The Charleston Battery were defeated Saturday 4-1 away against San Diego Loyal SC at Torero Stadium. Mauro Cichero scored his first goal of the season for the Black and Yellow but SD Loyal, powered by a brace from Kyle Vassell, outlasted the Battery in the end. Charleston played on roughly two days’ rest following their U.S. Open Cup match on Thursday but will now have a two-week pause in games to make adjustments before their next fixture, on April 23 at Patriots Point.
The Battery started the night on the front foot, winning a free-kick and a corner kick in the first 10 minutes of play. Charleston’s press disrupted San Diego early as the visitors progressed the ball forward into some dangerous spots, however, San Diego’s defense gave no way through. The hosts managed to break open the game in the 11th minute when Tumi Moshobane found the back of the net. Charleston aimed to counter quickly for an equalizer but were unable to. SD Loyal doubled their lead in the 23rd minute via an own goal after a shot off the post by Thomas Amang grazed goalkeeper Joe Kuzminsky and went into the net.
Charleston got one back when Mauro Cichero scored his first goal of the season in the 28th minute, assisted by Geobel Perez. Perez initiated the play by dispossessing San Diego in their own defensive third, he then found Cichero with a perfectly-placed cross into the box. Mauro headed home the ball towards the left post and beyond goalkeeper Koke Vegas’ reach. The goal was a product of the Battery’s press that had been persistent throughout the half. Benji Ettienne neutralized a San Diego counterattack in the 34th minute with an impressive display of composure.
Augustine Williams came close to equalizing for the Battery in the 44th minute when Andrew Booth sent in an inviting cross that was broken up at the last moment by Koke Vegas. SD Loyal added a third, scored by Kyle Vassell, in the first minute of stoppage time to give the hosts a 3-1 advantage into the break.
San Diego resumed play looking for a fourth goal, testing Kuzminsky on a free-kick and the shot-stopper tipped the ball away to thwart the threat in the 50th minute. Romario Piggott and Joe Schmidt registered a pair of shots on the opposite end minutes later. Piggott’s was the result of some strong build-up play that forced a save from Koke Vegas and Schmidt’s was a curler from the edge of the box that went just over the crossbar.
Schmidt showed strength in the midfield, notably in the 61st minute, weaving through San Diego with control and poise to advance the Battery up the pitch. As the second half continued to develop, both sides settled in more while sizing each other up with neither eager to give any ground. Charleston often fell victim to SD Loyal’s offside trap and San Diego were unable to overcome the rocks of the Battery defense.
Cichero looked to double the Battery’s tally in the 68th minute with a shot from distance, but it was just wide of the frame. Vassell would find the back of the net again in the 75th minute to put the game out of reach. The Battery continued to press for another goal in the waning minutes of the match but could not find the final touch as San Diego saw out the 4-1 result.
On rendering a verdict on the night, Battery Head Coach Conor Casey said the score doesn’t tell the full story.
“The scoreline clearly wasn’t what we wanted, but I don’t think it was totally indicative of how the game was,” said Coach Casey. “It was the character that the team showed I was happy with. How we pressed, we fought on until the final whistle.
“Collectively as a group, considering that we traveled across the country, played on two days’ rest, I thought we made San Diego uncomfortable. They are a team that likes to possess the ball, but we put a lot of pressure on them and the ball. I was happy with us continuing to develop our identity and mentality as a pressing team.”
Coach Casey applauded the contributions of Cichero and Ettienne, who both made their first starts of the 2022 USL Championship season.
“Mauro was great, he scored tonight but he also brings leadership on the field, he’s got some quality and he’s a competitor,” said Coach Casey. “Benji has done really well, he’s progressing very quickly and he’s learning a lot. He’s somebody that hates to lose and he’s competing as hard as he possibly can, I was pleased with how he did.”
Cichero said the team will make the most of the upcoming two-week hiatus from matches.
“This upcoming break is really good for us at this moment, it’ll give us a lot of time to put in some work and try to figure those couple of things out,” said Cichero. “That way, we can also get some guys back and put up a good result for our fans at home against Louisville in our return.”
The forward was happy to score his first goal of the season and hopes it’ll spark a turn for him.
“It’s always very difficult to get the first one when you come back from an injury,” said Cichero. “I’ve had some good chances in other games that I hadn’t been able to put away. So, scoring that one on my first chance of the game was really good, and I hope there’s more to come now.”
Both Cichero and Coach Casey expressed their gratitude to the Charleston fans who made the trip to San Diego for the away match.
“I want to say thank you to the fans who traveled across the country to be there and support us at Torero Stadium,” said Cichero.
“It’s incredible that they’ve done that to be here with us,” said Coach Casey. “We’ve had fans in Detroit and now for them to travel all this way and show their support, it’s amazing.”
The Battery will have a two-week pause to make adjustments ahead of their next match on Saturday, April 23, against Louisville City FC at Patriots Point. Tickets for the contest can be purchased via SeatGeek.com, the Battery’s exclusive digital ticketing provider.