The Charleston Battery were turned over on Sunday night in a loss in their first game since March to the Birmingham Legion by a score of 2-1.
It was a frustrating, stop-start game, punctuated by some very physical challenges that meant referee Kevin Broadley was a very busy man on the night.
It was also a new beginning for the Battery, being their first game at Ralph Lundy Field at Patriots’ Point, and despite the loss, there were positive signs for the Black and Yellow throughout the match.
However, they would indeed be forced to pay for that slow start, as in the 12th minute, Brian Wright was played in behind on the right wing, with the striker quickly making his way into the box, before finishing beyond Breno with a low driven shot into the opposite corner.
It was not the start the Battery wanted, but they had struggled to get an early foothold in the game, and so the goal was coming.
It wasn’t until the opening goal that the Battery started to liven up a bit, when on 19′, Zeiko Lewis would find midfielder Robbie Crawford at the top of the box, but his shot from distance was wide.
And then, on the half hour mark, a tidy bit of play which started from a Deshawon Nembhard throw-in to Crawford and back out to the left via Angelo Kelly gave the full back the perfect opportunity to find Lewis on the edge of the box. With a lot still to do, the forward opened his body up and hit a driving effort that beat Matt van Oekel to draw the home side level.
The goal was something that Lewis definitely has in his locker, and was what his team needed after such a frustrating start, something that he is no stranger to doing in Black and Yellow, and what a time to do it again.
The Battery felt like they had turned the game on its head on the stroke of half time, when a free kick earned by Nicque Daley was headed on at the back post by Logan Gdula and eventually found its way into the net, but the celebrations were cut short by the referee’s whistle, as he signaled for a foul.
And that’s how the first half ended. Despite the Battery’s slow start, the response to the goal seemed promising, and they could count themselves unlucky not to be in front.
The two teams came back from the half time break with the scores level, as the visitors would make their first change, as Prosper Kasim was replaced by Jaden Servania to give the Legion something different up front.
But it was the Black and Yellow who had the first chance of the second half, as a foul earned by Romario Piggott was fired on goal by Zeiko Lewis. The effort knuckled at the last second, but van Oekel was able to correct in time to save and push the ball over the bar for a corner, which led to nothing.
However, the visitors quickly found themselves up the other end on 53′, when Bruno Lapa found himself in space to take a shot from just outside the box, the effort would take a wicked deflection off the foot of Logan Gdula and beat Phil Breno in goal.
The Battery had started the second half the way they did the first, and it had let them down again. While there was definite improvement from early on, it was something the Battery needed to improve upon to find a foothold again.
But the Battery would restart with their tails up, determined to find another equalizer, and as we hit the 56th minute, the opportunity came from another set piece, played in from the right and headed away but only into the path of Gdula, who fired it in off the bar from a tight angle, but the referee would call it back for a handball, despite the ball seemingly going off of the defender’s head into the goalscorer’s path.
After 62′, a cross from the left found the head of Romario Piggott, as the effort beat the ‘keeper but cracked the bar.
Shortly after, Nicque Daley would lead a break down the left as there was men striding forward into the box, and while his initial pass would be too hard to find Zeiko Lewis, the striker caught up to the ball, went 1-on-1 with a defender on the left, and sent a pinpoint cross in for Piggott, whose second header in as many minutes would again only find the crossbar.
With just under a quarter of an hour left, a Robbie Crawford corner from the left would dangerously drop at the back post, but would meet no one in a Black and Yellow shirt and go out the other side for a goal kick.
With seven minutes left, another Battery corner from the same side would fall dangerously in the box, but would only find its way behind for another, which was wasted.
After 88 minutes, a Nico Rittmeyer cross from the left would be dangerously spun up off the floor by the Birmingham defense, forcing van Oekel to collect the dangerous ball, and the chance was gone.
As the game headed into the last minute of normal time, perhaps the best chance at the equalizer they so craved came as Robbie Crawford found himself in the box, took a touch, but couldn’t find room for a shot. Instead, he laid off for Logan Gdula, whose first touch was enough for defender Mikey Lopez to block his eventual shot away.
The home side had one last chance at a share of the points deep in stoppage time as Zeiko Lewis took a corner, but his out-swinger from the right was headed over the bar by Kyle Nelson.
So, after conceding two avoidable goals, having two called back, and otherwise failing to take the chances they did create, it was a frustrating first evening in their new home at Patriots’ Point.
However, there were positives to take in that they grew into the game and continued to keep their heads up despite the increasing aggravation of the night just not going their way.
The loss means that the Battery remain on three points in Group H, three points behind group leader Tampa Bay, but with one less game played.
The Battery will look to take the positives into their next game, on Friday, July 24th against Atlanta United II. Kick off at Patriots’ Point Soccer Complex is for 8PM, and the match will be streamed on ESPN+.
FEATURED IMAGE: PICTURED LAST YEAR, NICO RITTMEYER WAS A SECOND HALF SUB IN CHARLESTON’S HOME OPENER. ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY PHOTO