minute goal was the difference in the Charleston Battery's 1-0 win over Elm City Express in the U.S. Open Cup Wednesday night at MUSC Health Stadium. With the win, the Battery advances to the fourth round, where they'll meet an MLS team.
Head Coach Mike Anhaeuser elected to make seven changes to his starting lineup from the 0-0 draw with Ottawa Fury FC Saturday night. With the wholesale changes, it took the Battery some time to find their rhythm.
Eventually Charleston began stringing passes together and finding good spells of possession, but Elm City's defense stayed organized and limited the Battery's quality looks at goal. Neither side created too much in terms of chances in the first half and the teams went into the break tied at 0-0.
Neveal Hackshaw created the home side's best scoring chance up until that point in the 65th minute when he broke free down the left flank and served a long cross towards the back post. Ian Svantesson got on the end of Hackshaw's serve and nodded the ball back across goal to Patrick Okonkwo, but Okonkwo's header missed the target.
With time winding down and the score still tied, Anhaeuser brought on Ataulla Guerra to unlock the Elm City defense. The late substitution proved fruitful as Guerra assisted Wild's game-winning goal. The Trinidadian playmaker picked up the ball in midfield and threaded a pass through to Wild who was making a run into the 18-yard box from the right flank. Wild collected the pass, held off his defender, and smashed a right-footed shot into the top corner of Matthew Jones' goal to put the Battery ahead.
The goal was Wild's fourth in all competitions this season which leaves him just one behind Guerra for the team lead. Odisnel Cooper earned the shutout in goal, his second in as many starts and the team's sixth in nine games.
The win extends the Battery's unbeaten streak to nine games in all competitions and puts them in the MLS round of the Open Cup. Charleston will learn their MLS opponent during the live draw on Thursday, May 24 at 11:00 AM EST.
"It's very exciting to play an MLS team," said Battery midfielder Tah Brian Anunga after the match. "You don't really need motivation from the coach for a game like that. It's another chance for us to test ourselves against the best in this country, so we're excited to move on."
Fans can watch the live draw on ussoccer.com tomorrow morning. During the draw, the Battery will find out their opponent and venue for the next round. The fourth-round match will be played on Wednesday, June 6; home-field advantage will be determined by coin flip.