The Battery fell 0-1 to the Tampa Bay Rowdies in a hard-fought match Tuesday night at Patriots Point. It was a physical game that saw red cards issued to both sides in the second half with a 63rd-minute goal from Lewis Hilton lifting the visitors past Charleston. The Battery remain one point off from a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division following the result and will look to bounce back on the road next Wednesday.
The first half saw both sides size each other up without much ground given either way. Tampa Bay started the match aggressively and with an emphasis on possession, retaining the ball 56.4% of the time in the first 45 minutes. The visitors tested Joe Kuzminsky in the 9th minute when Steevan Dos Santos sent a header towards the center of the goal and Kuzminsky was there for the save. The Battery had a good look in the 19th minute when Ben Di Rosa provided a well-placed cross to Zeiko Lewis inside the box, but Lewis’ attempt was too tall for the crossbar.
Josh Penn looked to build on the recent forward momentum in the 25th minute with a shot from the edge of the box. Penn lined up his aim and sent a bullet at the right post, however the ball was just wide of the net. The half continued to play out with back and forth movement from both teams with Robbie Crawford and Penn helping drive much of the forward movement for the Black and Yellow. Kuzminsky came up big with a clutch punch in the 39th minute following a Tampa Bay free kick, denying the visitors any scoring opportunities. The half ended scoreless with the Battery out-shooting the Rowdies five to three.
The Charleston offense started the second half aggressively pressing forward. Penn, at the edge of the box, received a blocked attempt by Angelo Kelly and sent in a strong shot that was right to Evan Louro, who made the save. Charleston continued to advance the ball into the Rowdies defensive third in search for a breakthrough. Lewis and Claudio Repetto had a close opportunity in the 57th minute with a Lewis through ball to Repetto. Louro, however, just beat Repetto to the ball to prevent the Italian from getting a shot off. The Rowdies were quick to counter minutes later as Leo Fernandes was in a dangerous spot inside the box, but Di Rosa and Pat Hogan were able to intervene and disrupt the potential opportunity.
Tampa Bay struck first in the 63rd minute via a Lewis Hilton strike from outside the box, assisted by Dos Santos’ cross from the left corner. The Battery had handled the Rowdies’ movement well to keep the visitors at bay until that point. Charleston were eager to find an equalizer after going down 0-1, winning a pair of corners minutes later, yet were unable to convert. Tampa Bay were reduced to 10 men in the 82nd after William Antley was issued a red card following a dangerous challenge on AJ Paterson moments prior, flaring tempers between the sides. Leland Archer’s evening ended prematurely in the 86th minute when he was shown his second yellow card of the contest, making the game 10 versus 10. The Battery pressed on in stoppage time with a threatening look inside the box, but were unable to find an equalizer before the final whistle blew.
Battery Head Coach Michael Anhaeuser rendered his verdict on the night, knowing the match would be a battle.
“We knew it was going to be a little chippy, I thought we played a really good second half, but we just gave up that one counter and [Tampa Bay] got it in,” said Anhaeuser. “We knew we wouldn’t have many chances, but we had a couple good ones there. We just have to take advantage of it.
“We’ll regroup and put this one behind us, make sure we move forward.”
On regrouping, the team will have two more meetings with the Rowdies in the next month’s time to earn back the points.
“You just have to move on, I thought we did some good things and we’ll go back and watch [the game film], then make sure we come back because we have to play [Tampa Bay] two more times,” said Anhaeuser.
Josh Penn recognized the Battery’s opportunities throughout the night while crediting the Rowdies’ defensive performance.
“It was a very chippy, close contest, I thought we played well,” said Penn. “We had chances, possessed well at times, but we could have been more clinical in the final third. [Tampa Bay] defended really well, so they were able to nick a shot or block it.”
As the final division standings develop more with each game, Penn said the team knows they have a clear objective in earning a postseason spot.
“We’re still in the picture for the playoffs, we’re going to have to do some work, and say, ‘hey, let’s just buckle down,’” said Penn. “Now is really where we need to get going and I think we can make the playoffs. We win a few games, get on a streak and it’s going to keep going from there.”
The Battery will have a week on the training ground following Tuesday’s match before traveling to Kennesaw, Georgia, to face Atlanta United 2 at Fifth Third Bank Stadium on September 15.