ROCHESTER, NY August 1, 2014 — For roughly 66 minutes, Charleston Battery and the Rochester Rhinos jabbed and circled each other on the rain-slicked turf at Sahlen’s Stadium, looking for openings and weakness.
But in the final 24 minutes –plus four minutes of stoppage — the fifth-place Rhinos went all-in for the home win, leaving themselves open to sudden Battery reversals. A match that took the measured tone of a middle school piano recital in its first hour accelerated rapidly toward a tense finish marked by attack and counter, with clutch saves by opposing goalkeepers Odisnel Cooper of Charleston and John McCarthy of Rochester.
It ended 0-0 with shared points. Charleston’s result boosted the Battery into sole possession of the 8th and final playoff spot (6-8-7, 25 points, on 21 games), riding its first four-match undefeated streak of 2014. Three consecutive home matches now loom large in its headlamps.
For Rochester (8-7-7, 31 points on 22 games), the Rhinos gained a point on 6th place Wilmington, which lost 3-1 to visiting Richmond.
Charleston made the trip without its captain, injured defender Colin Falvey, and for the first 15 minutes the Battery kept pressure off its back line by probing forward with extended possession. Rochester responded with physical defense and fouls — 10 in the first half, and the first eight of the night.
When the Rhinos came out of their shell at the half-hour mark, the Battery dropped back to absorb the attacks. By halftime the game had settled into a back-and-forth rhythm so controlled that each side produced only one shot, and neither goalkeeper faced a single test.
That would change as the game neared the hour mark. First it was forward Minh Vu forcing Cooper into a tip save over the crossbar in the 52nd minute. Then it was McCarthy in the 56th, parrying away a blast from range. A Battery counter reached Justin Portillo in the 59th, and his diagonal pass sprung Jose Cuevas down the left, only to have former Battery defender Kyle Hoffer head away the resulting shot as it bent toward McCarthy’s far post.
At the 66th minute, Rhinos Coach Bob Lilley played his attacking hand, subbing out midfielder Mike Garzi and forward Vu for forwards Levi Houapeu and J.C. Banks, the team’s leading scorer. Battery Coach Mike Anhaeuser responded immediately by swapping all-around midfielder Zach Prince for starting winger Adam Mena. He would follow that four minutes later by swapping fullback/midfielder Emmanuel Adjetey for starting midfielder Maikel Chang.
With the defense-first Rhinos — USL PRO’s lowest-scoring team — committed to the attack, and the Battery committed to the counter, the final minutes produced a flurry of chances and saves.
None would be more dramatic than Cooper’s saves in the 76th and 80th minutes. In the first, Charleston’s Cuban keeper dove right to deny a short-range header by defender Babacar Diallo. On the second, he reacted to a point-blank blast in the six.
And though substitutes Dante Marini and Mamadou Diouf would make McCarthy (six saves on eight shots) work in the final minutes, those two top-quality Cooper saves — half his total for the night — sealed the result for the visitors.
The Battery return home to face Dayton on Friday, followed by Orange County on Wednesday, Aug. 13, and Rochester on Friday, Aug. 15.
WEATHER: Cloudy, 77, delayed by rain.
REFEREE: Jeff Forward
CAUTIONS: Richmond, Obasi, 57′; Charleston, Kellly, 68′.
CHARLESTON: Cooper, Griffith, Wilson (c), Mueller, Ferguson, Sanyang, Portillo, Mena (67, Prince), Chang (71, Adjetey), Cuevas (83, Marini), Kelly (81, Diouf). Reserves: Shannon, Abdallah, Cordoves.
ROCHESTER: McCarthy, Diallo, Hoffer, Obasi, McMahon, Garzi (65, Banks), Walls, Sundly, Rosenlung (85, Rozboom), Vu (65, Houapeu), Rolfe (83, Omanga)
SHOTS — CHS 8, RIC 7; SAVES — CHS 4, RIC 6; FOULS — CHS 10, RICH 19; OFFSIDE — CHS 0, RIC 3; CORNERS — CHS 3, RIC 4.