They’ve been playing for 22 years and 49 matches, and still Charleston and Richmond just can’t quite break loose from each other.
The the rivals entered Saturday night’s match deadlocked on an all-time series record of 22-22-4. And when the new combination of USL PRO acquisition George Davis IV and D.C. United loaner Collin Martin linked up for their second goal of the night in the 67th minute, Richmond had all the scoring they needed to keep the historic series level and escape to Virginia with a valuable road point.
The Davis’ equalizer eclipsed the good feelings still lingering around Blackbaud Stadium after Battery midfielder Amadou Sanyang‘s score just eight minutes earlier. It also handed the Charleston a second consecutive home draw as the Battery opens the 2014 regular season with back–to-back matches against the only two teams that finished above it in the 2013 USL PRO table: League-champion Orlando (1-1) in last week’s home-opener, and Richmond (2-2), winner of the 2013 Commissioner’s Cup for the best regular-season record.
“We’ve got to get out of this habit of letting teams get back into games,” said Battery Man of the Match Jarad van Schaik. “It’s still early, so it may be a little bit of a learning curve for us to learn how to close games out.”
Van Schaik — a do-it-all central midfielder whose yeoman work routinely earns him praise from teammates and coaches but rarely produces gaudy stat lines — finished the night with a goal and an assist. But he also came within a punch-save by Richmond goalkeeper Joe Willis of opening the scoring in the early minutes off a wicked free kick, led several the the Battery’s early attacks.
Yet it was Richmond that struck first, stinging the Battery with a brusque Martin-to-Davis counter-attack against the run of play in the 14th minute. The scoring play began with a giveaway by Andre Lewis, the Whitecaps No. 7 pick in the 2014 MLS Superdraft, who made his first professional start on Saturday.
Charleston almost equalized four minutes later when van Schaik set up Zach Prince in Zone 14. His screamer beat Willis, but bent inches wide of the post. The Battery’s first goal instead came in the 22nd minute, when Lewis looked up from the left sideline and spotted van Schaik running the central channel.
“Actually I was looking for (forward Omar Salgado), but I saw Jarad running and I decided I’m gonna put it right in that area,” the 18-year-old Jamaican said. “If it miss Omar, someone (will) pick it up, and so I went to the back post on the keeper… Coach Mike (Anhaeuser), he always tell me, ‘You can can whip the ball good. Always, even if it’s one guy in there, just look at him and put it right there.’ And I’m surprised that Jarad ended up with it. I’m like, ‘Yes! Thank God!'”
Richmond came out of halftime with more initiative and possession, and seemed to be taking control of the match by the time Salgado came up limping in the 56th minute and the Battery subbed in Adam Mena. He almost immediately drew a yellow card from Richmond’s William Yomby, setting up van Schaik for a free kick from a dangerous spot.
“For the most part you just sorta whip it in that channel and you hope someone’s there,” van Schaik said of the resulting free kick. Amadou Sanyang was marked, but his header caught Willis in the wrong spot. “I did look at Amadou before the play, funny enough, but it’s more about missing that first guy and putting it in the right spot. It’s just tough to handle for them.”
Just as Davis’s first score came against the early run of play, Sanyang’s came as Richmond’s possession was beginning to wear down the Battery. And for the second match in a row, Charleston failed to hold on to a one-goal lead in the second half.
“The second goal, we cleared the original ball, (but) they managed to regain possession and put it back in the area,” said Battery Captain Colin Falvey. “When you’re picking up, everyone’s got a man. I think when the second ball came in, someone lost their man, and I’m too sure who it was. But it’s the golden rule. You stay with your man until the danger is actually gone. We didn’t do that, and I’m disappointed.”
Charleston pressed harder for a game winner than Richmond did, and the effort left the Battery vulnerable. In the 83rd minute, Richmond appeared to have won the match with a two-man combination directly in front of goal that got a slow, looping ball past Battery keeper Odisnel Cooper. But the big Cuban somehow managed to turn, run back, and pluck the ball right off the goal line.
The Battery managed a couple of late threats, but they accounted for only three official shots in the second half.
“We’ve got to make sure that we keep the ball,” said Battery Coach Mike Anhaeuser. “We started there at the end, but we took some risks that caught us.
“When you’re up 2-1, we’ve got to learn to defend those. And it really doesn’t come down to possession. If you defend the lead out, you win 2 -1, and (possession) doesn’t matter.”
Charleston is idle next weekend, but travels to Orlando on April 12.
Check back later for Gallery Sunday, and a new-look Game Wrap on Monday.
Official box score here.
TOP IMAGE: Midfielders Samuel Asante of Richmond and Amadou Sanyang of Charleston dueled to a draw Saturday night at Blackbaud. Dan Conover photos.