Well. That was weird.
The Charleston Battery came from behind to claim a point at home off a 73rd-minute goal by forward Dane Kelly against the visiting New York Red Bulls Reserves.
And that’s probably the most mundane thing you can say about this match.
How strange was this game?
It was played in an unrelenting downpour that turned parts of the Blackbaud Stadium pitch into dead pools where casually struck balls spun in puddles.
It featured a Red Bulls penalty kick goal off a foul that occurred when Battery right back Jackson Farmer appeared to pull a New Yorker from behind to prevent a scoring opportunity. Not only was Farmer not ejected for a “last man” foul, the only card given on the play was a yellow that went to midfielder Zach Prince — for dissent.
It included a 22-man tussle after a dust-up between Kelly and Red Bulls captain Connor Lade at the Battery’s end of the field that resulted in the distribution of four yellow cards, two of which went to Red Bulls goalkeeper Ryan Meara, resulting in his ejection.
This produced the first first of TWO emergency goalkeepers for the Red Bulls. The reserve team had traveled without a backup keeper and scrambled to get Ian Christianson — a midfielder playing his way back into fitness after a foot injury — into a keeper’s jersey and gloves.
In stoppage time, Christianson — who had already made at least two clutch plays to preserve the draw — collided with Kelly in the six-yard box. Both men had to be carried off the field, and with no more players remaining on the Red Bulls bench, the team had switch the backup keeper’s jersey to a defender — possibly fullback Chris Duvall. I just couldn’t tell in the sideways rain.
But whoever that guy was, he stopped a shot on the Battery’s final possession in stoppage.
The Red Bulls finished the night with nine players on the pitch, while the Battery had 10 — thanks to a second yellow handed out to Battery Captain Colin Falvey in the 89th minute.
The starting lineup? That was weird, too.
Battery Coach Mike Anaheuser deployed a group that included Farmer at right back, nominal right back starter Quinton Griffith in midfield, and usual backups Aminu Abdallah and Andre Lewis in midfield. Usual starting midfielder Prince began the night on the bench, defender Shawn Ferguson never made it off the sidelines, and Amadou Sanyang, a fixture at defensive mid this season, spent the night in the stands.
To wrap up the oddness, the game was played in front of a stadium crowd that appeared to number in the hundreds. Yet the official attendance for the night was a whopping 2,674.
If you were one of them — or if you watched on the web — you know everything about this game screamed “anomaly.” You also know that for the first time in the 2014 regular season, Charleston was by far the better team… even though the result was another draw.
Charleston out-shot the Red Bulls 17-6, and the scorekeeper gave the visitors credit for 10 saves.
Not only that, but the Battery finally got the last word — scoring the come-from-behind ultimate goal in the 73rd minute. The play began with a well-placed long ball from Prince, who spotted fellow substitute Heviel Cordoves one-on-one with a Bulls defender and played him over the top. Cordoves’ low cross went straight to Kelly at the far post, and the Jamaican put it in confidently.
Yet the story of this game might not really be the score, or the weather, or the ejections, or the penalty kicks given and not given. It might be nothing more than Kelly.
The team’s 2013 leading scorer was making only his second start of the year and had been a menace to New York all night. But when he collided with the keeper in stoppage and had to be helped off the field, the injury had the look of another block of missed time. Team athletic trainer Bobby Weisenberger said the first indication was a groin problem. The speedy forward has already missed more than a month this season with a strained hamstring.
Game wrap later this weekend.
TOP IMAGE: Man of the Match Dane Kelly throws up a spray of water as he battles a New York defender for the ball in the first half. Dan Conover photos.