Three days after bunkering down in the second half of a U.S. Open Cup loss in Utah, the Charleston Battery opened things up, traded shots with a resurgent Pittsburgh club, and left town with a 1-1 road draw.
It wasn’t quite the same “win-ugly” road template that worked for Charleston back in early May, and with the Battery actively looking for goals, Saturday night’s match wound up revolving around rookie Cuban goalkeeper Odisnel Cooper.
In his previous 11 league starts, Cooper had never been credited with more than four saves. He had that many already by the 64th minute, when Cooper’s great reaction-save at the near post kept the Riverhounds off the board.
He would keep Pittsburgh scoreless until the 71st minute, when Cooper charged forward to try to take corner kick at its apex. Unfortunately for the Battery, Cooper collided with a group of players going for the header. With the keeper knocked to the ground, Pittsburgh scoring ace Jose Angulo barely managed to get his forehead onto the ball, and his well-played but weak shot dribbled into the empty net.
Angulo’s seventh goal of 2013 equalized a beautiful effort by Charleston midfielder Jose Cuevas, who once again started on the wing in the Battery’s standard five-midfielder set. In the 37th minute, left back Emmanuel Adjetey got the ball ahead to Cuevas running the central channel. After bring it down with a brilliant first touch, Cuevas poked the ball ahead once before striking it beautifully from just inside the box.
It was Cuevas’ second goal in two league matches, and also his second goal of 2013.
The home side kept pressure on the Battery after the first goal, and generally controlled pace and possession. But the Battery also had its chances — and none was more spectacular than their sudden attack in the waning seconds of the first half. Cuevas spotted his opposite number, Zach Prince, open on the right side Pittsburgh’s box, and launched a slide-rule pass that crossed the field and caught Prince in stride. Prince’s volley-pass back to the center found Nicki Paterson all alone, but his header drifted wide of right post.
Coach Mike Anhaeuser managed his players’ legs in the second half, looking ahead to a Sunday afternoon match at Rochester. But even with Pittsburgh pushing for a game winner, Charleston managed to threaten in the final seconds, with a stoppage time corner kick that ended the game on an anticlimactic note.
Pittsburgh – which hasn’t lost a league match since its visit to Charleston on April 27 — out-shot the Battery 15-12.
Charleston plays Rochester tomorrow afternoon at 4 p.m. and from a local perspective that means we’ll see you at Molly Darcy’s, where a good little crowd of loyal fans gathered on Saturday. Game wraps to follow on Monday.