The Charleston Battery pulled off a 1-0 win over Loudoun United FC Friday night for their fourth victory over the Virgina side this season. A defensive battle for nearly the full 90 minutes saw the home team come out victorious after a crucial penalty save by goalkeeper Paul Lewis and a late goal by Robbie Crawford. The Black and Yellow did not disappoint in front of a crowd over 3,000 strong celebrating Pride Night at Patriots Point.
The first half was a scoreless stalemate with neither side able to find a breakthrough. Charleston’s first opportunity came in the 7th minute via a Nicque Daley shot from the edge of the box, but his attempt was saved by Loudoun goalkeeper Jermaine Fordah in the bottom right corner. The Battery again had another chance in the 14th minute, a set piece play with a free kick sent in by Burke Fahling to Logan Gdula, but Gdula’s header was just wide of the net. Loudoun were quick on the counter attack throughout the half, with an opportunity coming just a minute later from a shot by Abdoul Amoustapha, but Battery goalkeeper Paul Lewis was there to make the diving save. Charleston outshot Loudoun 9-8 in the first 45 minutes of action.
The defining moment of the half came in the 38th minute when Lewis denied Robert Dambrot from the penalty spot. The concession was awarded following a foul by Gdula against Dambrot. Lewis correctly guessed Dambrot’s attempt to the right side of the net and got a pair paws on the ball to deny Loudoun from the scoresheet. Both Lewis and Fordah shined in the first half, notching two and three saves, respectively, to keep the match scoreless at the break.
The second half kicked off with the same tone as the half prior with both sides unwilling to give ground either way. DZ Harmon and Nicque Daley connected in the 56th minute to try to break the game open, but the Loudoun defense held firm and Harmon was shown a yellow for a foul on Fordah. Geobel Perez, Zeiko Lewis and Burke Fahling would all take shots across the next 22 minutes of action, but none could convert. Loudoun’s Theodore Ku-Dipietrio provided an opportunity for the visitors, but his left-footed shot missed wide left.
The match was decided in the 79th minute when Robbie Crawford, who came in 15 minutes earlier off the bench, scored from outside the box. The Scotsman was assisted by his former Fimleikafélag Hafnarfjarðar (FH) teammate Zeiko Lewis before uncorking a driving shot that would rattle off the left post and head into the back of the net. The goal was Crawford’s first of the season in his first match back since July 7. The match would play out with the result unchanged, although tempers started to flare in the latter stages with Romario Piggott and Fordah both receiving a yellow card in the 84th minute. Piggott came close to doubling Charleston’s lead in the stoppage time but his attempt was saved. Charleston’s victory came in style as Head Coach Michael Anhaeuser celebrated his 51st birthday with three points won.
The night also featured a Battery and USL Championship debut for loanee defender Frank Nodarse. Nordarse checked into the match as a substitute in the 67th minute.
Coach Anhaeuser was proud of his squad’s ability to rally in the second half and win the match late.
“We came out a little sluggish which can be expected, you could see the guys were a little rusty,” said Ahaeuser. “You have to give Loudoun credit, they moved the ball and put us under pressure a little bit. We knew if we could get to half-time and regroup, we would win. We got the three points and that’s big.”
Anhaeuser applauded Paul Lewis’ performance tonight, which was the young goalkeeper’s second career professional start.
"[Loudoun] get the penalty, but wow Paul makes an unbelievable save, he got his hand on it last week and this week he saves it, he won the game for us,” said Anhaesuer. “It’s building confidence when you play, you got to play games and you got to play minutes. I’m very proud of him, very happy for him, we’ve got two very good goalkeepers."
Paul Lewis was pleased with day of work, which featured the first career clean sheet of his young professional career.
“It’s an important job to know when to be ready and I usually sit behind one of the best in the league [in Joe Kuzminsky], that gives me a great opportunity to learn,” said Lewis. “So to be able to come in, he leaves me big shoes to fill, but when there’s a result, that’s what I’m here for and I appreciate the coaches giving me the chance.”
On the penalty save, Paul Lewis recalled his first penalty situation last match against Pittsburgh.
“The first shot I ever really had on target was the penalty against Pittsburgh last week and I got a touch on that one, So the second one, I can’t let him have it and I always go with my gut,” said Lewis. “[The shot] sat down, I got the early jump and got two hands on it. Then I just needed to be loud afterwards and let them really know you saved it.”
Paul Lewis was proud of the squad’s resiliency to win the game late, no matter who was on the pitch.
“Charleston’s a place where we always fight, there’s a long history of fight in this team,” said Lewis. “Everyone here plays a critical role, no matter if they get zero minutes on the weekend or 90. When their number is called, they’re ready to go, and that’s what’s huge about this team.”
The Battery take the three points into a busy road trip that will see them play two matches in four days with contests against Hartford Athletic and New York Red Bulls II next week. The Black and Yellow will return to Patriots Point on Saturday, August 28, to take on Orange County SC. Tickets are available for the match via SeatGeek here.