Charleston, S.C. – Penn FC dropped its season opener 1-0 against the Charleston Battery Saturday night. The Battery earned its first victory of the season with forward Ataulla Guerra’s 64th-minute strike.
Penn FC’s 3-5-2 formation disrupted Charleston’s rhythm for the majority of the match. The combination of three center-backs and two wing-backs prevented the Battery from generating its attack in the middle of Penn FC’s defensive half.
However, a defensive lapse in the 62nd minute provided Charleston’s opportunity to earn the go-ahead goal. Guerra received the ball in the right side of the box and kept possession as Tiago Calvano’s tackle made contact but did not dispossess Guerra. Guerra put the ball on his left foot and bent his shot past keeper Romu Peiser, into the left upper-corner.
Penn FC had several chances to earn the equalizer. Moments after Guerra’s goal, in the 64th minute, Pedro Galvão placed his free kick into the center of the box. However, Charleston keeper Odisnel Cooper caught the ball as it bounced into the box.
Penn FC’s best chance of the night occurred in the 84th minute. Salvatore Barone’s cross bounced towards the feet of forward Lucky Mkosana who fired a one-timer back at the Charleston goal. However, the strike was too strong, and the ball flew over the crossbar.
Charleston forward Patrick Okonkwo earned a straight red card after elbowing Calvano in the 88th minute. The red card forced Charleston to play with 10 men, and Penn FC tried to capitalize off the man advantage in the waning minutes.
Charleston tightened up its formation in the defensive half to make up for the personnel disadvantage. Penn FC played long balls into the box to disrupt Charleston’s formation, but Cooper played aggressively in the box and caught the balls as they flew into the box.
The teams played a relatively even match in the first half. The teams were nearly even in regards to possession. Penn FC’s defense held Charleston’s pass accuracy on the offensive end to only 48.6 percent.
Penn FC finished the game with 55 percent possession and completed 81 more passes than Charleston. Penn FC won nearly every recorded statistic except in the attacking end. The Battery outshot Penn FC 6-3 and shot five times inside the box.
Head Coach Raoul Voss’ squad will return to Harrisburg to prepare for its next match of the season against Keystone Derby and interstate-rival Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC on Saturday, March 31st. Penn FC will look to earn its first points of the season and bragging rights during the heated rivalry-match. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Highmark Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pa.