Zach Bland Photo.
Charleston, S.C. - A three point performance from Justin Portillo lifted the Charleston Battery to a 2-1 win over FC Cincinnati Saturday night at MUSC Health Stadium.
Portillo’s second-half goal helped the Battery to three points after a slow start in the first half. The visitors came out on the front foot and earned the better of the chances in the first 25 minutes, but couldn’t find the back of the net.
Atlanta United loanee Alex Tambakis was forced to make a save early on in the match. Aohdan Quinn struck the free kick on frame in the 8th minute, but Tambakis was equal to the task, punching it wide.
After FC Cincinnati’s quick start, the two teams traded possession in the middle third of the field until Charleston broke the deadlock 38th minute.
Forrest Lasso rose to meet Portillo’s in-swinging corner in the middle of the six yard box, beating everyone to it and heading the ball past Cincinnati goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt. The two linked up in similar fashion in the Battery's 1-1 draw with Columbus Crew SC in preseason.
“Coach stresses how important set pieces are," said Portillo. We work on that stuff all the time. I just try to put it in there for the big guys and tonight Forrest was there and scored a great goal."
The Battery came out of the break with the one-goal lead in search of a second. Charleston pressed high into Cincinnati’s defensive third, putting the back four under immense pressure. FCC had difficulties dealing with the high press put in place by Battery Head Coach Mike Anhaeuser at halftime, giving the ball away cheaply in their own end.
Cincinnati found a way through the pressure in the 59th minute and leveled the score at one through Fall Djiby. Andrew Weideman sent an in-swinging cross into the box and the 6-foot-2 striker rose and nodded it in at the back post.
Charleston battled back after giving up the equalizer, springing multiple counter attacks through the middle of the park. At the end of one of the counters, Ataulla Guerra picked up the ball at the top of the penalty area and played Romario Williams through. Williams took a positive touch towards goal, forcing a Cincinnati defender to bring him down for a penalty.
Portillo stepped up to take the spot kick, putting it to Hildebrandt’s right. The goalkeeper saved the initial shot, but Portillo followed his rebound and tucked it in to put his side ahead.
The Battery defense closed out the match, keeping FCC at bay for the remaining twenty minutes. Charleston will take the hard earned three points and look ahead to next week’s match against Charlotte Independence in North Carolina.
CHARLESTON BATTERY: Alex Tambakis, Quinton Griffith, Taylor Mueller, Forrest Lasso (yellow card, 8th; goal 38th), Mikey Ambrose, Maikel Chang (Tah Brian Anung, 87th), Justin Portillo (assist, 38th; goal, 71st), Neveal Hackshaw, Dante Marini, Ataulla Guerra (Ricky Garbanzo, 90th), Romario Williams (Heviel Cordoves, 83rd).
Unused substitutes: Odisnel Cooper, Skyar Thomas, Nico Rittmeyer, Jeffrey Otoo
FC CINCINNATI: Mitch Hildebrandt, Matt Bahner, Austin Berry, Harrison Delbridge, Tyler Polak, Aaron Walker, Aodhan Quinn (Corben Bone, 74th), Andrew Weideman (assist, 59th; Omar Cummings, 80th), Jimmy McLaughlin, Daryl Fordyce (Kadeem Dacres, 80th), Djiby Fall (goal, 59th)
Unused substitutes: Dallas Jaye, Paul Nicholson, Pat McMahon, Victor Mansaray