It’s always interesting when Charleston plays Wilmington, but Saturday’s game in North Carolina was a little … strange. The score ended 1-1 after an own goal by the Hammerheads in the 85th minute, and the game ended just as a massive storm was rolling in and sending tents airborne.
Charleston played a man down for over an hour: Forward Dane Kelly was sent off in the 26th minute after a collision with goalkeeper Andre Rawls. It was a similar situation to last week’s home game against Wilmington — the Hammerheads had a player red-carded in the first half — except in that game, Wilmington controlled the ball the second half and Charleston was lucky to escape with a win. Like the first match, however, the card didn’t swing the game drastically in any direction.
Saturday was the third of four scheduled meetings between the USL rivals this season and the Battery remains unbeaten in the series, winning 2-1 in Wilmington in April and 1-0 last week. Saturday’s draw was a big road point for Charleston, and a heartbreaker for a Wilmington team that very much needed a victory. The Hammerheads are 1-6-4 this season and have yet to win at home. The next match will be July 18 in Blackbaud Stadium.
Charleston finally had a full week in between games, so coach Mike Anhaeuser was able to field a first-choice lineup Saturday. The only player unavailable was Quinton Griffith. He has been out since having knee surgery on April 24, but when he is healthy, he should jump back into the starting lineup.
The Battery has enough depth that the team hasn’t missed a step even with one of the regulars out of action. This is how it looked Saturday: Odisnel Cooper was in the net with defenders Emmanuel Adjetey at left back, Shawn Ferguson and Taylor Mueller as the center backs, and O’Brian Woodbine at right back.
The midfield set up in the same configuration as in most games, with two midfielders staying relatively deep in their own end, while three more play higher up. Captain Jarad van Schaik teamed with Justin Portillo in the center, with Maikel Chang on the left, Zach Prince on the right and Ricky Garbanzo in the middle up top.
Garbanzo played underneath forward Dane Kelly. For 26 minutes, anyway. Kelly took a couple of touches into the Wilmington box and Rawls came out to grab the ball. The ball was too far ahead of Kelly and the keeper got his hands on it first and covered it up. Right as he did so, Kelly took a swing with his right foot. It was late, and he scrapped Rawls, who came out of the collision bleeding from a cut on his head. The referee showed Kelly a red card and Rawls’ injury forced him to leave the game. Larry Jackson took over as Wilmington’s keeper.
With Kelly’s sending-off, Charleston lost its sole forward. Garbanzo moved up the field to fill that spot and the midfield formed a four-man line with van Schaik and Portillo remaining in the middle. It was a new role for Garbanzo, and Charleston struggled to get anything going offensively. Defensively, however, Charleston was able to keep its shape and did well handling the Hammerheads’ various avenues of attack.
68th minute, GOAL Wilmington (Jane, unassisted.)
Wilmington’s goal came off a rebound from Christian Bassogog’s shot in the 68th minute. Bassogog, who was subbed on in the 56th minute, made a cutting run down the left on Charleston’s end. When he got to the corner of the box, he launched a ball towards net that Cooper was only able to parry. The rebound fell directly in front of Sunny Jane, who was able to head the ball into the open net.
Jane was being marked by Adjetey but was able to get just enough separation from the defender to have an easy header. It was a combination of a favorable bounce, not giving up on the play, and someone just finally shooting the ball instead of crossing it. The game was, let’s say, lacking in offensive prowess for most of the night. Charleston did a good job of defending and looking to counter, which is what they had to do since they were down a man.
85th minute, GOAL Charleston (Own goal, Fairclough)
Charleston had to make some changes once they went down by a goal. Garbanzo had been working hard up top, and likely stayed in as long as he did because he is able to defend and win the ball back. But with 15 minutes left and the team trailing, it was time for a true forward to come on. Heviel Cordoves replaced Garbanzo, and he nearly scored just seconds after coming on. He took a quick shot from the right side of the field, which trickled by everyone and deflected off the far post.
That wasn’t the only change Anhaeuser made. Forrest Lasso came on to replace Woodbine, prompting a defensive shift. Mueller went to right back, while Lasso took over in the center. The Battery used a similar setup against Wilmington last week. Mueller can play outside and is a threat going forward. Lasso, at 6-foot-5-inches, added another aerial threat for Charleston, which looked more likely to equalize on a set piece than from the run-of-play.
Navion Boyd also came on, replacing Prince at right mid, and he ultimately (kind of) had the moment that tied the game. With time winding down and the wind starting to pick up, Boyd used his speed to find space on the right side. He crossed a low ball into the box towards Cordoves, but Ashani Fairclough was in the space in between. He stuck out his left leg to stop the ball, but it didn’t go as he planned. The ball deflected off his leg and into the net past Jackson.
Charleston sensed a chance to pick up more points and put out some of its best attacking soccer in the final minutes, but it was to end in a draw as the tents around the stadium started blowing up and over as the storm rolled in. Adding to the ominous nature of the ending, the video feed cut off as soon as the game ended.
Coming up next…
The Battery is back at Blackbaud Stadium Wednesday to host the Richmond Kickers. It’s an important match between the second and third place teams in the Eastern Conference. Both teams have played 12 games, and Charleston has 23 points to Richmond’s 22. Rochester still leads the conference with 25 points, and has played one less game.
Rochester doesn’t play until Saturday, so Charleston could move into first place, at least for a few days, with a win. Three points would put Richmond level with the Rhinos, but they would need to blow Charleston out to have a better goal differential than Rochester. Currently, Rochester is +10, scoring 14 and only giving up four. (Yes, really!) Richmond’s is +7 (21 for, 14 against.)
If you’re wondering, Charleston’s is the same as Richmond, with slightly different numbers — 20 goals scored and 13 against.
Wednesday’s game begins at 7:30 p.m.
After that, the Battery has a week to prepare for its 4th round matchup with MLS team Orlando City in the U.S. Open Cup, which will be played at Blackbaud Stadium at 7:30 p.m. on June 17.
Top photo: Christian Bassogog dribbles between Charleston’s defense Saturday. His deflected shot led to Wilmington’s goal. Credit: Wilmington Hammerheads.