Joe Kuzminsky became the first goalkeeper in USL Championship history to save a penalty, notch an assist and record a clean sheet as he helped the Charleston Battery to a 2-0 win over the Charlotte Independence on Friday evening.
Kuzminsky came up huge for his side in the 25th minute after Logan Gdula conceded a penalty on the left of the box, but the goalkeeper guessed right as Sylvain Marveaux’s penalty was poorly taken to keep the scores level. Nicque Daley then rounded off a counter attack that he started before Joel Bunting put the icing on the cake, chipping the goalkeeper with virtually the last kick of the game from a free kick by Kuzminsky that he had launched down-field.
Despite the result, neither team created much in the first half. The striker Daley had the first shot on target after 12 minutes, when he at first looked to be clean through, but failed to take the ball under his control, relying on a quick pair of heels to retrieve the ball after a poor first touch, but made his way inside the box to aim a shot at Brandon Miller’s near post, but the effort lacked power and the goalkeeper was able to save easily.
And then, after 25′, Charlotte midfielder Adam Armour made his way into the box only to be tugged down by Logan Gdula. The referee pointed to the spot, and the Battery had to be thinking they would once again go behind to their rivals in what was their third meeting of the year.
Joe Kuzminsky had other plans. Sylvain Marveaux stepped up to the spot and went low to the ‘keeper’s right, but failed to hit the spot kick with enough power or accuracy into the corner as the Battery stopper palmed the ball around the post, which led to nothing.
And but for half chances, the two teams headed into the break without much of anything to say for themselves. Fans of both sides would have surely been wanting more from their team, and luckily for the Battery, things would begin to look up, but not before Charlotte had a chance of their own.
Six minutes into the second half, Leland Archer would be called into action to keep Enzo Martinez at bay, tackling the ball out for a corner after Marveaux set the striker through. The initial set piece was cleared for another, while the second would eventually fall again to Martinez, and Nicque Daley stayed firm to take the ball off of him as he broke forward.
Just across the half way line, Daley would then set an inch perfect ball for Zeiko Lewis, who ran onto it, watching the decoy run of Claudio Repetto take a defender away from the action before laying it back off for Daley. Daley then had only Brandon Miller to beat, doing so by just sneaking the ball under him after the ‘keeper got a hand to it, but putting his side up nonetheless.
It was a fantastic counter and one of the Battery’s best goals of the season so far, and was indeed vital.
But on 68′ came Charlotte’s best chance of the evening after marauding down the left wing, the ball ended up on the head of Enzo Martinez, who eventually found substitute Valentin Sabella, who forced a save out of Kuzminsky..
Angelo Kelly then won the ball high up the pitch on 72, before passing off to Logan Gdula, whose cross was headed away only as far as Temi Adesodun, whose first touch didn’t lend itself to the shot he was shaping up to take. Instead, the midfielder passed off to Daley, but his shot was blocked down.
And then, eight minutes from time, a cross from the left from the visitors somehow found its way to the other side of the area, only for Blake Pope to snatch at his effort from distance and put it high over the bar.
And then, in stoppage time, following a wasted Charlotte corner that ended up in a Battery free kick, taken long by Joe Kuzminsky and fell on the bounce into the path of Joel Bunting, who let the ball bounce in the box before lifting it over the onrushing ‘keeper and into the back of the net.
It was a nice nightcap for the Battery who were in desperate need of the three points, not only to find their way up the table, but to get past their rivals as well.
Joe Kuzminsky was voted man of the match for his display, while the Battery earned a hard fought three points. The win now puts them on 18 points, just below the playoff line, with a game in hand over Friday night’s opponents.
The Battery will next travel to Loudoun United, a match set for Tuesday, July 27th. Kick off is scheduled for 7:30PM, while the match will be available to stream on ESPN+.
TOP IMAGE: JOE KUZMINSKY MAKES A SAVE IN FRONT OF THE REGIMENT END FRIDAY NIGHT. ALL PHOTOS COURTESY ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY AND DESIGN