The Charleston Battery booked their place in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the USL, eliminating the Ottawa Fury on penalties on Wednesday night.
It was the Black and Yellow’s first win in the USL Playoffs since 2016, and only their fourth away win of 2019. Kotaro Higashi opened the scoring following a nervous start from both sides, before Elhadji Mour Samb would equalize five minutes before half time.
The sides couldn’t be separated in the second half despite an end to end finish to the game, and extra time and penalties were required to decide a winner, where Jarad van Schaik would convert the winning penalty to cap off five perfect kicks from the spot to send the Battery through.
It was a nervous start to the match from both sides, neither team creating much in terms of clear cut opportunities, but the Battery, armed with what may have been their most attacking lineup of the season, would put their foot on the gas around halfway through the first 45, and would soon take advantage.
Kotaro Higashi would stay onside latching onto a long ball from deep and speed his way into the box before shooting across goal powerfully into the back of the net.
Though goalkeeper Callum Irving would get a hand to it, the ball would nestle itself into the upper 90′ to give the Battery an all important lead.
The Battery came out to attack the game, pushing high up the pitch and pressing every Ottawa touch, and they had a lead to show for it, and could’ve doubled their lead shortly after.
On 29′ a Zeiko Lewis cross found Arthur Bosua on the edge of the box, but the power on the cross and the distance from goal made the header that followed awkward for the striker, and the efforet was off target.
It took conceding the first goal and even more for Ottawa to wake up, and they did so after the first half an hour, which would end in scoring from their first real chance of the match.
A Carl Haworth cross would go all the way across the box, to be kept alive on the left by Onua Obasi, who cut inside and into the box as he laid off for the late run of Elhadji Mour Samb to finish first time.
The first half had taken awhile to get going, but following the Battery goal, Ottawa had improved exponentially and did indeed deserve to take their goal into the halftime break.
The second half began the way the first did, with both teams not wanting to give an inch, but it was Chris Mannella’s shot on 52′ from the home side that would go over the bar as the first real chance of the second period.
Christiano Francois would let a guilt edged chance go begging just before the hour mark when Ottawa were able to counter from an opposing corner with pace. The striker would do well to keep up with play and only had to apply the touch to put his team in front, but would instead misplay his first touch, giving Joe Kuzminsky time to smother and relieve pressure.
Midfielder Wal Fall would go agonizingly close for the home side on 61′, combining with the goalscorer Samb and shooting from the top of the box, but his effort would hit the bar.
Following the flurry of chances for the hosts, the game settled into a rhythm that suited the Black and Yellow, who allowed the Fury to have possession as they settled into a low block, before the Battery decided to go again as time expired.
As such, the final ten minutes were end to end, first with Kevin Olivera shooting over the bar from distance with seven minutes remaining.
Kuzminsky again would be called into action with three minutes left, with Ottawa capitalizing again on a cross that wasn’t cleared, and as the ball bobbled around, it would find its way into the path of Wal Fall, but Kuzminsky would shuffle back into his goalmouth to gobble up the low drive toward goal.
And that meant the game went into extra time. The Battery would make a sub to start the extra 30 minutes, Romario Piggott on for the goalscorer Higashi following a late second half sub of Vincenzo Candela coming in for Nico Rittmeyer.
And it was the Battery who created the first chance. In eerily similar fashion to their first goal, Dante Marini would beat the offside trap in the first three minutes after a long ball from midfield from Romario Piggott though unlike Higashi, he couldn’t apply the finish going low to the far post, but wide.
Extra time would play out much like the end of the second half, but Joe Kuzminsky would still have to be on his toes, denying Wal Fall at the doorstep with a point blank save after a Haworth free kick, which was cleared for a corner and gobbled up at Kuzminsky’s near post
The save took us to penalties, where Zeiko Lewis, Arthur Bosua, Dante Marini, Ian Svantesson and finally Jarad van Schaik would all convert as Ottawa’s goalscorer Samb would crack the bar, booking the Battery’s ticket to the next round.
The 5-4 shootout win sets up a date with Nashville SC in the Eastern Conference Quarter Final, The match is set for Saturday, October 26th, with kick off at 9PM.
Watch highlights of the Battery’s shootout win below:
TOP IMAGE: MATCH WINNER JARAD VAN SCHAIK CELEBRATES A GOAL EARLIER IN 2019. PHOTO CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY