Maikel Chang‘s 83rd minute equalizer meant the Charleston Battery took a point from the final game of a three-match road trip Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.
The visitors would open the scoring when Miles Robinson climbed highest to meet a Justin Portillo corner early on, but Victor Souto would respond with a back post volley on 20′. Corey Hertzog would expertly bend one into the top corner from an improbable angle midway through the second half, before Chang would set up a give-and-go with Attaula Guerra, eventually slotting home with seven minutes left.
Miles Robinson would come into the side after replacing Forrest Lasso near the end of the loss in Tampa, while Skylar Thomas would slot in at right back. Quinton Griffith and Maikel Chang were on the flanks, while Portillo and Tah Brian Anunga were in the middle. Up top was the pairing of Naveal Hackshaw and Ricky Garbanzo, one that seemed a little odd, but showed effectiveness at times throughout the night. Last week’s standout Lagos Kunga was on the bench, as was Jarad van Schaik and Attaula Guerra, having both overcome injuries to feature in the 18. Heviel Cordoves and Kotaro Higashi rounded out the substitutes, meaning there was no shortage of viable options as has sometimes been the case this year.
Acclimatizing to the turf proved a bit tricky in the early goings, when Romeo Parkes would beat his marker Robinson to the ball and volley toward goal with an unorthodox over the head effort that went narrowly wide in the 6th minute.
A couple minutes later, it was Hertzog who would create a chance as he clattered the bar after holding his run up and staying onside, leaving the defenders confused, but the Battery would survive.
And not too long after, they found themselves in front. Another expert cross from a corner by Justin Portillo connected with Miles Robinson, who rose highest to power a header into the back of the net.
The goal perhaps came against the run of play, but having scored their first goal in three games after going scoreless in losses to St. Louis & Tampa, they weren’t too bothered. The assist for Portillo was his sixth of the year, breaking a tie for the team lead with Maikel Chang on five.
But unfortunately, the lead wouldn’t last. The game got a bit bogged down in midfield until Pittsburgh would force a corner of their own in the 21st. The set-piece got a little flick on before finding Victor Souto at the back post unmarked to volley home.
The defense were asking questions of each other, but would have to take joint responsibility for poor marking. In the end, no matter the confusion, someone has to mark the man, and leaving someone open at the back post was something that would frustrate coach Mike Anheuser to no end.
The Battery could’ve been back in front a few minutes later however, when a Portillo free kick again found Robinson drifting at the back post, but this time he was coming down by the time he latched onto the ball, and the shot lacked power.
The ball would ping itself into a dangerous area for the home side just past the half hour mark, which would eventually fall to a Riverhounds attacker, but his shot on the turn from just outside the box would be right at Tambakis.
Maikel Chang led a counter on 33′ where he could’ve taken a shot himself, but instead sprayed wide to Quinton Griffith, who laid off for the onrushing Justin Portillo. His effort toward the bottom corner was saved, as it seemed as if the Battery’s recent struggles to find the perfect pass were settling back in.
They would keep applying pressure though, as, soon after, Ricky Garbanzo won the ball high up the pitch in a tackle before laying off to Naveal Hackshaw, who perhaps had a little more time, but dragged his shot wide.
On 41′ Tambakis would do well to claim a dangerous ball in the middle of the box before a Riverhounds attacker could pounce, as the end of the first half went started to go back and forth.
A couple minutes later came a chance at the other end as Quinton Griffith sent a bouncing through ball to the feet of Ricky Garbanzo, who sent it just inches over the bar.
And that’s how the first half ended. It was an entertaining first half, and there was much to play for. The Battery could be happy that they’d ended their mini goal drought, but there was still work to do.
The second half started as the first one ended, the home side creating little half chances, Washington sending the ball dangerously across the face, but no one would claim. While at the other end for the visitors, Taylor Mueller would snap a stooping header toward goal, only for it to narrowly go wide of the far post.
Corey Hertzog forced a handball on 56′, but the ensuing free kick would be cleared out of danger.
However, Hertzog wasn’t to be kept quiet. A throw in on 61′ wasn’t dealt with defensively, and the striker took advantage of the ‘keeper expecting a cross to fake him out and bend one into the far corner and in.
Whilst the defending was slack in trying to close the man down, no one would’ve expected a shot like that, partially because it requires a ball to be so well struck to attempt it. But nevertheless, the Battery were behind, and had again to pick themselves up.
The boss’s response to this was to throw on the big guns. He made a double switch not too long after, bringing on Attaula Guerra and Heviel Cordoves.
Guerra would quickly make his mark on proceedings, linking up play quicker and getting into better spaces on and off the ball, which is something the Battery had missed since he’s been out with a recurring thigh problem.
On 76’ came a great chance, when Guerra would turn his man and play an incisive ball in toward Cordoves, who couldn’t stretch out enough to make contact to equalize.
Three minutes later, Guerra would again create, getting a flick on from a Battery Free kick, which was saved.
Chang would receive the ball and take a shot from the left shortly after, but it wouldn’t trouble the ‘keeper and went wide.
Kotaro Higashi would be the Battery’s final sub, replacing Tah Brian Anunga with 10 minutes left. The thought being that perhaps Guerra would go further forward to partner Cordoves, while Higashi would go wide, and Chang more central to become a little more creative. It made sense given the Battery’s predicament, and it was surely all hands on deck for the visitors.
Tambakis was forced into an important save from distance on 82, but conceded a corner that was eventually cleared.
And it was possibly made more important by what would happen next. Maikel Chang and Attaula Guerra would play a 1-2 at the top of the box, which resulted in Chang going free of his marker and smashing it in far post for the equalizer.
A breath of relief seemed to sweep through the side as two of the main attacking influences would combine, but the work wasn’t done just yet.
Chang had a shot blocked and forced clear with roughly three minutes to go, as the Battery looked for a winner now at the death.
But the home side would force a corner, which was taken short and played in only for Tambakis to collect with two minutes of normal time to go.
Three minutes of stoppage time were signaled by the referee, and Pittsburgh would earn another free kick in the 91st, but the set piece was again collected by Tambakis.
Shortly after, the final whistle blew. The Battery can be pleased with the result, having stopped a two-game losing streak, and playing much better than they had in the two previous games, with more possession and more creativity.
The Battery next return home Saturday, July 29 to play Orlando City B. Kickoff is at 7PM, and you can watch the match on MyTV Charleston or stream it at the club’s website.
TOP IMAGE: MAIKEL CHANG’S 83rd MINUTE EQUALIZER GAVE THE BATTERY A POINT IN PITTSBURGH TONIGHT. PHOTO CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY PHOTO