It was Patrick Okonkwo‘s goal gave the Charleston Battery a much needed win as they prevailed by a score of 1-0 over the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
Both sides had their chances to further the scoring on the night, but Joe Kuzminsky earned his 11th clean sheet of the year thanks to a stout defensive display by his teammates in front of him, and Okonkwo’s goal, his fourth in three games, was enough to see the Battery through for coach Mike Anhaeuser’s 200th win as manager.
A cross by Okonkwo as early as the 3rd minute looked to set things in motion early, but a Rowdies defender was able to clear in the shadow of his own goal for a corner on the right side that was eventually wasted.
Junior Flemmings, a bright spot in the two previous meetings this year between the two sides, took on Skylar Thomas for pace on the right before cutting in and looking to shoot, but Thomas remained strong and was able to block the effort away with a diving challenge before the effort troubled Kuzminsky.
Jay Bolt sped his way down the left in the 17th minute before taking the ball into the box and curling toward the opposite corner, but his shot was saved easily.
A Tampa free kick shortly after was cleared away before it could cause any danger to the Battery goal.
Hunter Gorskie would force Joe Kuzminsky into his first real save of the evening on 19′ from a header off of a corner that Kuzminsky stopped to his right.
But in the 22nd, Ian Svantesson would settle a headed pass from midfield before backing up against a defender and playing a through ball into Patrick Okonkwo, who sped past his man and through on goal before slotting into the corner off the post to open the scoring.
After going a little over two years without scoring a goal for the Battery, this was his fourth in 3 games, and his fifth of the season having scored one in the US Open Cup. His form comes at just the right time as well, hitting stride just as that final push for the playoffs begins.
A Tampa Bay free kick in the 33rd was well worked, and they came close to an equalizer as a Leo Hernandes cross beat Kuzminsky and found Sebastian Guenzatti, but he couldn’t control and the shot bounced wide.
That was Tampa’s best look at levelling the scores in the first half, with the Battery perhaps counting themselves a little lucky to still be in front. However, given the events of the past couple games for the Black and Yellow, they could say with relative certainty that perhaps a bit of luck was in order.
Shortly after the restart, Flemmings, who looked dangerous in the first half but had stayed down no less than twice, was replaced. He was again giving the Battery trouble down the wing, and no doubt the home side was happy to see his number pulled up, despite learning their lesson and being more physical with the attacker on this occasion.
Ian Svantesson would be replaced by Gordon Wild on 62′. While not creating much in front of goal himself, Svantesson did well at using his size to bring in his strike partners, Okonkwo and Kotaro Higashi, supplying the assist to the former that had his team ahead.
Joe Kuzminsky would have to deal with a dangerous looking cross on 65′ as Tampa went in search of the equalizer, but he’d be up to the task and danger was averted.
Kuzminsky would then be on his toes again on 72′, when initially, a Tampa corner was cleared before it would eventually find the gloves of the ‘keeper after a dangerous looking cross from the right.
On 74′, Kwadwo Poku would go on a mazy run before passing the ball off at the top of the box, and a shot would force Jay Bolt into a well timed block before an acrobatic effort with a bicycle kick was mishit and would eventually go wide.
Hunter Gorskie’s cross would expertly find the head of Sebastian Guenzatti on 78′, only for Guenzatti to head over the bar, wasting the visitors’ best chance of the half to find an equalizer to that point.
A cross from the right deep into stoppage time was Tampa’s last chance to find an equalizer, and although it fell in the box, a sign of imminent danger, the Battery defense threw themselves at the ball and would eventually clear.
And that’s how it finished. The Battery were able to collect the three points after what seemed like a very draining day at the office, but it would suit them down to the ground.
The Battery next face Charlotte Independence at home on September 15th. Kick off is at 7PM.
TOP IMAGE: BATTERY PLAYERS (IN BLUE FOR TONIGHT’S HOMETOWN HEROES NIGHT) CELEBRATE PATRICK OKONKWO’S EVENTUAL WINNING GOAL. ALL PHOTOS ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY