In a top of the table clash in the East on Saturday night, the Charleston Battery were made to settle for a point against Louisville City FC in what was a tense 90 minutes.
The Battery drew first blood midway through the first half as Justin Portillo converted a penalty, only for his side to be pegged back a few minutes later after Ilija Illic cleaned up a rebound from a shot that careened off the post following a corner. The second half saw both sides go back and forth with separate spells of pressure, but neither were able to break the deadlock as they shared the spoils.
Two changes were made from the team that prevailed against Tampa last week. Romario Williams is currently on national team duty with Jamaica, meaning that Heviel Cordoves was given the start up front. Attaula Guerra re-aggravated an injury in last week’s win, and so Kotaro Higashi played in behind Cordoves.
The away side started the brightest, and could’ve easily been in front in the first minute, when a bouncing ball wasn’t claimed by Odisnel Cooper before it fell on the right for a shot that hit both posts and bounced away before being cleared.
Taylor Mueller was left wanting one back in the eighth minute, after a corner was played toward the center back at the far post which left him with an open header that he completely mistimed. The ball fell in the box and there was still danger before it was cleared away.
And then, after 11 minutes, a Louisville free kick led to a counter for the Battery that initially looked dangerous before breaking down and heading the other way. Cooper was forced into a save to his left as the visitors would surge through the right wing and cut in before having a pop. The ensuing corner was wasted, and we remained scoreless.
However, that would soon change. A Maikel Chang cross from the right searched for Dante Marini in the box, but the winger was taken down in the box, and the referee was quick to point to the spot. Justin Portillo was the man to step up, quickly dispatching the spot kick to give the Battery the lead.
It was their first real chance of the evening after starting rather sluggishly, but they weren’t fussed. It’s the mark of a good team to be clinical, especially when you don’t create a lot of opportunities.
But Louisville were by no means deterred. Looking dangerous straight from the restart and earning themselves a corner in the 27th minute. It was swung in from the right, and a Louisville player rose highest, redirecting the ball onto the post beyond Cooper, before bouncing back into play and being slammed in by Ilija Ilic for the leveler.
It seemed like a bit of a cruel joke at that point, with Louisville hitting both posts earlier in the game, only to be helped by the post in a certain sense to knot the game up again, but while Cooper in goal had already produced a couple of good saves on the evening, he was helpless for the goal itself, having been forced to watch the ball go onto the post, and then taken out of the play completely on the rebound.
Just past the half hour mark, it was Cooper again forced to save to his right, with the Battery seemingly on their heels a bit after previously having been in front, though the defense did well to clear the corner that followed.
A Battery free kick was then easily claimed by Ranjitsingh on 36′, that was wafted in too high for anybody to get on the end of.
And that’s the way the first half would end. A little like last week, both teams lacked a bit of that cutting edge in the final third, which could make or break the game for either side in the end.
Again it was Louisville coming out the strongest in the second half, though they would waste an early corner, and the Battery would come into it a little bit more soon after.
Kotaro Higashi would power up the left wing with some intricate footwork on 51′, though he would go down before being able to get in a cross. The referee would blow his whistle, but not to point to the spot, to book the winger for diving.
Five minutes later came the ever-dangerous Obi Woodbine long throw from the right, though the ‘keeper would claim and avoid danger.
On the hour mark, the Battery would threaten again down the wings, this time on the right, when a Maikel Chang ball flashed across the face of goal, only to not find anybody making the late run into the box to make anything of it.
A corner in the 68th would eventually be cleared by Louisville, as it looked as if the Battery were beginning to turn the screw in search of a winner.
Though Obi Woodbine would get himself into trouble after committing a foul to the right of the box just a minute later, allowing an in-swinging free kick to find its way into the area, but only to be wasted and for the Battery to regroup.
A Maikel Chang free kick in similar position would be wasted in similar fashion when it found its way to the goalkeeper, as time began to run out.
But the Battery had perhaps their best chance of the second half on 77’, when another Obi Woodbine long throw would cause trouble. The throw would be punched away by the goalkeeper, who would collide with the head of Forrest Lasso. The ball itself would ping around the box before falling to Maikel Chang, whose effort seemed destined for the back of the net, only to be cleared off the line by a defender.
Louisville had the chance to steal it a couple minutes later down the other end, when a run all the way down the right wing wasn’t defended well and eventually would force Cooper into a sprawling save to keep the scores level.
Another Woodbine throw wouldn’t cause much trouble with five minutes to go, and so eventually after three minutes of added time, both team would have to settle for the draw.
The result wasn’t the worst for either side. The Battery remain top of the East with 35 points, while Louisville remain 6 points behind them in second place, but with two games in hand. The Battery, of course, will have to look at those two games in hand as wins for Louisville until they’re played, but from Louisville’s standpoint, they’d rather have the points now than have the two extra games.
The Battery next face St. Louis FC on Saturday, July 15th at 8:30PM. The game will be televised on MyTV Charleston, or streamed via the club’s website.
TOP IMAGE: FRESH OFF TWO ASSISTS LAST WEEK, MAIKEL CHANG WAS AGAIN IMPRESSIVE AS A FOCAL POINT IN THE BATTERY’S ATTACK IN THEIR DRAW AGAINST LOUISVILLE. ALL PHOTOS CREDIT ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY