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Fire Claim First Challenge Cup
Battery defeat Dynamo 2-1 to close out tournament

Charleston Battery News Release -- www.charlestonbattery.com

Saturday, February 23, 2013

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- The Chicago Fire claimed their first Carolina Challenge Cup championship after earning a 1-1 draw against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday evening at Blackbaud Stadium. The Fire finished with a record of 2-0-1, and finished top of the tournament standings as the only side to go undefeated through the 10th edition of the tournament. 

The Fire had gone close to taking the lead in the first half, only to be denied by a fine double-save by Whitecaps goalkeeper Joe Cannon as both Sherjill MacDonald and Chris Rolfe came close to opening the scoring. Chicago finally broke the deadlock in the 57th minute as Maicon Santos found the back of the net with a left-footed blast that nicked the crossbar on its way in.

Vancouver, which needed victory to have a chance at the title, found the equalizer shortly after in the 68th minute as Darren Mattocks converted from the penalty spot after Kenny Miller had been brought down in the penalty area. The Whitecaps pushed for the winner late on, Mattocks being well denied by Sean Johnson after he broke through the Fire's defense with 16 minutes to go, but the Fire closed out the draw they needed to claim the championship.

CHARLESTON 2, HOUSTON 1: A pair of nice goals from Dane Kelly and Austin Savage helped the Charleston Battery to their first win of the tournament as they took victory against the Houston Dynamo, but it was a superb goalkeeping performance from Odisnel Cooper that proved the real story of the final game of the Carolina Challenge Cup on Saturday night at Blackbaud Stadium. 

Houston opened the scoring in the 16th minute as Boniek Garcia floated a cross to Cam Weaver, who was able to cleanly lay it off for Darius Barnes to punch it home. Charleston immediately struck back two minutes later as Kelly caught Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall out of position and was able to turn and shoot a low shot that just snuck by Hall’s fingertips.

Cooper made sure he was noticed with a series of exquisite saves, creating a brick wall between the pipes for the Battery. In the 25th minute, Cooper kept the game knotted with a diving save off a Dynamo opportunity from a corner. Shortly after, Cooper came up huge again, stoning Brad Davis’ penalty kick attempt with another beautiful dive to his left in the 36th minute after Weaver had been brought down in the penalty area, and then made another outstanding save in the 42nd minute on a shot from point blank by Will Bruin.

Both teams were finding opportunities in the second half with the Dynamo pressing late in the game. However, it was the Battery who found the back of the net as second-half substitute Austin Savage made his presence known within minutes of entering the game. In the 75th minute, Savage headed the ball home at the back post off a corner kick from Zach Prince to give the Battery a 2-1 advantage.

Charleston maintained the lead to claim its first win of the Challenge Cup and their first win of the 2013 preseason as the Battery moved the ball extremely well and put in some of their defensive work of the tournament.

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