The New York Red Bulls had never beaten the Charleston Battery in a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup game.
In two previous meetings, the Red Bulls, of Major League Soccer, had left Blackbaud Stadium shaking their collective heads wondering what had happened against a team from a lower division.
The Red Bulls made sure history didn’t repeat itself Tuesday night.
Kenny Cooper, Heath Pearce and Connor Lade each scored for the Red Bulls, and keeper Ryan Meara made five saves to lead the Red Bulls past the Battery, 3-0, before a crowd of 3,572 at Blackbaud Stadium in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup.
The Red Bulls will take on the winner of the New England-Harrisburg City game on June 5 in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup.
In two previous matchups in the U.S. Open Cup, the Battery had beaten the Red Bulls, 4-1, in 2001 and again, 1-0, in 2004.
The Red Bulls were determined not to make it three straight losses.
“Charleston has a great club, I know they’re doing well in their league and we had a lot of respect for them coming into the game,” said Cooper, who leads the MLS with 11 goals this season. “We came in here to get a good result and to play well. Give the Battery credit, they didn’t sit back, they came at us. We were just fortunate to get a couple chances and convert on those chances.”
Early on, the Battery matched the Red Bulls scoring chance for scoring chance. Meara proved to be the difference, especially on set pieces for the Battery. Meara’s best save of the night came in the 35th minute on a header from Charleston captain Colvin Falvey. After a beautiful ball from Jose Cuevas, Meara made a diving stab at the ball, just getting a hand on Falvey’s snap header to keep the Battery off the scoreboard.
“(Meara) told me after the game that it was just a reaction save,” Falvey said. “We had a couple like that. He played well for them.”
After a couple of early scoring chances for the Battery, the Red Bulls stopped any Charleston momentum on Cooper’s goal in the 14th minute. After a strong buildup, New York’s Jhonny Arteaga found Cooper inside the 18-yard box. Cooper chested the ball down, pivoted and then ripped a shot past Charleston keeper Brock Duckworth for the score.
“You can’t give a guy like Kenny Cooper time and space with the ball,” said Charleston coach Mike Anhaeuser. “He’s a very clinical player around the net. If he gets a chance like that, he’s going to finish it.”
The Red Bulls extended their advantage to 2-0 on Pearce’s goal off an assist from Dax McCarty in the 41st minute.
“We just had a breakdown in the back and left a guy wide open,” said Charleston defender John Wilson. “You can’t do that against a team as technical as New York because they’ll make you pay for every mistake you make.”
Lade, a former St. John’s University star, finished off the scoring with a goal in the 71st minute with a wicked bending shot from about 25 yards out.
“Never seen him do that in practice or a game,” said Battery defender Kyle Hoffer, a teammate of Lade’s at St. John’s. “It was a great goal, but he couldn’t hit that shot again in a million years.”
The remnants of Tropical Storm Beryl proved to be a non-factor in the game. A light rain did not start falling until late in the game.