Charleston’s rough stretch of games continued Saturday as they failed to find a winner against a Montreal team that played a man down for the entire second half.
The teams drew 0-0, but it was a much better result for the team from Canada. FC Montreal is in 10th place in the East, and has a record of 4-12-3. Charleston has been in second for most of the season, but slipped to third after back-to-back losses last weekend.
Saturday presented a good chance for the boys in black-and-yellow to get back on track, and it seemed almost certain that Charleston would come away with the win on more than one occasion. But sports have a funny way of not always turning out the way you’d expect.
Montreal goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau saved a penalty kick in the first half, and his defense was able to not just withstand 45-plus minutes with one less player, but was often able to take the attack to Charleston and had a few chances to win the game themselves. Crepeau was named USL keeper of the week – the second time in a row the keeper opposing Charleston won that distinction.
With six days of rest after the last game and no game on the schedule until August 15, Charleston was able to put out a full-strength lineup.
However, towards the end of the game depth became somewhat of an issue. Forward Heviel Cordoves was unavailable because of an injury and midfielder Zach Prince was serving the second of his two-game suspension due to picking up his eighth yellow card of the season.
The Battery knew they needed to beat Montreal at home, so they went all out on the attack in the second half. But as the game went on, the attack became increasingly frustrated and naturally tired. Dane Kelly created most of the chances for Charleston, but he had to settle for long shots taken from the outside of the box.
Ricky Garbanzo was able to combine well with him in the middle, and Maikel Chang and Quinton Griffith played on the outside. Chang had a good game, connecting with teammates by using his great field-vision and touch. However, the final pass was lacking from the team.
Anhaeuser said it was a disappointing point, but his side would keep their heads up and regroup.
“We wanted to win and we were trying to put a few guys in there and see if we could get at them. Obviously it did get a little chippy and caused some problems with us,” he said.
The “chippiness” boiled over just before halftime. A foul was called on Charleston, some pushing went on and Ferguson ended up on the ground. Garbanzo walked towards Montreal’s Charles Joly, who shoved Garbanzo with both hands, throwing him down on the ground. Battery plays rushed to defend their teammate, and after a more lengthy discussion than you would think necessary, the referee sent Joly off with a straight red card. Garbanzo also received a yellow card for the incident.
Even the coaches were getting into it on the sidelines. Anhaeuser said the emotions may have affected the team.
“You’ve got to calm down, even myself included, and keep your focus. It’s very difficult when you pass it and play it in to be able to have that concentration and that last bit of execution,” he said.
Normally, Anhaeuser would have likely brought on both Cordoves and Prince for relief and to attack Montreal with fresh legs. Alternatively, Cordoves and Kelly could have worked together up top. But since they were not available Kelly had to go the entire 90 minutes.
Dante Marini came on for Garbanzo in the 71st minute to give Charleston a boost with his speed, and Austin Savage replaced Griffith in the 79th, but it was just not the Battery’s night.
Sebastian Thuriere, another second half substitute, nearly scored off a corner in the 71st minute but his volley was saved by Crepeau. It was arguably the best chance Charleston had all night. The team had a strong week in practice, Anhaeuser said, but it didn’t translate to Saturday’s game. Charleston has only scored one goal in the last four matches, and has been shutout for the last three.
“We did good in training this week and then tonight it was just frustrating. I think if we get one it’ll open the floodgates,” he said.
Montreal, meanwhile, was able to counterattack the Battery in the second half and nearly scored a winner. Cooper had to come out and make several big saves to keep the visitors off the board while his teammates pressed for a goal.
“We had plenty of chances but they were keeping three guys up and they kept us on our toes all game,” Anhaeuser said.
The Battery missed a huge opportunity to gain points on first-place Rochester, which lost for the first time this season to the Charlotte Independence, 4-2. The Rhinos had only given up six goals all season up until Saturday.
Charleston has lost to Rochester once and tied in the other meeting. The Rhinos remain in first place in the East with 43 points through 20 games. Louisville City FC is in second with 38 points, while Charleston is third with 35. However, the Battery has played 21 games while Louisville only 19.
Richmond (31 points), NY Red Bulls II (30) and Pittsburgh (28) have each played 20 games and round out the rest of the current playoff teams.
Long story short, Charleston needs to get back to its winning ways as the season draws closer to its end.
Charleston is off this weekend, then meets Saint Louis FC for the first time this season at home on Aug. 15. The next meeting is the following Thursday, hosted by the team from Missouri. Saint Louis is in ninth place with 22 points through 20 games, so they are a team that is still hoping for a playoff spot.
- This was the first game in the newly named MUSC Health Stadium. The name change from Blackbaud Stadium was announced on Thursday. Team president Andrew Bell did a Q&A on the deal on the Battery’s website.
- To commemorate the occasion, the game ball was delivered via medical helicopter right before kickoff. The helicopter landed at midfield and the pilot stepped out with the official ball.
- Attendance Saturday was a season-high of 5,638. Charleston is averaging 4,041 fans per game this season, which if it continues will be a new record. The team has never cracked the 4,000 mark. Last season it was 3,771, while 2008 has the current record of 3,991.
- Garbanzo will be suspended for the Aug. 15 match due to yellow card accumulation. Ferguson will have to miss a match if he picks up another yellow.
- Joly received a two-game suspension for his actions.
Top photo: Battery striker Dane Kelly tries to split two Montreal defenders Saturday. The defense was able to limit him to outside shots for most of Saturday’s game.