Battery Defeated By Columbus to Conclude CCC Campaign
CHARLESTON, S.C. – The Charleston Battery’s bid for their first ever Carolina Challenge Cup title faded Friday night, as they fell 0-3 to the Columbus Crew at Patriots Point. Head Coach Conor Casey used the Battery’s final tournament appearance to continue fine-tuning his team, fielding separate squads in each half. The Crew struck twice in the first half and added to their lead with a penalty kick early in the second half.
The match started with the Battery applying pressure and advancing the ball into the attacking third early, a common thread through all three of the Charleston matches this tournament. The trend also indicates the style of play Casey intends to employ in the regular season.
“We’ve been demanding the team to be a pressing team,” said Coach Casey. “That’s what we’ve really focused on these first couple of weeks. Everyone was super dedicated tonight to try and get things right.”
Columbus were unfazed by the early pressure and Jonathan Mensah found the back of the net after a cross in the ninth minute. Mensah redirected the pass off the volley and beyond the reach of goalkeeper Joe Kuzminsky.
Charleston were inspired to counter back and began applying more pressure onto the Crew’s defense. Much of the movement came via Romario Piggott and Augustine Williams. Williams would put a number of shots on target, however Crew goalkeeper Eloy Room was able to handle the threats. As the Battery were looking to shift momentum, Columbus added a second goal on a transition play that saw Lucas Zelarayan find the back of the net.
Although the Battery were unable to come up with a goal in response, much of the forward movement gave positive indications of the team’s growth so far.
“I’m seeing a lot of positivity, tonight wasn’t our night but the squad is coming along, coming together as a team,” said Coach Casey. “They’re starting to learn about the way we want to do things and that’s the most important part for me.”
The second half saw a squad swap for the Battery, which featured Leland Archer, Benji Ettienne, DZ Harmon, Andrew Booth, Aidan Apodaca, Geobel Perez, Shak Adams and trialists. The Crew added to their lead three minutes into the half when Pedro Santos converted from the spot after a foul inside the box awarded Columbus the penalty. Santos’ shot went right, correctly guessed by the trialist goalkeeper, but was beyond reach. Harmon, making his preseason debut, made his presence felt on the right side, sending in an inviting cross that just didn’t find a connection.
Apodaca also displayed the danger he can pose up top in the second half. Twice the forward was fractionally off from scoring, in the 54th minute just wide on a strong shot from the left side and in the 71st minute on an athletic maneuver playing the ball off his chest for an attempt that rocked off the far post. Columbus appeared to had scored in the 76th minute via Alex Matan, but a VAR check chalked off the score for offside in the buildup.
Among the final opportunities came when Shak Adams dashed his way up the right flank flashing some skill to get by Columbus. The Nashville native made his way into the box for a shot on goal, however the attempt curled just away from the net. The Crew would see out the 0-3 victory to tentatively sit top of the CCC22 table.
“Losses aren’t always the worst thing in preseason,” said Coach Casey. “It exposes some things that maybe wins don’t. I’m happy with their character and their effort and we’ll get cracking again on Monday in terms of starting to improve as a team.
“[The tournament] was good to get this kind of experience early on in preseason against good competition. Now we’ll really be able to start focusing on the training pitch in terms of improvements we’re trying to get to as a team and continue to build our identity.”
Columbus will have to wait for the result from Day 4 of the tournament as Inter Miami CF and Charlotte FC close things out Saturday, February 19, at 7:30 p.m. Miami control their own destiny and can take home the Cup with a win. Should Miami lose Saturday night, Columbus will retain the title for a fourth consecutive year. A draw in Saturday night’s fixture would invoke goal differential as the tiebreaker.
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