Kekuta Manneh's speed and finish worked to drain the Battery in South Carolina. - Rainier Ehrhardt
On a South Carolina evening that saw game-time temperatures dip down into long sleeves and Under Armour territory, it was the Vancouver Whitecaps that provided the heat, as they downed the Charleston Battery 3-2 in their opening match of the 10th annual Challenge Cup. With the victory, Vancouver is now 4-0 in preseason play.
It took all of two minutes for Whitecaps 2013 SuperDraft pick Kekuta Manneh to find the back of the net. The goal was flagged as offside on a very close call, but no matter - as Manneh needed only another two minutes to fire home one that did count.
It was that kind of night for Vancouver, as they broke out to a 2-0 lead within the first half hour, and extended that advantage to 3-0 early in the second half. Charleston rallied in the final 20 minutes, as weather, tired legs and defensive lapses conspired to make it interesting once more for the 4,000 spectators at Blackbaud Stadium.
Manneh's early brace came off nice linkups with Kobayashi and Mattocks, as well as a healthy dose of abysmal Battery defending. But to be fair, the Caps have been training for about seven weeks now, while Charleston have been at it for about seven days. That difference was indeed noticeable.
While Manneh was conspicuous for his speed and solid finishing, the goal of the match award went to recent addition Daigo Kobayashi for the center midfielder's pseudo scorpion kick goal off a lob into the box from Y. P. Lee in the 51st minute. Battery keeper Kevin Klasila had little chance on the play, and no support from his defenders, as Kobayashi was completely unmarked from just inside the penalty spot.
If there was anything to complain about, it would be the Caps' failure to see out the full 90 minutes in good form. The Caps gave up a pair of late Charleston markers, in the 71' and 80', to make the match appear closer than it really had been. The drop off in the second half was something that coach Martin Rennie commented on following the match.
"Second half, I thought we started quite well again. An excellent goal from Daigo Kobayashi, and good movement and play that set that goal up. We were three-nil up, and for most of the guys it's the first time they've played 90 minutes, and I felt like in the last 30 minutes maybe we tired a little bit - we were playing into a really strong wind - and I'd like to have seen us do a little bit better in the last 30 minutes but that's what preseason's for."
Undefeated in four straight, the Caps take on College of Charleston later today.
Caps-Battery highlights can be viewed on the Vancouver Whitecaps website.
Update: Whitecaps down College of Charleston 2-0, to continue undefeated run.