The 2019 season is over for the Charleston Battery after a 3-1 loss to Nashville SC on Saturday.
Despite a spirited defensive performance, the Battery could only muster one shot on target, which came from Zeiko Lewis’s equalizer from the penalty spot after Lebo Meloto’s opener in the 10th minute.
The game was only level for a matter of 10 minutes before Daniel Rios would put the home side back in front two minutes before the break, and though Joe Kuzminsky and co. kept the Black and Yellow in the game for most of the second half, a superb individual effort from Derrick Jones made sure of the Battery’s ticket home with two minutes left.
The evening started disastrously for the Black and Yellow, when in the 9th minute, a loose pass from Kyle Nelson was intercepted and immediately passed into the path of Lebo Meloto, who finished smartly to put the hosts in front.
The Battery had barely gotten their feet under them and were already a goal down. Early on, it had the look of a really bad night, and though they were able to collect themselves and go again, there was still some kinks to be ironed out.
The top scorer in the East, Daniel Rios, would be on the end of a cross from the right on 15′ that forced Joe Kuzminsky into his first save of the evening to deny Nashville a second.
AJ Paterson laid his body on the line four minutes later to block a Meloto shot before Alan Winn would again force Kuzminsky into a sprawling, reflex save, conceding a corner, though it was eventually cleared.
On 24′, following an initial corner that was cleared, Winn would go close again, this time from distance, though it would go high and wide of the target and out for a goal kick.
And then, after 35 minutes, a lifeline for the visitors. Nico Rittmeyer would be fouled in the box by a wild swing of a boot from former Battery defender Forrest Lasso, and the referee would waste no time in pointing to the spot.
This gave Zeiko Lewis the chance to equalize from the spot, and he buried the opportunity to the ‘keeper’s left to level things at 1-1.
It came out of nothing in particular, but the Battery would take what they could get after a poor start, and it was game on again.
But Nashville would turn the screw on the Battery, not deterred by losing their lead, and with two minutes to go in the half, would find themselves back in front.
An Alan Winn cross would be sent on goal from the top of the box by Taylor Washington and deflected away for a corner. An outswinging ball would be missed at the front post, and instead find the head of Daniel Rios, whose downward header beat the backtracking Kuzminsky to give Nashville the lead again.
For the Battery, it was tough to take. The visitors had to be thinking about getting the game to the break level, and then regrouping from there for the second half, but any plans that Mike Anhaeuser had for the teamtalk would go out the window giving up that goal from a set piece.
Following the break, the game was almost level again when AJ Paterson’s low drive from the right beat Matt Pickens in goal, but would only cannon off the post and away, the Battery’s first real chance since their penalty.
On 58′, Kyle Nelson would find the ball at his feet on the left of the Battery penalty area before a Nashville attacker would challenge him for the ball and appear to strike the full back in the face with an elbow, only to have the free kick go in Nashville’s favor. Luckily for the Battery, nothing came of the opportunity as the set piece was cleared.
Nicque Daley would come on for the Battery after 67′, replacing Nico Rittmeyer, who won the Battery’s penalty. Daley had shown a late season spark with his ability to make runs and take players on, and the Battery were in desperate need of a shot in the arm.
With nothing to lose and the season on the line, Kyle Nelson was replaced by Dante Marini for the final fifteen minutes, switching the Battery’s formation to a 3-5-2 with Marini and Lewis as wing backs, Arthur Bosua and Daley up front as forwards.
Unfortunately the change in formation didn’t do much for the Black and Yellow, who required a point blank Kuzminsky save to keep them in the match on 84′, after another giveaway at the back left Rios in 1 v 1. However, Kuzminsky would stay big as the striker tried to ’round him, and the ensuing corner would be cleared.
But then, Nashville would get their insurance just four minutes later, as substitute Derrick Jones would beat the offside trap, latching onto a long ball and cutting in from the left, beating Angelo Kelly on his way into the box, and from the floor, finishing into the far corner to effectively end the Battery’s season.
It was a tough one to take. The Battery had worked hard to get to the playoffs, however, the troubles that plagued them through the regular season reared their ugly head again, and Nashville came away the better side on the night.
It will be an interesting offseason for the Battery ahead of 2020. The Black and Yellow have left their home of 20 years, and look set for another period of ins and outs, and so questions abound before we begin the new year. Fans will be advised to stay tuned.
TOP IMAGE: KOTARO HIGASHI FIGHTS FOR A BALL AGAINST TONIGHT’S OPPONENTS IN THE MATCH AT MUSC HEALTH STADIUM IN APRIL. ROSS ALMERS PHOTO