Charleston Battery striker Heviel Cordoves is making a strong case to remain in the club’s starting lineup.
Cordoves and Dane Kelly each scored in the second half to lead the Charleston Battery past the Harrisburg City, 2-0, Saturday night before a crowd of 3,026 at Blackbaud Stadium.
It’s the first time since 2003 that the Battery (3-0-0, 9 points), have started the season with three straight victories. The Islanders fell to 0-2-0.
Entering his third season with the club, Cordoves’ primary role has been to come off the bench and provide the Battery’s attack with instant offense. It’s a role he thrived in during his rookie season when he recorded nine goals for the club. Last year, with a glut of forwards on the roster, Cordoves started just seven games and scored four goals.
With Kelly out with an injury last weekend against Charlotte, Cordoves was inserted into the starting lineup and responded with the best game of his career — recording two goals and adding an assist in the club’s 3-2 victory over the Independence.
Cordoves generated plenty of scoring chances Saturday night against Harrisburg City, finishing with five shots on goal, and scored for the second consecutive game in the 61st minute.
“No question that Heviel wants to stay in the starting lineup and he’s taking advantage of his opportunity,” said Charleston Battery coach Mike Anhaeuser. “Dane Kelly had a goal and when you have both of your forwards scoring, that’s what you want. One can start, one can come off the bench. Ricky (Garbanzo) is doing his job. We’ve got a lot of depth and a lot of guys hitting the back of the net and that’s all that matters. It doesn’t matter who starts and who comes off the bench.”
Cordoves is content to play whatever role Anhaeuser and the club asks of him as long as the team continues to win.
“It doesn’t matter to me,” Cordoves said. “Whatever (Anhaeuser) decides is fine with me. I can start and play 60 to 70 minutes or come off the bench.”
Charleston, which outshot Harrisburg City, 13-6, limited the Islanders to just one quality scoring chance in each half. Charleston keeper Odisnel Cooper was forced to make just one save and recorded his first shutout of the season.
“I thought it was a much more professional effort from last week,” said Charleston Battery captain Jarad van Schaik. “They sat back a bit in the first half, but I thought we kept our shape and didn’t give up much.”
For the second straight match, the three Cuban defectors — Cordoves, Cooper and Maikel Chang — were in the starting lineup. Chang recorded an assist on Kelly’s goal in the second half.
“It brought back some great memories from when we were back in Cuba,” Cordoves said. “I think this is what we’ve been dreaming about since the day we came here.”
Cordoves’ power and speed were on full display on his goal. Garbanzo played a long ball to Cordoves down the left flank about 40 yards out. The 6-2, 180-pound Havana native shouldered his way past a Harrisburg City defender, shrugged off another and blasted a shot past Islanders keeper Nick Noble for the score.
“That was a very nice goal from Heviel,” Anhaeuser said. “That kind of highlights his skill set. Speed, power and a great shot.”
Five minutes after entering the game, Kelly scored to give the Battery a 2-0 advantage in the 71st minute. Six of the Battery’s eight goals this season have come from the forward position.
“That’s what they are paid to do, score goals,” Anhaeuser said. “They had Cordoves running at them for 65 minutes and then Dane with his pace comes in for the final 25 minutes. This is more of what I like, 2-0, instead of winning 3-2 after being down. It was great to see our defense get back in line.”