The Charleston Battery‘s problems in attack were laid bare Saturday, as they were beaten away from home by the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.
Both teams had their struggles in a very flat game, but it was the Riverhounds who were able to put it together in the last 20 minutes, with Kenardo Forbes supplying Steevan Dos Santos at the near post from the left for a goal that would give the hosts all three points.
The Battery would make six changes to the team that drew with Swope Park in midweek, and it was Phil Breno in goal that would make the first save of the evening on eight minutes.
It was Thomas Vancyazeele who would create it, getting into space on the left of the area and reaching for far post, but the effort was right at Breno.
The night would then take a turn for the worse a short time later, when Leland Archer would come off injured, to be replaced by Vincenzo Candela. This forced some movement along the back line. After missing the game in midweek through suspension, Kyle Nelson would shift to center back alongside Jarad van Schaik, with Tah Brian Anunga going to right back, and Candela slotting in beside Angelo Kelly
The bulk of the Battery’s chances came through set pieces, and the Battery earned a corner after 24′, but it was cleared before it caused any danger.
With 29 minutes gone, a Battery free kick was played into the box, and Nelson, up from the back, would rise highest, but put his header over the bar.
Phil Breno was again forced into action on 33′, though he would fail to deal with a cross from the left, his punch lacking length and height, and instead falling to the feet of Kenardo Forbes, but the ‘keeper was alive to the effort and held onto the shot taken along the ground.
The rest of the first half played out like a war of attrition, and the scores were level at the break. Neither team created enough clear cut opportunities in the first half, and it showed. Both teams were, however, known for their defensive styles, but the points were important to each of them for different reasons, and the game had to liven up if they were to separate themselves.
Shortly after the break, the Battery would earn a free kick from the left edge of the box, that was cleared away by a Pittsburgh defender for a corner. The ball would bounce around dangerously before the home side would reset and begin a counter, but it would break down at the last, and the danger was averted.
And then, on 67′, Breno would fail to clear another cross, this time almost putting his punch onto the head of winger Kevin Kerr, but luckily for Breno, the header went wide.
But just three minutes later, the breakthrough would come for the hosts. It was well worked down the right side, with Billy Forbes crossing in hard and low. The chance would miss Neco Brett, but Steevan Dos Santos would pick up the pieces to put his side in front.
It had been coming, and the Battery weren’t at their creative best for the majority of the game to that point. In the end, the pressure, and possibly fresher legs, told, and the Battery were behind.
Dante Marini had been planned to come on before the goal, and he replaced Attaula Guerra following it, looking to provide a spark, but now, it was to help his team get back into the game.
Pittsburgh remained a tough nut to crack, but it was the substitute who would come closest late on.
Inside three minutes of stoppage time, A Jarad van Schaik free kick was wafted into the middle, and headed on at the top of the box into the path of Marini, but his arrowing shot toward the bottom corner went wide.
Marini then had an opportunity to equalize with the last kick of the game. A cross field ball found Romario Piggott on the right, who would lay off to Marini on the right edge of the area. The winger would turn into space, find time, and fire across goal, but it went wide as the half time whistle blew.
That was how it finished. The loss put a serious dent in the Battery’s playoff hopes, though with seven matches to go, perhaps the biggest loss of the night was that of Leland Archer, the second half of the Battery’s regular center back pairing. The Battery know that there are still points to play for, but cannot afford such an injury at this crucial stage.
The next hurdle in this vital quest for points will be on Wednesday, September 18th, as the Battery travel to Atlanta United 2. Kick off is at 7:30PM
PHOTO COURTESY ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY AND DESIGN