Elm City Express Narrowly Falls to Charleston in Third Round of U.S. Open Cup

Elm City Express head coach Teddy Haley forced a smile at midfield of MUSC Health Stadium even despite the result.

A bittersweet feeling ran through College of Charleston’s former all-conference captain. Haley shared a warm embrace with Cougars coach Ralph Lundy but, even still, he struggled to accept the one that’d just slipped away.

The Charleston Battery escaped Elm City, 1-0, in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup Wednesday on Daniel Island. The Battery advances to face a Major League Soccer team in the fourth round on June 6th at a site still to be determined.

“We just went toe to toe with them the entire match,” Haley said of his National Premier Soccer League team’s performance against the United Soccer League Battery. “They’re such a good side. I’m proud of our boys’ approach. We gave it away cheaply though. That’s the unfortunate part. We gave it away cheaply in the middle of the park and a good team is going to take advantage of that.”

Elm City held Charleston scoreless until the 83rd minute when Ataulla Guerra — who just entered the game just 11 minutes prior — pushed ahead to first-year forward Gordon Wild streaking down the right side. Wild separated from defender Joshua Calderon just enough to get off a sliding right-footed rip from five yards out that crossed keeper Matthew Jones and pounded off the far post into the upper corner of net.

“In the end, you just try to have that quality and step above,” Battery coach Mike Anhaeuser said. “And maybe we did, physically, to have that little bit of energy to catch that goal in the end. And that’s the difference.”

Charleston opened with a revamped starting lineup against the Elm City amateurs that included seven changes from the group it opened with four days earlier. The Battery dominated possession early but struggled to connect on setups in front of the net and sent a couple quality looks sailing high out of bounds.

Shaquille Saunchez, who scored twice in Elm City’s second-round Open match with Seacoast United, earned a clean look in the 15th minute off a deep strike that flew just wide of the open side of Battery keeper Odisnel Cooper’s net. Graciano Brito tried to squeeze a free kick into the bottom corner seven minutes later but Cooper slid in for the stop.

“It took us a little bit to shake the nerves,” Haley said. “I think we were better in the second half. We settled down and realized we could play and created some chances.”

Anthony Asante, who scored twice in Elm City’s opening-round match, snuck inside the Battery’s 18-yard box in the 55th minute only to swing wide. Asante drew a free kick in the 69th that Luis Fajardo-Gallardo drilled into Cooper’s grasp. Cooper hasn’t allowed a goal in his past two starts, while the Battery has posted clean sheets in six of its past nine games.

Patrick Okonkwo nearly struck for Charleston in the 66th minute with a header that missed just high. Neveal Hackshaw floated a long cross from the left to right side for Ian Svantesson who nodded the ball back across to Okonwo floating above his defender. The Battery had several other quality looks in the second half but it took Guerra, usually a starter, to solve the Elm City defense with the assist for Wild’s fourth goal of season. Wild now ranks just one score behind Guerra for the team lead.

The Elm City Express now turn their attention to league play as they face TSF FC at home on June 9th.

Contributor: Frankie Mansfield/NPSL.com
Photo Credit:  Frankie Mansfield/NPSL.com

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