The Charleston Battery would leave it late, but an 84th minute free kick would be the difference in a hard fought battle with the Rochester Rhinos on Saturday.
There were changes made from last week’s draw against New York, as Quinton Griffith would return from injury, and Miles Robinson would partner Taylor Meuller as the center backs. while Skylar Thomas would slot in on the left for the suspended Obi Woodbine, and the same could be said for Naveal Hackshaw, who would accompany the goalscorer Justin Portillo in midfield, replacing Tah Brian Anunga, after he had accumulated five yellow cards.
A Rochester free kick in the fifth minute looked to be dangerous, but it was cleared away by the defense as the counter looked to be on, though it would eventually break down.
Some good buildup would find Romario Williams shortly after, whose reverse ball looking for Maikel Chang was just a little too strong and the ‘keeper would claim.
On 15′ Rochester would earn a corner, only to be cleared and come back in. The second clearance fell to the feet of Wal Fall at the edge of the box, but the shot was wide of the target.
On 25’, Darius Madison would shoot toward goal for the hosts, but Odisnel Cooper would save to his left as the shot lacked conviction with the striker going away from goal.
Shortly after, Romario Williams would be booked for the fifth time this season, meaning he would be unavailable for the match next week against Richmond.
On the half hour mark, Cooper would be forced into another save, when a cross from Michael Garzi found Jalen Brown, but his mishit shot was handled by the ‘keeper
Six minutes later came the Battery’s best chance of the first half, when Williams would latch onto a ball and play Kotaro Higashi in the middle. He couldn’t control the pass, which gave the defender time to get set and block the eventual shot. Higashi would pick up the rebound and pass back to Williams, but the control before the pass was given as a handball.
Then, on 38′, a long ball forward would beat Taylor Meuller and give Jalen Brown a chance for the home side, only for Cooper in the Battery goal to be equal to the effort.
On the stroke of half-time, Williams had a great chance to put his side in front when he connected with a cross at the front post, which he couldn’t quite redirect on frame as it went wide.
And that meant the teams would go in at the break deadlocked. The game took a little while to get going, but arguably, neither team may have wanted the interval to come, what with both sides creating chances late on in the half.
On the other side of the break, a Skylar Thomas cross would lead to a corner inside the first five minutes, but nothing would come of it.
Just before the hour mark came the next chance for the Battery, as a quickly taken free kick was played out to Maikel Chang and then into the feet of Romario Williams, who toe-poked the ball toward goal and looked for all the world to have broken the deadlock, only to have it cleared off the line.
On 62′ came a mixup in the box as two defenders for the Battery got succed in, and the ensuing shot was deflected behind for a corner, that was then cleared for a throw.
On 67′, the visitors made their first sub. Jarad van Schaik would replace Kotaro Higashi, who had that great chance in the first half that should’ve been buried, and he would hope his side wouldn’t rue the missed chance.
Rochester looked to pick it up at about the 70th minute mark, as they were still in the game after sitting back for large stretches, creating from corners and looking to put Cooper under pressure, but the defense stood firm.
And then, with six minutes left, came a good chance for the Battery at the other end.
A clumsy foul on the left corner of the box had Justin Portillo at the controls, with the big men coming up from the back. Portillo then used the big bodies as a decoy, playing the ball in low along the floor and past the goalkeeper, who was unsighted by the mass of bodies for the opening goal.
It’s not certain whether Portillo meant for the ball to go straight in or meant for it to take a nick off the attacker from a redirection, but they all count, and the Battery had a lead to defend going into the last five minutes.
It was kitchen sink time for the home side, though, and with four minutes of added on time, the Rhinos had time enough if they could find the good areas. Miles Robinson was in the way to plug up a passing lane before a cross could come in on the stroke of 90′, but the goal kick would go straight back to the home side.
And on 91′, Cooper didn’t claim a cross that he came out for, which gave the home side a great chance through Jalen Brown that looked destined to level it again, only for the captain Taylor Meuller to clear off the line.
The Battery then barely had time to catch their breath before Cooper had to make a reflex save to deny Brown from close range, but he wasn’t able to hold the ball, although Graf put the rebound over the bar.
The last chance came by way of corner in the 94th minute, but the Battery defense stood firm to clear.
And shortly after came the final whistle. The Battery won their first game in their last seven since July 1st, and their first win at Rochester since 2012.
Tbe Battery next face the Richmond Kickers on Saturday, August 26 at 7PM. You can watch it on MyTV Charleston or stream it on the club’s website.
TOP IMAGE: ODISNEL COOPER, PICTURED HERE IN A PREVIOUS GAME AGAINST THE RHINOS, MADE A NUMBER OF IMPORTANT SAVES ON THE WAY TO A HARD FOUGHT THREE POINTS. ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY PHOTO.