Aidan Apodaca scored the only goal as the Charleston Battery took victory against Charlotte FC on the opening night of the 2022 Breeze Airways Carolina Challenge Cup at Patriots Point. | Photo courtesy Ben Clemens / Charleston Battery
CHARLESTON, S.C. – A first-half goal by newcomer Aidan Apodaca sent the Charleston Battery to a 1-0 victory against Major League Soccer expansion side Charlotte FC 1-0 Saturday night in front of a packed Patriots Point to put the Battery on top of the standings after the first day of the 2022 Breeze Airways™ Carolina Challenge Cup.
The win saw Battery Head Coach Conor Casey earn his first preseason victory since taking the helm of the Black and Yellow. Charleston will face Inter Miami CF in the second round of the tournament on Tuesday, with Miami having played to a 1-1 draw with the Columbus Crew in its opening game on Saturday.
The Battery started the game on the front foot, forcing Charlotte into some nervy situations when the visitors tried to play out of the back. Among the early opportunities for Charleston came when Augustine Williams broke through the Charlotte defense at roughly the 10-minute mark, but his thumping attempt went right to CFC goalkeeper George Marks.
Three minutes later, Apodaca put the hosts ahead as he broke in one-on-one against Marks and chipped in the goal after making an extra move for a clear look at the net. The goal was the first of the preseason for Apodaca, who signed with the Black and Yellow during the offseason. The Battery then began to rotate its on-field personnel on the half-hour mark as Casey made a complete lineup change comprised of trialists, and the group held their own against the MLS side to preserve the 1-0 advantage into the break.
The same group began the second half, and the side’s hard-pressing approach continued to pose problems for Charlotte’s defense. Despite that, the hosts were unable to double their advantage, earning a notable chance in the 56th minute when a trialist’s connection almost led to a conversion. Charlotte were eager to counter and began to find a footing in the 58th minute with a promising look on goal, but this time it was Charleston’s defense that held firm.
A second lineup change came on the hour mark, introducing players including Pat Hogan, Benji Ettienne, EJ Johnson and Geobel Perez to replace a selection of trialists. The fresh legs helped the Battery maintain shape and composure as Charlotte pressed forward for an equalizer. The second goalkeeper trialist for Charleston put on a strong showing in the 85th minute to deny Karol Swiderski’s promising chance on goal inside the box, but the Battery held firm for victory in the round-robin tournament.
INDY ELEVEN 4, UNIVERSITY OF INDIANAPOLIS 2: Manuel Arteaga recorded a first-half hat trick and an assist as Indy Eleven rounded out the collegiate portion of its preseason slate by defeating the University of Indianapolis at the Grand Park Event Center.
After early chances for both sides, the Greyhounds got on the board first in the 17th minute as an Eleven turnover in midfield turned into a fast-break opportunity for the visitors that resulted in a sparkling 20-yard effort that found the net. Indy responded a minute later as Arteaga bagged his first of the evening as he fired home from six yards out to even the score.
Seven minutes later, Arteaga notched his second of the night and third of the preseason as he converted off a pass from Aris Briggs. The hosts continued to push the pace and in the 32nd minute Arteaga set up Indy’s third, setting up a trialist on a give-and-go before the trialist finished. Arteaga then capped his hat trick as he headed in a set piece by Nicky Law in the 37th minute.
Indy changed lineups to start the second half, but the new look Eleven side for the second 45 minutes still generated opportunities, primarily through set pieces. The score remained the same for nearly a half-hour until the Greyhounds pulled a goal back in the 73rd minute, converting on a 2-on-2 break to decrease their deficit to two goals. That would be all for either side, however, as Indy made it two wins from two to start the preseason.
TAMPA BAY ROWDIES 3, FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY 1: The Tampa Bay Rowdies got goals from Lucky Mkosana and newcomers Jake LaCava and Kyle Greig to take victory against Florida International University on Saturday afternoon at Al Lang Stadium.
The Rowdies took the lead in the sixth minute when Conner Antley drove in from the right before driving a pass to Mksona in front of the net, allowing the veteran forward to bury his finish. The visitors leveled 10 minutes later, however, as an FIU attacker took a hopeful shot from far out that hit the mark in the top right corner.
Chances proved few for the visitors from then on, however, as the Rowdies began to take control and maintain pressure on the Panthers. LaCava restored the Rowdies’ just five minutes later as he streaked into FIU’s half all alone, dribbling past the last defender and goalkeeper before depositing the ball into the net. Greig then added a third to seal the game with 15 minutes to go as Yann Ekra slipped into the box and chipped a cross to the back post. Greig was waiting to hammer the service home.
PITTSBURGH RIVERHOUNDS SC 3, VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY 2: Riverhounds SC came from behind to open its preseason with a win against Villanova on Saturday morning at Highmark Stadium. Wyatt Borso, Russell Cicerone and Dane Kelly scored for the Hounds, who face a two-goal deficit before leveling the game before halftime against the 2021 NCAA Tournament qualifier.
The Hounds opened the match with seven non-roster trialists, putting many of the players battling for a roster spot to the test early. While the Hounds looked good in possession and created chances, the Wildcats opened the scoring as Balthi Saunders found the net on a counterattack in the 13th minute. Akinjide Awujo then made it two for the visitors in the 29th minute, tapping in a low cross from close range.
Borso nearly got a goal back three minutes later when his shot struck the left post, but in the 43rd minute the 17-year-old USL Academy signing got his goal by stealing the ball off the foot of a defender and scoring with a shot placed in the top corner. The Hounds cashed in fully on their momentum in first-half stoppage time when Russell Cicerone got his first of the preseason with a hesitation move in the box that let the defenders drift by and gave him an open look at the net.
After a full lineup change for the second half, including the first appearances of new signings Kelly, defender Robby Dambrot and midfielder Angelo Kelly-Rosales, the Hounds worked their way back into the flow of play in the second half. In the 73rd minute, Kelly notched his first goal in Hounds colors as he bagged the winner. Kelly fired home a well-struck shot from distance set up Albert Dikwa winning an upfield ball before laying it back into Kelly’s path.