Paulo Pita carries The Villages past Charleston

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CHARLESTON – The Villages SC upset the Charleston Battery in penalties in the second round of the U.S. Open Cup Wednesday night at MUSC Health Stadium. The loss eliminated the Battery from the tournament while their opponents march on to face the Jacksonville Armada.

The PDL side opened the scoring in the 24th minute through center forward Carlos Araujo. Araujo received the ball inside the penalty area and calmly slotted it under goalkeeper Alex Tambakis.

Playing from behind, Charleston controlled the rest of the half and created several quality scoring opportunities. Villages goalkeeper Paulo Pita, who was immense all night, kept the Battery attack from converting until the stroke of halftime. It took something spectacular from outside midfielder Dante Marini to beat Pita for the equalizer. Marini cut through two defenders on the right side of the penalty area before curling a left-footed shot into the bottom corner of the back post.

The teams went into the break tied at one, with Charleston looking to be firmly in the driver’s seat. The Battery controlled the game in the second half, just as it did in the majority of the first half, but it was the visitors who grabbed a go-ahead goal in the 66th minute.

Outside midfielder Danilo Dias sent in a perfect cross from the right flank that found the head of Araujo who finished easily for his second goal in the match. Araujo was a handful all night and represented the majority of The Villages attack.

Following the goal, the Battery peppered The Villages penalty area with crosses and shots, but Pita stood tall and kept his team in front. Charleston finally broke through in the 81st minute by way of Chris Tsonis. The center forward scored his first goal in a Battery jersey to tie the game at two.

Tsonis’ goal came from one of Charleston’s 17 corner kicks in the match. Midfielder Maikel Chang hit a driven in-swinging corner and Tsonis rose up to meet it, driving it past Pita. The Battery looked dangerous on corner kicks throughout the night, forcing Pita to make several last ditch saves to bail his team out.

The game ended tied 2-2 after 90 minutes, forcing two 15 minute extra time periods. Charleston was the better team throughout extra time and spent almost the entirety of the 30 minutes in The Villages defensive third of the field. Pita came up huge for his side on several occasions in the extra time periods and was the difference maker when the game went to penalties.

Pita saved Charleston’s first two penalties, while his side converted theirs. Romario Williams and Ricky Garbanzo scored the Battery’s third and fourth penalties to put pressure on The Villages’ shooters, but the visitors calmly tucked away all four of their penalties, sealing the victory.