The annual Carolina Challenge Cup pits the Charleston Battery against three Major League Soccer teams. This year D.C. United, the Chicago Fire, and Toronto FC came to Blackbaud Stadium in Daniel Island to compete for the cup. Each of the four teams faced each other at least once during the week-long event. The games were fast-paced and physical, and it was inspiring to see our Battery hold their own against the professional teams.
On March 5, the first night of the tournament saw the Chicago Fire inch past Toronto FC with a goal within the first few minutes of the meeting. They held on to the one goal lead for the rest of the match, even after Chicago’s captain drew a red card midway through the first half, forcing them to play a man short for the remainder of the game. The next match of the double header was the Charleston Battery versus D.C. United, one of the MLS’s toughest teams. D.C. scored right away, but the Battery fans still held hope and were rewarded with a goal by penalty kick shortly after. D.C. controlled the majority of the game and midway through the second half they scored the game-winning goal. Even though the Battery lost, the fans were very pleased with the tough performance.
Four days later, we saw the second round of matches. First to play in the double header was D.C. United and the Chicago Fire. Again, D.C. scored early and maintained the one goal advantage for the remainder of the game. A Chicago Fire player committed a brutal late challenge and was ejected from the game, making it easier for D.C. to hold on to the one goal lead. The next match pitted the Battery against Toronto FC. Toronto was first to find the back of the net with a penalty kick, but again the Battery rallied and scored to send the game to half time 1 to 1. The Battery came out strong in the second half and due to their tough play in Toronto’s box, was awarded a penalty shot. The initial shot was saved by the goalie, but the rebound came to a Battery player who buried it into the back of the net, setting the crowd ablaze in cheer. The Battery then played tough defensively to hold out for the 2 to 1 win.
The final night of the Carolina Cup Challenge pitted D.C. United against Toronto FC. D.C. only needed a tie to secure first place in the tournament, and they did exactly that by playing Toronto to a draw. Toronto took the lead 2 to 1 in the first half, but could not hold the lead against the dominant D.C. United. D.C. scored the tying goal to make it 2 to 2 and held on for the rest of the game to take the Carolina Cup home.
The second match of the evening determined the runner-up in the cup. The Battery played the Chicago Fire to a 0 to 0 game that was an intense and often brutal game. There were four red cards given out in the first half, and the game nearly got out of control when players aggressively came together near Chicago’s bench. After the refs gained control by issuing a series of ejections, the Battery had nine players on the field and the Fire had 10 instead of the usual 11. The game was a brilliant display of control, pace, and defense by the Battery and when the points were tallied, the Battery was awarded second place behind D.C. United.