Zeiko Lewis was the man for the occasion as the Charleston Battery prevailed over Group H leaders the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Saturday.
Once again in front of a COVID restricted sold out crowd, the Battery remain in the fight to earn a first place berth in the Playoffs, with the gap between the Black and Yellow and the Rowdies cut to just three points, while Charleston have a game in hand.
The first half was fairly even, but the home side created a first opportunity straight from kick off, with the eventual goal scorer Lewis receiving a pass from the left and shooting on the turn, but the effort was just a bit tame as it rolled into the arms of Evan Lauro in goal.
A Logan Gdula cross from the right on 21′ would eventually find AJ Paterson on the opposite side of the box, and after a touch to control he would blast his shot high over the bar.
The visitors’ first big chance came two minutes before the break, when Sebastian Guenzatti’s headed effort from a cross from the left went harmlessly wide as it lacked power with the forward backpeddling.
The half ended all square, with neither team creating too many clear cut opportunities, but looking decent up until the final third, where both lacked a bit of cutting edge.
Tampa created the first chance of the half, as Leo Fernandes lined up a free kick just outside the box. It had Joe Kuzminsky in the Battery goal shuffling across, but sailed high over the bar and out for a goal kick.
And then, on 53′, Angelo Kelly would fight to win the ball back, taking the ball the other way and eventually finding Mauro Cichero near the top of the box. The midfielder would then connect with the run of Zeiko Lewis, who surged into the box, leaving the covering defender flat footed before using him as a decoy and slotting the ball home to put his side in front.
The Battery had been creative all night, but were the first of the sides to connect between the buildup and a solid opportunity, and they earned their reward with the lead.
The Battery then began the hunt for insurance, and a Leland Archer long ball down the channel started an attack after 73′, and substitute Arthur Bosua would play a low cross back toward the middle of the box from the right, combining with fellow sub Dante Marini, but he couldn’t keep his shot down.
Tampa took initiative following the miss and would come out a little bit more as time began winding down. With eight minutes of normal time remaining, former Battery defender Forrest Lasso would connect with a Rowdies corner and send a headed effort over the bar.
And that’s how things would finish. The Battery would move within three points of their opponents, while holding a game in hand. the win eliminated Atlanta United from playoff contention, while last place Miami FC are still in the hunt, having only played nine games.
The Battery face that Miami side at Patriot’s Point at 6PM on Sunday, September 20th. You can stream the Match on ESPN+.
FEATURED IMAGE: BATTERY PLAYERS CELEBRATE ZEIKO LEWIS’ GOAL AGAINST THE TAMPA BAY ROWDIES. CHARLESTON BATTERY/BEN CLEMENS PHOTO