The Charleston Battery staved off the Pittsburgh Riverhounds behind a pair of first half goals. Obi Woodbine converted a penalty that he earned before Taylor Meuller volleyed home a few minutes later to double the lead, while a second half screamer from the home side made things a bit testy, but the Black and Yellow held on to earn a hard fought three points.
Regular starters for the Battery such as Shawn Ferguson and Justin Portillo began the game on the bench for the visitors after playing in midweek, while Taylor Meuller and Forrest Lasso were in the center of defense. Attaulah Guerra and Naveal Hackshaw would earn their first start together in midfield. It was Alex Tambakis in goal for the Battery, whilst Heviel Cordoves was the man up front, deputizing for the suspended Romario Williams.
The home side would have the better of possession in the early goings, but the Battery would slowly but surely come into it. Heviel Cordoves went up for a header off a cross after 17 minutes but it was saved by the ‘keeper.
Midfielder Stephen Okai would set up a great chance for Pittsburgh shortly afterward, as his low cross was flicked by Kevin Kerr onto Corey Hertzog, whose scissor kick effort went straight to Alex Tambakis.
On 26, Heviel Cordoves did well to win the ball back in midfield and played Attaulah Guerra in a dangerous position, but the midfielder looked to his right and saw Zach Prince on the overlap and dummied him as Prince had a pop at goal, but his effort went wide.
A minute or so later, Pittsburgh could’ve had a penalty. A long ball was played forward to Hertzog, who latched on, with Taylor Meuller at his back. Hertzog shot wide, but was having his shirt pulled in the process, and the Battery just might have gotten away with one.
Defender Jordan Murrell for the Riverhounds got the ball through in a dangerous position on the left edge of the penalty area, before squaring back to Hertzog, who took a touch to get away from his man and shot, but the ball was deflected, and hit Murrell, who was still on the edge of the box in an offside position, and the flag went up.
Then, just a few seconds after Pittsburgh had the chance, Obrien Woodbine went up the touchline on the right, made a move to get around the aforementioned Murrell, and went down in the box as the defender fouled him. The referee pointed to the spot, and the penalty was given.
It was a bit cruel, perhaps, on the home side, given their shout for an earlier spot kick. But it was Woodbine to step up to the spot and take. Normally, they say a player should never take a penalty which he’s earned, but Woodbine put the penalty away coolly to give the Battery the lead.
Four minutes from time, Lebo Moloto went at the Battery defense and eventually got a shot off, forcing Tambakis into a save.
And on 43′, the Battery would double their lead. It came from a free kick played in from about halfway into the attacking half by Maikel Chang, which was knocked down at the back stick, before Taylor Meuller got a foot to it and sent a volleyed effort past a sprawling Mauricio Vargas in Pittsburgh’s goal.
And that was the scoreline as we went into half time. It was, again, perhaps a little harsh on Pittsburgh, who should’ve had a penalty, but after a shaky start from the visitors, the Battery had come into the game a lot more and took their goals well, and ended the half the better side.
Dante Marini came on for Maikel Chang at half time, and fashioned the Battery’s first chance of the second half. He was played down the line by Ricky Garbanzo before tricking his way past his man and firing a shot toward goal, but the effort was saved.
But on 52′, the Riverhounds had a lifeline. The ball popped out to Rob Vincent, who was given time and space, and fired a speculative effort toward goal from all of 30 yards. The ball made its way through a crowd of bodies, which may have meant that Tambakis saw it late, but it arrowed into the bottom corner to make the score 2-1 and reduce the deficit.
The home side understandably threw a bit more at the Black and Yellow after that, and quickly fashioned another chance. A Cross by Kevin Kerr toward Corey Hertzog at the back post would have to be smothered by Tambakis who came quickly off his line, and the ball was cleared.
Heviel Cordoves would come off on 62′, to be replaced by Chris Tsonis for the Battery. Cordoves put in a pretty good shift, earning a well deserved rest, and Tsonis gave yet another attacking option to the visitors.
A 65th minute corner looked dangerous, but would be collected by Tambakis with not much fuss. However, the Riverhounds were coming into it a little bit more, and the Battery would have to turn the screw a little.
Chris Tsonis was booked for a foul only a few minutes after coming on after he grabbed ahold of a Pittsburgh midfield while trying to stop a counter, but nothing much led to the opportunity. Garbanzo was also booked a couple minutes later, meaning both strikers would have to be on their best behavior.
On 76 came the Battery’s best chance of the second half. Zach Prince would play a tasty ball with the outside of his foot on the edge of the box to Ricky Garbanzo, who spotted the ‘keeper a little bit off his line and let fly a speculative chip toward goal, which dipped at the last minute and forced the goalkeeper into a sprawling effort, and he saved with his left hand.
Naveal Hackshaw would have to be replaced due to injury by Shawn Ferguson with nine minutes left. Hackshaw had been down a few times in the game before that, and it looked as if the game had gotten to him.
Attaulah Guerra would then be replaced after he went down holding the back of his leg by Jose Nazereno with just a few minutes to go. With Guerra just coming back from injury, Battery fans will hope that his injury wasn’t serious as it looked as if he was grabbing his groin or hamstring area.
Into five minutes stoppage time, Nazereno’s pace would cause a problem for defender Sergio Cambpell, who brought him down on the edge of the box. Campbell was the last man back for Pittsburgh, and the referee adjudged him to have denied the striker a goalscoring opportunity, sending the defender off.
And with Pittsburgh down to ten men, the match played out to its conclusion, giving the Battery a hard fought three points.
The Battery’s next match is against Orlando City B on June 11th, with kick off at 7:30 at MUSC Health Stadium.
TOP IMAGE: Pittsburgh’s ‘keeper Hunter Gilstrap wins a ball in the first meeting of the year between the Battery and Riverhounds. Ross Almers Photography photo