Heviel Cordoves wasn’t even supposed to play in Saturday’s game, but he came off of the bench with five minutes to go and scored a goal to salvage a much-needed point for Charleston against Saint Louis FC. He also cleared a ball off the line of his own net in the final minutes to preserve the 1-1 scoreline.
Cordoves was doubtful to play going into the game as he is recovering from an ankle injury. However, Battery coach Mike Anhaeuser didn’t have a lot of options when he found his team trailing late in the game.
Charleston outplayed St. Louis, yet found themselves behind after Jamiel Hardware beat goalkeeper Odisnel Cooper in the 60th minute. Despite controlling the ball, Charleston could not find the back of the net or create many chances. With time winding down, Cordoves got the call. He headed home the ball from a Justin Portillo corner kick in the 89th minute to save the Battery from losing its first home game since May 2014.
It was also the first goal for Charleston in four games. The last goal came in a 1-0 win over Wilmington on July 18. Since then, the Battery has lost 1-0 and had two scoreless draws. Anhaeuser said he wants his team to get back to scoring the first goal again, as it so often dictates how the rest of the game pans out.
“It was an absolutely huge goal to get us confidence going into next week because we play them again,” he said. “If we didn’t get it, you saw we were fighting and hitting the target but just not getting that goal. That should open up the doors for us.”
There were fireworks at the end of the game (not literally) as Saint Louis finished with nine men and saw a coach sent off. Oskar Gasecki was given his second yellow card of the night with seven minutes left in regulation, putting Charleston up a man. Then Kingsley Bryce received a straight red card for a studs-up tackle on Shawn Ferguson in stoppage time, and one of the assistants for the visitors was red-carded for something he said to the referee.
Battery man Ferguson and Saint Louis’ Mike Ambersley each received yellow cards for an altercation later in stoppage time, which means Ferguson will miss the return game Thursday because of card accumulation.
The Battery’s starting lineup featured a couple of interesting tweaks due to various players being unavailable. Ricky Garbanzo usually starts in midfield, playing behind the forward, but he was serving a one-game suspension for yellow-card accumulation. O’Brian Woodbine was out with an injury and Austin Savage is most likely out for the year with a severe ankle injury.
Sebastian Thuriere got the start and was paired up top along with forward Dane Kelly. It was an unusual role for the Haitian national team player, who is normally deployed as a defensive midfielder. It was even more interesting considering that Memo Rodriguez was on the field at the same time. Rodriguez, who has been on loan to Charleston from the Houston Dynamo since the season began, played a deeper midfield role, where Thuriere has played this season.
When Garbanzo has started games, Rodriguez has often been used as a replacement as the two are similar players. Earlier this season Anhaeuser said that Rodriguez preferred to play further back, but was needed more on the attack. You’re not likely to see that exact lineup deployed again, Anhaeuser said, as it was more due to a lack of bodies than a shift in strategy.
“We could [use it again], especially on the road, because Seba did OK,” he said. “It was a little more defensive if you look at it, Seba drops in, but at the same time we’re getting Ricky back and Dane – and Cordoves being healthy gives us more options offensively.”
The switching around worked, for the most part. Thuriere’s strength gave the Charleston attack a good counter-balance to Kelly’s pure speed, and his defensive skills helped Charleston control the midfield. Rodriguez’s scrappiness works well in the midfield role when he needed to win the ball back. Team captain Jarad van Schaik played his usual role as a central midfielder, while Zach Prince started on the right and Maikel Chang on the left.
The back four did not see any drastic changes, as the two center backs, Taylor Mueller and Ferguson, were paired with Quinton Griffith on the right and Emmanuel Adjetey on the left. The defense was able to shutter the Saint Louis attack and had a relatively quiet night. The only shot on goal that Saint Louis recorded was the goal from Hardware.
60th minute GOAL St. Louis (Hardware, unassisted)
The opening goal came out of nowhere. Charleston was controlling the play when Saint Louis forced a turnover from Thuriere in the midfield. They quickly countered, and Jordan Roberts attempted a one-two pass with Hardware. Hardware’s attempt to lob the ball back to Roberts was blocked by Mueller and Ferguson, but the ball deflected right into the path of Hardware, who was now facing Cooper one-on-one. He had no problem finishing and making it 1-0 for Saint Louis.
89th minute, GOAL Charleston (Cordoves, aassisted by Portillo)
The three players who touched the ball before the goal were all second-half substitutions. Navion Boyd attacked down the left side and earned a corner for the Battery, which Portillo delivered to the near post. Cordoves was able to flick it behind him and into the net.
Just minutes after the goal, Saint Louis was awarded a free kick in the Battery’s end of the field. The rebounded shot attempt beat Cooper, but Cordoves was tracking back and was able to stop the ball with his foot and clear it off the line.
The two teams are back in action Thursday — against each other. This time the Battery had to fly out to Saint Louis. The quick turnaround after such a heated ending on Saturday should make for an interesting game.
The Battery had hopes of catching up to first-place Rochester last month, but after a poor run of results they are now fighting more for third place. Rochester is ahead of everyone with 47 points, while Louisville City is at 42 points and Charleston at 36. Richmond and the New York Red Bulls II have 33 points each, but have played one more match (23) than the top three teams. Pittsburgh, with 32 points through 22 games, is currently holding on to the sixth and final playoff spot in the East.
Thursday’s game is the start of the Battery’s longest road trip of the season. They will play Louisville City FC Saturday, then come home for a week before going to Richmond the next Saturday, and finally Pittsburgh the week after that.
Then Charleston closes out the regular season at home with games against Louisville City (Sept. 12) and Charlotte (Sep. 19).
Top photo: Cordoves watches as the ball sails into the net to tie the game in the 89th minute for Charleston. Credit: Charleston Battery.