The Charleston Battery had been nearly unbeatable at home during the regular-season.
The Battery had lost just once during the regular-season, winning 10 times in 16 home matches this year, and were riding a 14-game unbeaten streak at MUSC Health Stadium.
The combination of the heat and humidity, especially in the summer months, was usually too much for most clubs to conquer. Normally teams from the Northern part of the country would tend to wilt as the game progresses deep into the second half.
But with mild temperatures and low humidity the New York Red Bulls II appeared to get stronger the further the game went into the second half Saturday night.
The Red Bulls, the defending USL champions, got goals from four different players and shut down a potent Charleston attack to beat the Battery, 4-0, Saturday night in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals of the USL Cup.
The Red Bulls will face Tampa Bay, a 3-0 winner over Cincinnati, in the Eastern Conference semifinals next Saturday night.
The No. 7-seeded Red Bulls had been a team known for their offense, attacking teams no matter if they playing at home or on the road. The second-seeded Battery had been one of the most balanced teams in the Eastern Conference all season.
“We knew what New York was going to do, they do it every game,” said Charleston Battery captain Taylor Mueller. “They’re very smart about how they do it. Obviously without the heat and humidity they can press a lot longer down here this time of year. In the summertime it’s a lot more difficult to sustain that level of attack when it’s 95 degrees and 90 percent humidity. No one can press a whole game when it’s like that.”
The Red Bulls, who had not been known as a top-notch defensive squad was able to limit the Battery to just a couple of quality scoring opportunities and one shot on frame. New York defender Jordan Scarlett marked Battery striker Romario Williams all over the field. Williams, who led the Battery with 15 goals, was held just one shot.
“They nipped us and fouled a little bit not in a bad way, but in a good way for them,” said Charleston Battery coach Mike Anhaeuser. “They were able to knock us off our game, a lot like a pitcher who throws the ball inside to knock a batter off the plate. They’d kick him, give him a little nudge, nothing dirty, but just enough to knock Romario off the ball and frustrate him.”
How They Scored
New York grabbed a 1-0 lead on Stefano Bonomo’s goal in the 39th minute. After a nice build up, Junior Flemmings got the ball on the right flank and crossed into the six-yard box from about 20 yards out.
Bonomo muscled his way past a Battery defender and headed the ball past Charleston keeper Odisnel Cooper for the score.
The Red Bulls pushed their advantage to 2-0 on Ethan Kutler’s strike from about 20 yards out in the 51st minute.
After earning a corner kick, Red Bulls midfielder Arun Basuljevic sent the ball into the six-yard box. The ball bounced around and finally squirted out to the top of the 18-yard box to a wide open Kutler. The defender settled the ball and then blasted it past Cooper for the score.
The Battery’s best scoring chance came in the 69th minute when Williams found himself all alone at the top of the 18-yard box with nothing between him and New York keeper Evan Louro. Williams’ shot, however, sailed high and wide over the crossbar.
“If Romario scores there maybe it’s a different game,” Anhaeuser said. “We get a goal, we put them under pressure and I like our chances to get an equalizer. We didn’t create a ton of chances and you have to give them credit for playing proper defense.”
The Red Bulls put the game away on Florian Valot’s goal in the 71st minute. Bonomo picked up a loose ball and took a hard shot that Cooper saved, but failed to control the rebound. Valot was there for the loose ball and easily knocked it into the open net for the score.
New York forward Ben Mines put the finishing touch on the game with a goal off an assist from Andreq Tinari to give the Red Bulls a 4-0 lead in the 84th minute.