There’s a reason Rochester has only given up five goals in 15 games this season. The Rhinos defense turned in another strong performance in Charleston on Friday as they shutout the Battery in a 0-0 tie.
The road point was a big one for Rochester, which stays five points ahead of second-place Charleston. The Battery, meanwhile, was disappointed that they missed out on the chance to pick up points at home, especially since they looked like the better team for most of the night.
The home team controlled the ball and outplayed the Rhinos, who looked content to play for the draw unless they had a chance for a very quick counterattack. They have used a 4-4-2 formation this season, but changed that up slightly on Friday, dropping one of the forwards back into the midfield and using a 4-4-1-1 or a 4-5-1 shape.
The new formation meant Rochester had more hands on deck to deal with Charleston’s attack, which has scored 26 goals this year. The Rhinos kept almost every player behind the ball, especially in the first half when Charleston almost exclusively controlled possession.
Scoring opportunities were scarce, as Charleston struggled to break through the defense on the ground and the air. Coach Mike Anhaeuser said it was disappointing to not score at home, but that the game was a meeting between two strong sides.
“It’s a tough one. It’s like playing chess,” he said. “Nobody wants to watch something like that but you see why they’re very good. They defend well, they pressure well and you have to be very good with the ball and not make mistakes, and unfortunately we couldn’t make that final pass tonight.”
Due to the unbalanced schedule, Charleston only plays Rochester twice this season, while other teams they play three or four times. The next meeting will be July 26 in New York, and Anhaeuser said it will be important for his team to get at least a point out of it. Rochester is on 33 points after 15 games, while Charleston has 28 through 16 matches. Louisville City (15 games) and Richmond (17) are just behind with 26 points.
Charleston went with the same lineup that they used against the Harrisburg City Islanders last week, which is basically the regular starters at this point, with minor exceptions. Goalkeeper Kevin Corby got the start in goal for the third straight game over Odisnel Cooper, who is said to be nursing a sore shoulder. Quinton Griffith, who has just recently returned from surgery rehab, was suspended after picking up a red card late in the Harrisburg game, but he will likely slide back into the starting XI as soon as the coaches feel he’s ready.
The back four of Emmanuel Adjetey, Shawn Ferguson, Taylor Mueller and O’Brian Woodbine did a good job of limiting Rochester’s options going forward, but they didn’t have to do a ton of work. The Rhinos sat back and absorbed pressure for so much of the game that the defense seemed to spend more time passing the ball back and forth looking for openings downfield than they did defending.
“It was a battle defensively. We gave up a few long shots and Kevin did a good job again tonight,” Anhaeuser said. “We shut them down when we had to and it was just a chess match tonight.”
Many of the scoring chances went through Woodbine on the right flank, as he would speed by defenders and come onto the end of a long ball. But he was never able to find the final touch or shot. It wasn’t just him though. The Battery took its shots, but had to settle on their choices, launching balls in from angles or distances they normally wouldn’t prefer. Forward Dane Kelly had several shots go just wide of the post, including one in the 43rd minute when a deflected ball fell to his feet at the top of the box.
“They closed the space on us and did a good job, which didn’t allow us to get it in. The defenders drop and did a very good job,” Anhaeuser said. “It’s frustrating but at the same time you’ve got to be able to break them down. We had a very good first half. In the second half, you could see that we got a little frustrated and tried too much, tried to make the big pass instead of doing the little things.”
Kelly has regularly been taken off midway through the second half for fellow striker Heviel Cordoves, but since he was out with an ankle injury Kelly played the entire game. Austin Savage is the only other true forward on the roster, but he has struggled to get playing time this season, making only five appearances.
In the midfield, Zach Prince and Maikel Chang played out wide while Ricky Garbanzo played in the center, behind Kelly. Captain Jarad van Schaik and Justin Portillo played as deeper-lying midfielders, but were plenty involved in the attack. Substitutes Dante Marini and Navion Boyd almost combined for a goal late in the game, but Boyd wasn’t able to direct Marini’s cross into the goal for what could likely have been a winning strike.
Rochester’s back four did very well with marking the Battery and not allowing many open runs. The center backs, Julian Ringhof and Grant van deCasteele, shut down the aerial threat, and handled the long balls that Charleston tried playing over the midfielders. Meanwhile, Onua Thomas Obasi and Pat McMahon dealt with the runs and attacks on the flanks. All four defenders played the entire 90 minutes.
Charleston is on the road in Harrisburg for a Wednesday meeting. The teams just played in Charleston on June 27, when the Battery won 4-1. An April 4 meeting at Blackbaud also ended in the home team’s favor, that time by a score of 2-0.
Since van Schaik picked up another yellow card Friday, he will miss the game due to card accumulation. However, Griffith will be available again after serving his suspension. The Battery has a great preview story on their web site. Check it out.
After Wednesday the Battery is off until July 17 when West Brom of the English Premier League comes to town for a friendly. Then the Battery hosts Wilmington the next day. Both games begin at 7:30 p.m.
Top photo: Shawn Ferguson holds off Steeven Dos Santos in the first half Friday. Credit: Charleston Battery.