It was a tense affair Saturday night as the Charleston Battery prevailed over the Tampa Bay Rowdies in their first game at home in over a month.
In what could be described as a team effort, it was Attaula Guerra’s deflected strike on the stroke of halftime that ended up separating the two sides, but it was down to a great save from Joe Kuzminski off a header from a corner and a key block from Naveal Hackshaw to keep the visitors from stealing a point at the death.
In addition to the Battery’s first home game in a number of weeks, it was also the first opportunity to show the home crowd the club’s new home kits for 2018, having worn them for the first time in the away fixture in New York earlier this month.
As early as inside the first minute, Ian Svantesson, who opened his league account against Atlanta United 2 in midweek, forced a header on target, but the effort lacked power and was easily saved by Cody Mizell in the Rowdies’ goal.
With 10 minutes gone, Svantesson would this time play provider, setting Kotaro Higashi through to play a ball toward Attaula Guerra, who would just miss the ball and the chance would be cleared.
Guerra was against involved some eight minutes later, when he looked to take a ball in stride right in front of goal, but the bounce took the ball away from him and it went safely into the ‘keeper’s arms.
But on 23’, Tampa would find a chance through Leo Fernandes, who started a give and go and would eventually force a save out of Joe Kuzminski that led to a pair of corners, the latter of which found a free man at the back post for the visitors, but the header was wide.
The next real chance came when Taylor Mueller would rise highest to meet a corner at the back post from a corner roughly ten minutes from halftime, but it wouldn’t test Mizell in the visitor’s goal as it went wide.
But then, just as the first half looked to be over, Naveal Hackshaw found Attaula Guerra with a well timed ball from midfield. The defender stayed tight to the man, but Guerra did well to use his strength to create the space for a shot, which took the slightest of deflections off the defender, just enough to wrongfoot the ‘keeper, who got the slightest of touches but was unable to keep the ball out of the net, giving the Battery the 1-0 lead at half-time.
The Battery could maybe feel like they should’ve been in front at the start of the second half, and yet the chances being missed were something they would have to hope wouldn’t prove crucial in the end.
Even still, the Battery continued to create. Kotaro Higashi played a give and go on the wing before cutting in and trying to find Svantesson peeling off his man inside the box, but the ball was just a little overhit and smothered by the goalkeeper.
Tah Brian Anunga would pull a shot wide after an hour from a corner that was pulled back into his path after an initial clearance in something not dissimilar to a chance he buried early on last season against the Rowdies.
Just a minute later, Nico Rittmeyer’s cross found Ian Svantesson, but the striker couldn’t control and the chance was wasted.
Gordon Wild would soon replace goalscorer Guerra, himself fresh off a brace that separated the Black and Yellow and Atlanta United 2 in midweek, giving Guerra a well deserved rest while fresh legs and another goal threat came on for the home side.
And shortly after, a Rittmeyer cross would be half-cleared only for it to fall to the feet of Wild, who would put his shot wide.
For the final ten minutes, as Tampa became desperate, they threw everything at the Black and Yellow, and would create many dangerous opportunities as they searched for an equalizer.
On 89′, the Rowdies had a corner from the right which found an attacking head at the front post and faced a good save from Joe Kuzminski in goal, who would smother to make sure there was no chance of a rebound.
But the danger wasn’t over yet. Neviel Hackshaw would have to be forced into an impressive last ditch block in the middle of the box in stoppage time before the final whistle blew.
But eventually, the final whistle would indeed blow, giving the Battery their third win of the season, but their second in the space of a week, as well as their second clean sheet in that time.
The Battery next welcome rival Charlotte Independence on May 5th. Kickoff is at 7PM. The match will be televised on MyTV Charleston, and also available to stream on ESPN+.
TOP IMAGE: ATTAULA GUERRA’S SHOT SNEAKS INTO THE FAR POST TO GIVE THE BATTERY A LEAD AGAINST THE TAMPA BAY ROWDIES. PHOTO CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY.