In what was an extremely difficult, hard fought match, the Charleston Battery would share the spoils with the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Saturday, rescued by Ian Svantesson.
It was the first ever edition of the No Quarter Derby, a fan competition between the Regiment and Ralph’s Mob, the teams’ two Supporters’ Groups, which will be contested in the second meeting between the two teams in August as well as tonight, while the winner will be decided on aggregate score of the two games.
The visitors came in on short rest, after an extra time loss in the US Open Cup to Atlanta United, while Tampa Bay had their 13 game unbeaten run in USL Championship play, a run they had been on since the start of the year, snapped by North Carolina FC.
The Black and Yellow switched formation from a 3-4-3 to a conventional 4-4-2, with Arthur Bosua and Nicque Daley up front, while Romario Piggott and Kotaro Higashi moving deeper to the wings, as Vincenzo Candela and Angelo Kelly occupied the midfield.
Though the home side started as if they were going to come back with a vengeance. A succession of corners penned the Battery in their own penalty area early on, with both Brandon Allen and Zack Steinberger going close to opening the scoring, but the visitors’ defense stood firm.
For much of the match, the Battery’s best opportunities came via the counter following the Rowdies’ missed opportunities, and Kotaro Higashi found himself with a chance inside the six yard box that was saved by John McCarthy, but a rebound at the top of the box would roll out to Vincenzo Candela, whose first time effort would require a tip over the bar from the Tampa ‘keeper.
Caleb Richards would then find Brandon Allen on 24′ in the middle of the penalty area, though his header would go over the bar without troubling Joe Kuzminsky in the Battery goal.
But then, after 39′, Sebastian Guzenatti would find himself on the end of an intricate piece of buildup play, which he started at the top of the box, to slot past Kuzminsky to open the scoring.
With the Battery struggling to find an outlet ball, the goal had been coming. It was a struggle for the Black and Yellow to get out of their own defensive third, and they paid the price.
The Black and Yellow would go in at half time down at the break, and it was tough to concede so late in the half after holding out for so long. Though there was 45 minutes to play, and all was not lost.
But the visitors would create early in the second half. Nicque Daley would intercept a pass out of the back and use his speed to get away from a defender before forcing a save to the left of McCarthy.
Joe Kuzminsky was forced into a save at the other end on 56′, when David Najem would lay the ball off to the goalscorer, Guzenatti before his effort on the turn was parried away by the Battery stopper.
The visitors grew into the game a little as the Rowdies then looked to see out the game, not nearly as threatening as the opening minutes of the first half especially, and it was by their own free kick that the Battery would have a chance on after 64′.
Kwadwo Poku would lay the ball off from a free kick in a dangerous position for the home side, but Romario Piggott stole in as the move took too long to maneuver and off the Battery went, Piggott playing Daley, with speed to make his way into the box. He then picked up his head to find Vincenzo Candela, but he scuffed his shot wide.
A Zack Steinberger free kick would be deflected into the arms of Kuzminsky on 72′ as the Rowdies once again looked to have gained a foothold in the game.
Substitute Dante Marini would fashion a chance at the other end, forcing a save out of McCarthy on 75′, when he cut inside and shot all along the ground before the ‘keeper got down to his left to parry away.
And then came a guilt edged chance on 79′, from a corner that inexplicably found its way through McCarthy’s hands, but though it bounced in front of an open goal, no one, most notably Arthur Bosua, could turn the loose ball home.
The Battery felt it slipping away, when with three minutes to go, they earned a free kick on the left side just inside their own half. The big bodies went up, and the flick on was won by a Battery shirt, which bounced down in front of Ian Svantesson, who contorted his body just enough to get a toe poke on it to redirect it over the line.
It was totally against the run of play, but the Battery were back in it. The away side had fashioned a goal from sheer persistence alone, and the scores were level.
But the Rowdies could have been back in front just as quickly. The Battery were quickly on the back foot again, and a cross low from the left to Zack Steinberger had Kizminsky out scrambling, but the effort went wide.
Four minutes of added time were signaled, but eventually the final whistle blew and the points were shared.
Some will say that the Battery didn’t deserve the point they got, though their performance in the later stages offered plenty of chances, and has been the case for the Battery themselves this year, Tampa were guilty of not putting the game away when they had the chance.
The Battery next face Swope Park Rangers on June 22nd at MUSC Health Stadium. Kick off is at 7PM.
TOP IMAGE: TAH BRIAN ANUNGA FIGHTS FOR A BALL IN LAST SEASON’S MEETING BETWEEN THE SIDES. CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY