The Charleston Battery and Indy Eleven were made to settle for a point each after a nail-biting 3-3 draw at Lucas Oil Stadium.
After a sleepy start, a pile-driving Soony Saad free kick in the 40th minute took Indy into half time with the lead, before goals from Obi Woodbine and Attaula Guerra looked to turn the tables. But the home side came back again through two goals from Ayoze Garcia, the first from a penalty in the 84th, the second a free kick at the start of stoppage time before Tah Brian Anunga equalized at the death for the visitors to secure a point.
The early going was slow and choppy as both sides looked for an opening, with most of the play stuck in midfield, but Soony Saad would have the chance to open the scoring on 40′.
A foul about 35 yards from goal gave Saad the chance, something the Battery needed to be aware was in his locker given that he had previous of such a feat, but Joe Kuzminsky’s wall split apart as the shot was taken and the ball flew into the top corner for 1-0.
Pretty soon, the half time whistle blew, and the Battery would have to regroup if they were to get anything out of the game, not able to remain as passive in the second half if they were going to find a way back.
But then, just past the hour mark, the Battery found what they were looking for. It came from a bit of luck, as Kotaro Higashi would link up some solid build up play from Gordon Wild, only for his shot to be deflected before wingback Obi Woodbine found himself in space to calmly collect and slot it home to equalize.
The game had opened up more in the second half, and it was a deserved equalizer. There was still time, of course, to put the foot on the gas, and with their tails up, anything seemed possible.
A free kick for the Black and Yellow in a dangerous spot on the left edge of the box shortly after looked destined to find Skylar Thomas in the middle, but a header away in front of goal led to a corner, which came to nothing.
And Attaula Guerra left a ball for Neveal Hackshaw on the overlap only for the ball to be too strong off the turf and go out for a goal kick.
After 79′, what seemed to be a fairly standard foul led to a free kick for the Battery. As the referee was taking the note down and calming the tensions, Indy striker Jack McInerney would appear to slap Battery midfielder Vincenzo Candela across the face. Candela went down holding his face, and the ref issued a yellow card. The rules clearly state that a player is not allowed to put his hands on another player in this manner, and a red card should’ve been given. McInerney will serve a one game suspension for accumulation after picking up his fifth yellow card, but this is definitely one for the disciplinary committee to look at.
And on 80′, came a goal that seemed in the cards, as, eerily similar to his equalizer against Nashville at the weekend, Guerra received a pull back at the top of the box for a tidy little finish into the opposite corner, this time from Nico Rittmeyer, to give the Battery the 2-1 lead.
But that was when the fun began.
A bouncing ball in the 84th led to some slight confusion and allowed McInerney to go up against Skylar Thomas with the ball in the air, and the striker would go down under a challenge with the referee pointing to the spot for a penalty.
The bounce off the turf gave the striker the chance to jump for the ball, but the defender’s eyes seemed clearly on the ball as they both fought for possession, with McInerney losing out. The Battery players could also feel rightly aggrieved that in addition to the admittedly soft spot kick, that McInerney shouldn’t have even been on the pitch at the time of the incident.
Nonetheless, it was Ayoze Garcia who took, and scored the tying goal with a little over five minutes to go.
The Battery would feel hard done by to be leaving with a point, but soon, it would get worse. A foul was given away at the top of the box, which gave Garcia a good look at goal about 25 or so yards from the target, and he would find the top corner for the second free kick goal of the match to give his side the lead.
While they could understandably feel that the penalty was a soft one, you couldn’t take much away from the free kick, which seemed fit to win any match in any country of football, and would have to hold your hand up and say that the home side just got the rub of the green on the day.
But luckily, the Battery hadn’t let their heads drop. With a minute to go in stoppage time, what started out as a fairly routine pattern of trying to draw their opponent out late on, became a driving run through midfield by Naveal Hackshaw, who would then find Attaula Guerra, who stayed composed and spotted Tah Brian Anunga running on and played the ball into space before the midfielder slotted the ball home to equalize once again.
Taking nothing away from either free kick, but knowing that the penalty to make the scores 2-2 seemed harsh at best from a player who should’ve received his marching orders before that, the Battery supporters might’ve thought that this was a fair result, whilst also hoping that after such late drama nothing else would turn a gritty performance from their side into something for nothing once more.
And while a shot from the box looked to trouble Kuzminski with what was surely the last kick of the game before it was blocked behind, the final whistle blew before a corner could be taken, giving the Battery a very hard earned road point heading into a weekend off.
And after all that drama, they’ll need it, coming up against Atlanta United a week from today away from home. Kick off is scheduled for 7:30.
TOP IMAGE: TAH BRIAN ANUNGA, WHO EARNED HIS SIDE A POINT TONIGHT, TAKES A BALL DOWN IN A GAME EARLIER THIS YEAR. ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY PHOTO