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Close-Out Ability Puts Battery Atop Table

By CHARLIE CORR -, 04/23/17, 10:30AM EDT


Charleston takes East lead following win at Tampa Bay

Photo courtesy of Matt May / Tampa Bay Rowdies

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - In back-to-back games, the Charleston Battery have bucked the trends of their opponents’ defenses.

First it was a five-goal outburst against one of the league’s typically stout defenses in the Rochester Rhinos. Then on Saturday, Charleston went up against a Tampa Bay Rowdies side that had not conceded a single goal at Al Lang Stadium in their season-opening three-game home stand.

Charleston was up to the challenge once again with three late-half tallies to post a 3-2 victory. The win, combined with Louisville City FC’s 1-1 draw at FC Cincinnati, meant a new leader atop the Eastern Conference.

“It’s early on the season, but any time you can get three points on the road it’s going to allow you have some success and move you up the table,” Battery Head Coach Mike Anhaeuser said of his East-leading side. “We’re going to take it. This is definitely a tough place for any team to come to and get three points.”

Tah Brian Anunga’s 89th-minute follow-up on a botched Rowdies clearance was the difference as Charleston had the final say amid the late-game scramble. The big turning point for Charleston came in the final five minutes and stoppage time of the first half with back-to-back goals to gain momentum into the half. Forrest Lasso’s grazed header off of a Justin Portillo free kick tied things up in the 40th minute and Maikel Chang’s savvy left-footed strike two minutes into stoppage time put Charleston up 2-1.

The road result provides a massive boost for Charleston, which now looks forward to a three-game home stand at MUSC Health Stadium that includes Ottawa Fury FC (this Saturday), Bethlehem Steel FC (May 6) and Saint Louis FC (May 13).

“It’s going to be huge,” Anhaeuser said of the upcoming home stand. “We’re obviously looking at it. If we could pick up a point today was a big thing for us, and then go back and have a three-goal home stand.

“We’ve got to keep our focus. We ended up having a good result and almost let them back in the game, but I’ll tell you what, it’s a great three points and hopefully that gives us a bunch of confidence.”

Photo courtesy of Matt May / Tampa Bay Rowdies

Saturday’s match very easily could have resulted in a draw. Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell and his side did not hold back though. With the score level at 2-2, the Rowdies implemented a three-man back line down the stretch and attempted to grab the win.

“I took a gamble and I chucked on every attacking option we had and went three at the back,” Campbell said. “I went for it because we would’ve been disappointed to only take away a point at home and I went for it in the hope of getting three points.”

“The good thing for us is that we tried to win it,” said the Rowdies’ Georgi Hristov, who scored his fourth goal of the season Saturday. “We weren’t satisfied with trying to end in a tie and we went for it. Sometimes that happens. They were able to get behind us to score some goals.”

The Rowdies are now winless in their past three (0-2-1), having recently endured a rigorous road trip, but they aren’t using that as an excuse as they continue to sit near the top of the East standings at 3-2-1 (10 points).

“We should have done better,” Hristov said. “We came back to tie 2-2 and tried to win the game, but we still have 26 more games to go, so it’s still early in the season.”