The Charleston Battery had a two goal lead twice, but were unable to stop a second half comeback from The Miami FC as they lost by a score of 4-3.
The Battery were coming in off of a bye week having had their game against Loudon United cancelled due to positive Coronavirus cases within the Loudon team. This meant that the deal was that if the Black and Yellow won their two remaining matches, they would win Group H, having already assured themselves a playoff berth.
The Battery were pressing the issue from the beginning. A ninth minute Stavros Zarokostas effort went perilously close and over the bar from a nice lay off from Nicque Daley, but it was a sign of things to come.
In the 12th minute, good build up from the Battery would fall to Zarokostas again on the right, who shot toward the far post and forced a save out of Mark Pais, but the ‘keeper could only put the ball back into the path of Nicque Daley, who punched in the rebound.
It was what the Battery needed given that the game was a must win, and no more than they deserved.
And just three minutes later, Daley could’ve had a second. A defensive mistake after a missed Battery pass left the striker clean through on goal, but Pais in goal would come out well to save on the edge of the box.
Joe Kuzminsky was forced into his first save of the game shortly after as a Miami free kick went into the wall and out for a corner. The set piece wasn’t cleared and would lead to a shot on the outside of the box, but Kuzminsky was equal to the effort.
Miami would grow a little but into the game after that, but another bad giveaway on the half hour mark on the right touchline would let Nicque Daley in again, and this time, he would take the chance, firing into the top corner and giving his side the 2-0 lead.
The two sides went into the break that way, with the Battery’s tails up having staked a claim for the number one seed in group H to go down to the final day.
But the home side did indeed have something to say about that fact, and still looked to play spoiler.
In that way, they had the first chance of the second half, when Miami were finally able to find space on the right, and Romario Williams would recieve the ball in the middle to pull a goal back.
It was exactly what the Battery didn’t want to start the second half. A bit of a scare to give them something to worry about with an entire half to go.
But straight up the other end, Stavros Zarokostas sent a great cross field ball to Logan Gdula, which opened up space for a searching ball into the box for the overlapping Robbie Crawford on the opposite side. The midfielder would take a touch and fire home to restore his side’s two goal lead for 3-1.
It was Crawford’s first goal of the season, and couldn’t come at a better time, to seemingly take the pressure off as the Black and Yellow needed the win.
On 51′ a Logan Gdula through ball would find Zeiko Lewis on the right, whose reverse ball for Zarokostas in the middle was redirected by the midfielder over the bar.
And they would rue the miss. The home side would earn themselves a corner from the right, and Vincent Bezecourt would find himself all alone at the back post as Logan Gdula was stuck to the woodwork, and Bezecourt’s downward header would creep its way in for another lifeline for Miami.
Joe Kuzminsky would save an effort from Romario Williams supplied by Brian James, but the ball would go out for a corner that was initially cleared off the line. However, Sebastian Velasquez would recycle the effort and finish near post.
Now, with the scores level, it was anybody’s game, and the closing 20 minutes would show that.
On 67′, substitute Dante Marini would cross toward the back post for fellow sub Arthur Bosua, but his diving header would go off the bar.
Then, with 15 minutes to go, Lloyd Sam would find Romario Williams, who would round Joe Kuzminsky, who did his best to tighten the angle the striker had to shoot, but Williams instead found Bezecourt, who laid out for the ball but couldn’t put it into the net.
And then, with less than two minutes to go in normal time, midfielder Prince Saydee found himself on the edge of the box and tried to power a shot across goal to win it, and while Joe Kuzminsky was equal to the initial effort, he could only parry it into the middle of the box, where Miguel Gonzalez picked up the rebound to shoot, and despite an attempted block on the line from Jarad van Schaik. he couldn’t prevent the ball from crossing the line, and the home side took a late lead.
It was heartbreaking for the Battery, but it came from a poor second half showing, and they were punished for it. First place in Group H looked gone for the Black and Yellow, who needed the win to force that final day showdown with Tampa Bay.
As it were, the game with Tampa still means something, as the Battery will need to pick themselves up after this game and enter the playoffs on a high. That game is scheduled for Saturday, October 3rd at 7:30. The match will be streamed on ESPN+.
Photo: Arthur Bosua goes up for a header in the Battery’s 4-3 to Miami courtesy The Miami FC