Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Rhinos Rob Blistering Battery, Charleston 0-1 Rochester

The Charleston Battery were defeated 0-1 in Saturday's match against the Rochester Rhinos at Blackbaud Stadium.  Ironically, the crowd of nearly 4,000 were treated to Charleston's best offensive performance so far this season.  Mustering no fewer than twenty shots to the Rhinos two, Charleston truly commanded this match from start to finish.  Unfortunately, it didn't translate past the goalpost as Rochester's GK Kristian Nicht had the game of his life, registering ten saves thus prolonging the Rhinos perfect start to the 2012 season.  With six wins in six matches, having yet to concede a goal, Rochester sit atop the USLPRO table.  And as frustrating as the final score may be, it was a fantastic night for Charleston and an even better night for the charities benefitted by the Battery's 'Kick for the Cure' pink promotions.  But lets get on to the match:

Boyd bests former Battery mid Mike Zaher
source: charleston battery facebook
Sallieu Bundu nearly had the hosts in front after only six minutes.  With a penetrating drive into Rochester's final third, the talented frontman produced a quick, tidy strike seemingly out of thin air.  Despite the skill, Bundu's effort towards the lower right corner was saved by Nicht, the first of many on the evening.  The Battery demonstrated some resolute defending early on and although our passing was less than crisp at the outset, it improved as the evening wore on.  Donatelli posted a strong shot on frame in the eleventh minute, initiating an intense spell of offensive pressure from Charleston.  Nicki Patterson managed a shot from about twenty yards with service from a short corner.  Once denied, Patterson claimed the ensuing corner; a good cross but Kyle Hoffer's header was soon smothered.  Navion Boyd had an impressive game in his first start for the Battery, and did well to set up Jose Cuevas for a roaring shot in the eighteenth minute.

Charleston continued to hold possession and momentum while the Rhinos were content to leave eleven men behind the ball defending.  In the twenty-second, Boyd conjured some brilliant work in the box allowing a superb strike by Patterson.  Five minutes later, Boyd would take a crack himself but watched his shot from distance drift just over the bar.  Thirty-three minutes on, Charleston received another corner and Sanyang managed a volley that was desperately saved just off the line.  Donatelli popped another one just wide in the resulting play as Charleston relentlessly pushed for the opening goal.

Play began to open up a bit and former Charleston midfielder Mike Zaher saw an effort slip wide of the mark in the thirty-fifth minute.  At this stage of the game, it had been Rochester's only half-chance on goal.  Just before the break, Cuevas and Boyd both saw shots fly wide right of the post, as Charleston were unlucky to have so many chances and none of them netted.

Shortly after the restart Bundu was dragged down in the box.  The big striker seemed to suffer innumerable fouls the entire match with the worst part being that the majority of them went uncalled.  Charleston picked up where they left off, resuming the pressure as Patterson sent another fine distance strike just over the bar.  The Battery had a good opportunity with a free kick, but it quickly turned into counter-attack from Rochester.  Charleston handled the fast break, but the defense was left a bit too loose after the Rhinos first attempt.  Danny Earls picked his spot and punished the moment of weakness, leaving Dykstra unable to stop the shot.  Just like that, with only the single effort on goal, the Rhinos had taken the lead and for all their moxie, the Low Country Boys were left empty handed.

Responding immediately, Donatelli ripped a nasty shot right after the restart, forcing a point-blank save and a scramble inside the box.  Two minutes later, John Wilson, in the form of his life and thriving in the his new role at left back, tried his luck from a good ways out.  Around seventy minutes, Bundu was deliberately hauled down by the ear but it took some convincing before the ref even signaled the foul.  Cuevas made the most of the free kick, but coming to nothing, a rattled Boyd made way for Ryan Richter.

Rochester began to show signs of fatigue from facing Charlotte Friday then repelling a live-wire Battery offense.  Their defense resorted to ugly half-tackles with almost no repercussions from the officiating staff.  With fifteen minutes to play, Coach Anhauser opted to beef up the attack, swapping Taylor Mueller for Dane Kelly, leaving three at the back.  Charleston continued to press and moments later Zach Prince came on for Donatelli.  Wilson led the charge, repeatedly stealing down the flank and poking in crosses.  Sanyang had a header on target in the eighty-first, but Nicht was where he'd been all night: squarely in front of the ball.  Kelly was felled in the box with an apparent elbow to the face, but incident was hastily overlooked.  The Battery soon won another pair of corners, totaling eleven on the night, but Prince posted a pair of misses, leaving Charleston a goal to the ill with only minutes to spare.  In stoppage time Patterson managed another dangerous strike from a free kick just outside the area and Bundu leveled a beautiful bicycle a minute later, but his shot was just wide.  The Battery would have one more corner with a headed shot on goal, but it was not to be as the final whistle shortly followed.  

This is the first time this year Charleston's potent offense have been kept off the scoresheet and considering the circumstances it was no small achievement.  Accordingly, Kristian Nicht earned USLPRO player of the week honors for his spectacular  performance.  While the outcome of the match would've been likely unchanged, this is the second match this year in which I've been dissappointed with the officiating.  I can certainly understand leniency in calling the game and of course the purist would want play stopped rarely, if at all.  But there comes a point in the run of play, when players realize what they can get away with, and it is then official has lost authority over the match.  That's when someone may be seriously hurt.  Of course the loss is demoralizing, but particularly so since Charleston played so well.  But hold your heads high boys, you delivered a fantastic night of football and the results will come.  The Battery have the week off ahead of next week's Open Cup match Tuesday at the 'Baud.  We've drawn the PDL side Reading United AC and I'll have plenty of Open Cup coverage in the next several posts.  As always, UP THE BATTERY!!!

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