Kyle Nelson of the Charleston Battery (No. 3) challenges for a header against Nashville SC in a Third Round match in the 2019 US Open Cup. Photo: Jay Wilkinson | Nashville SC
120 minutes wasn’t enough time to find a winner between Nashville SC and Charleston Battery in the Third Round of the 2019 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. The squads battled to a 1-1 draw through regulation, and through stoppage time. In a knockout situation, that means only one thing: penalties.
Battery winger Zeiko Lewis drilled his first shot. Nashville SC defender Liam Doyle saw his saved by Philip Breno. Battery defender Leland Archer coolly put his home. Another save for Breno, this time keeping midfielder Matt LaGrassa out of the goal. While Jarad van Schaik skied his next attempt, by the time Nashville midfielder Lebo Moloto followed with a hit crossbar, Charleston striker Ian Svantesson needed only to hit one shot to end the game.
He put it home, Charleston survives and advances.
“For a coach, it’s pretty simple,” said Battery head coach Mark Anhaeuser of the shootout. “It stinks for players, because there’s a lot of nerves, they’re nervous, and heavy legs. In the end, it comes down to who really can hit that ball, and put it in the spot they want to. Our first two were very good, and we put them in under pressure, and my goalkeeper made two really strong saves.”
The shootout was a rare one. It marked just the third time in the Modern Era (1995-present) that a shootout ended with the score of 3-0. The first time it happened, the Charleston Battery upset the Chicago Fire (MLS) in the Third Round of the 2010 US Open Cup.
The shootout win capped a solid performance for Breno, who made four saves in the run of play to hold Nashville to just one goal – despite 27 shots from the hosts. In fact, Nashville dominated in many statistical metrics, with 68.4% of the possession, a passing accuracy of 87.4% to Charleston’s 66.5%, and five corners taken to the Battery’s four.
The game is not about dominating the ancillary stats, though: it’s about scoring. The teams did the same amount in regulation, and that opened the door for the shootout to determine the final outcome.
Players from the Charleston Battery and Nashville SC (yellow) battle for the ball in their Third Round match in the 2019 US Open Cup. Photo: Jay Wilkinson | Nashville SC
The Battery struck first, with striker Nicque Daley turning on a ball near midfield, taking five touches and popping the ball over the shoulder of NSC keeper Connor Sparrow in the 24th minute. Nashville would finally respond in the 72nd, with Kharlton Belmar putting home a cross from striker Ropapa Mensah, who found himself alone in space on a through-ball from Alan Winn. At that point, Nashville seemed to capture all the momentum, and Anhaeuser’s side was merely holding on for dear life.
“They caught us there for about 20 minutes and we got fortunate they didn’t score,” he admitted. “They got one on the counter there, which they picked up. Then they had their guys forward, and I think they got a little tired. Even we caught them at the end, and hit the post, crossbar, and we were just unlucky.”
The Battery advance to the Fourth Round of the US Open Cup, and will find out their fate in terms of opponent – and location – Thursday. For a team that’s played two on the road already, first traveling to USL League One side Greenville Triumph, and then to Nashville SC’s satellite location in the suburbs of Music City, they’re hopeful of drawing a home match next.
“We’re going to see tomorrow,” Anhaeuser said with a laugh. “I’m just going to pray we get a home game. Two road games in the Open Cup is so difficult. The heat, multiple games in a week, and my guys deserve all the credit. What you do, you get a game vs. an MLS team. These guys deserved it; they played a heck of a game – defended very well.”
The last team from outside MLS to advance to the US Open Cup Final (the Battery lost 2-1 to DC United in 2008) keeps their dream alive in the 2019 edition of the tournament. The Battery advance to the Fourth Round for the third year in a row.