Battery falls to New York City; Houston wins Challenge Cup

Charleston goalie Odisnel Cooper dives for the ball in front of New York City FC star David Villa during the Carolina Challenge Cup on Saturday night at Blackbaud Stadium. New York City won, 3-0.

A “lightning goal” on Wednesday night gave the Charleston Battery a chance to win the Carolina Cup Challenge for the first time. But a second strike on Saturday night was too much to hope for against New York City Football Club.

The first-year MLS franchise got goals from Ned Grabavoy, Adam Nemec and U.S. Men’s National Team member Mix Diskerud for a 3-0 win over the Battery before 5,282 fans on a chilly night at Blackbaud Stadium.

That result, coupled with Houston’s 3-0 win over Orlando City, gave the Houston Dynamo the Carolina Challenge Cup title, with the Battery finishing third in the four-team field.

International soccer star David Villa thrilled fans with some fancy footwork early on in NYCFC’s win over the Battery, and had a breakaway chance snuffed by Battery keeper Odisnel Cooper. But it was Grabavoy, a former All-American at Indiana, who drew first blood and then assisted on Nemec’s goal for the classy New York attack.

“They showed, with Diskerud up front and Villa finding those holes and the way they moved it, that they were a level sharper,” said Battery coach Mike Anhaeuser. “You could see they were really pushing to get it done.”

The Battery played shorthanded after Navion Boyd drew a red card in the 50th minute for pushing an NYCFC player in the face.

For the week, Charleston went 1-1-1 for four points, and played before sellout crowds on each Saturday of the tournament. Boyd’s goal on the final touch before a lightning storm ended the match gave the Battery a 1-1 draw with Orlando City and star Kaka on Wednesday night. Charleston also had a 1-0 win over the Dynamo to begin Carolina Cup Challenge.

“It was a great week,” Anhaeuser said. “It was certainly disappointing to get a red card there; we really didn’t have any chance to go for it. But, we were down 2-0 at the time. We tried to catch them, but they showed their ability in that game.”

Grabavoy knocked down a pass from Mehdi Ballouchy and quickly rifled a shot past Cooper for NYCFC’s first goal in the 26th minute. Twelve minutes later, Grabavoy drew defenders before slipping a pass to Nemec for a 2-0 lead at halftime.

Diskerud’s strike from outside the box made it 3-0 in the 64th minute, handing the Carolina Challenge cup to Houston. The Dynamo got goals from Will Bruin, Brad Davis and Leonel Miranda in a 3-0 win over Orlando City to finish the tournament with six points.

Now, the Battery will turn its attention to preparing for its regular season opener March 21 against visiting Toronto FC II.

“This was a physically demanding tournament, we were able to start to get some guys some more minutes,” Anhaeuser said.

“Our priority now is to take the guys we have signed and getting our players from Houston and trying to consolidate everything. We’ve got a solid two weeks to push it up to that next level physically.”