Photo courtesy Ben Clemens / Charleston Battery
CHARLESTON, S.C. – The Charleston Battery’s bid for their first ever Carolina Challenge Cup title faded on Friday night as they fell 3-0 to the Columbus Crew at Patriots Point in the club’s final game of the 2022 Breeze Airlines Carolina Challenge Cup.
Head Coach Conor Casey used the Battery’s final tournament outing 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 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 withstood the early pressure and took the lead in the ninth minute when Jonathan Mensah redirected a pass on the volley and beyond the reach of Battery goalkeeper Joe Kuzminsky.
Charleston looked to respond quickly and began applying more pressure onto the Crew’s defense. Much of the movement came via Romario Piggott and Augustine Williams, and the Sierra Leone international 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 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 penalty spot after a foul inside the area. 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 for the hosts, sending in an inviting cross that just didn’t find a connection. Apodaca also displayed the danger he can pose in attack. Twice the forward was fractionally off from scoring, in the 54th minute sending a strong shot just wide from the left 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 have added another goal 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 Charleston’s Shak Adams dashed his way up the right flank flashing some skill to get through the Columbus defense. The Nashville native made his way into the box for a shot on goal, however the attempt curled just away from the net, allowing the Crew to see out the shutout.
“Losses aren’t always the worst thing in preseason,” said 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.”