Photo courtesy Zach Bland / Charleston Battery
CHARLESTON, S.C. – The Charleston Battery got a goal and assist from Justin Portillo to earn a 2-1 victory against FC Cincinnati at MUSC Health Stadium in the club’s 25th home opener on Saturday night. Cincinnati almost took the lead in the ninth minute when Aodhan Quinn’s curling free kick was turned away by Battery goalkeeper Alex Tambakis, and the two teams continued to exchange chances in the opening half-hour. FCC’s Quinn had a low shot from outside the penalty area saved, while Charleston’s Ataulla Guerra and Forrest Lasso also had efforts denied by Cincinnati goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt. The Battery’s Maikel Chang also set up Dante Marini for a shot that was charged down by FCC’s Matt Bahner, but from the ensuing corner Forrest Lasso gave the hosts the lead from Portillo’s delivery. Cincinnati almost struck back from a corner of its own as Harrison Delbridge’s header was cleared off the line five minutes into the second half, but Djiby Fall’s first goal for the club from Andrew Wiedeman’s cross just before the hour-mark made it 1-1. Charleston almost answered immediately, as Chang had a shot saved and Marini shot over moments later. The hosts regained the lead with 19 minutes to go, however, when Portillo scored on the rebound after Hildebrandt had saved his initial penalty kick to earn the Battery a season-opening win.
38’ – CHS – Forrest Lasso (Justin Portillo)
59’ – CIN – Djiby Fall (Andrew Wiedeman)
71’ – CHS – Justin Portillo
Three Things That Matter:
1. If there’s anything we know going into a USL season, it’s that teams will give attacking set pieces away to the Charleston Battery at their peril. That proved true again on Saturday night as Justin Portillo’s first competitive appearance since an injury late last season was marked by another assist as his corner kick from the left was nodded home by Forrest Lasso. One of the hallmarks of the Battery’s success over the years, the side again served notice of its ability to deliver when given the chance.
2. Cincinnati had some big shoes to fill this offseason with the departure of 2016 USL Most Valuable Player Sean Okoli to New York City FC, and with Djiby Fall scoring on his debut the side will take a lot of confidence that it can continue the attacking success the team found last year. The veteran elevated over Charleston defender Taylor Mueller to get on the end of a great cross by Andrew Wiedeman to grab an equalizer for the visitors, and put in a solid overall performance.
3. After conceding the equalizer, the Battery were able to find another gear that ended up being decisive, with the team’s speed creating danger during the final 20 minutes. With fullbacks Mikey Ambrose and Quinton Griffith willing to push up and join the attack whenever possible, the Battery got down the flanks well throughout, but it was a clever through-ball by Ataullah Guerra and rash challenge by Cincinnati’s Austin Berry that gave the Battery the chance they needed to earn victory as Portillo took advantage of a second bite of the cherry after Mitch Hildebrandt had initially denied his penalty kick.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Justin Portillo, Charleston Battery – Portillo had a goal and assist to lead the Battery to victory in their 25th home opener in club history.
Charleston Battery at Charlotte Independence – April 1, 7 p.m. ET, Transamerica Field
FC Cincinnati at Pittsburgh Riverhounds – April 1, 5 p.m. ET, Highmark Stadium