The Charleston Battery missed out on a chance to take early control of top spot in Group H after a 2-0 defeat at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rowdies Friday evening.
The Black and Yellow had travelled to Tampa on the back of a 3-0 victory over Atlanta United 2, which put them on 6 points for the season, and was their first win at their new home at Patriots’ Point.
The hosts were two points clear at the top of the table, having played a game more, and the Battery had the chance to leap frog them if they could come away with three points.
It was a lineup we may come to see as pretty standard throughout the remainder of the season, with Phil Breno in goal, Leland Archer and captain Jarad van Schaik anchoring the defense, with Logan Gdula and Deshawon Nembhard as fullbacks. Angelo Kelly and Romario Piggott were the two midfield anchors, while Stavros Zarokostas, Zeiko Lewis, and Robbie Crawford looked to provide for Nicque Daley up front.
It was incredibly unlucky both on the part of Archer, who had to put his body on the line, and Breno, who was beaten by a deflection with what looked like an easy shot to save for the second time in three weeks.
The two teams went into the break with stark differences in the way they needed the second half to go, but it was the home side that once again came out on the offensive.
The goalscorer Guenzatti beat the offside trap in the 55th minute, only to be denied a shot at goal from a 1 on 1 by Phil Breno, who took command of his area and collected the ball at his feet before calmly playing the ball out to Leland Archer as the Battery went on the counter.
Just moments later, the Battery began piling on the pressure. A Leland Archer pass took a couple of deflections and looped into the path of Stavros Zarokostas, but the midfielder couldn’t get any purchase on the header, in what would’ve been a fitting equalizer given the unlucky state in which the Battery found themselves behind.
On the hour mark, a Battery counter swiftly went back to front before once again finding Zarokostas, whose shot toward the far post took a deflection off of a sliding defender and went wide.
The Black and Yellow had a two on one going forward five minutes later, and eventually it was Zarokostas again with the chance, with the first touch playing him in stride, but his second touch was too far ahead of him and eventually allowed Evan Lauro to claim.
Zarokostas was then replaced by Dante Marini shortly after, and after a frustrating night, was given some words of encouragement from his manager before taking his seat on the bench. He’s looked lively since the restart but has yet to find the back of the net.
Yet more good build up play found the feet of Robbie Crawford at the top of the box, who shaped to shoot but was crowded out by no less than three defenders, before finding Romario Piggott, whose shot was toe-poked wide.
Arthur Bosua came on for Nicque Daley and Jay Bolt for Logan Gdula with 15 minutes to go.
And yet neither were able to make much of an impact. Jarad van Schaik was given his marching orders for a second yellow card following an intentional handball. Nothing came from the ensuing free kick, but this leaves the Battery without their second center back and captain for their next game, which is Wednesday, August 5th against Atlanta United 2.
Kyle Nelson replaced Romario Piggott as the Battery were now just looking to see out the game, but Tampa winger Malik Johnson came on with plans to run at a tired Battery defense.
In the 85th, Johnson made mincemeat of three Battery defenders and played the ball into the middle, but a shot went over the bar.
Then, with two minutes of normal time left to play, a ball sent long from the Rowdies keeper played Johnson in again, and this time, he went himself, beating Deshawon Nembhard at the front post before firing across Breno for 2-0.
The Battery had a corner from the left in the dying embers of the game, which Jay Bolt headed past the diving Lauro in goal to earn his team a consolation, but after deliberation with his assistant, gave offside. This decision was puzzling, as Bolt, who began the play toward the back post, was level with play as the ball was crossed in after the short corner, meaning he was onside.
And that’s how the game ended. It was another frustrating evening for the Battery, who once again had chances, but struggled to convert and paid the price.
The Battery face Atlanta United 2 on Wednesday, August 5th at Fifth Third Bank Stadium. Kick off is set for 7:30, with the game streaming on ESPN+
TOP IMAGE: FROM LAST YEAR, JAY BOLT FIGHTS FOR A BALL IN A GAME AGAINST THE ROWDIES. BOLT PLAYED