The Charleston Battery hit the road Friday night, Making the trip up to Upstate New York to take on the defending USL Champion Rochester Rhinos. The Rhinos entered the match with a one point advantage over the Battery in the Eastern Conference Table, off to a solid start to the 2016 season with only one loss in the club's first five matches.
What was expected to be struggle between two of the USL's top defensive units, instead turned into an offensive shootout with five goals being scored between the two sides.
The scoring came early in Friday nights match with Rochester striking the first blow, with an 11th minute free kick by the Rhino's Mike Grazi caught Battery keeper Alex Tambakis way out of position allowing Joe Farrell to head in an easy goal.
Just five minutes later Charleston would respond, with Midfielder Zach Prince, returning from a two game suspension, serving a beautiful ball from way out to Romario Williams in perfect position. Williams then played the ball perfectly off his chest and put away what would be his 4th goal since joining the Battery.
The Rhinos would take their 2nd lead of the match in the 28th, with Steevan Dos Santos providing a bit of magic, chipping the ball high between a couple of Battery defenders and firing a shot that would deflect off a scrambling Tambakis to the feet of Forbes who would notch Rochester's 2nd goal of the night.
The 1st half ended with the Rhinos taking a 2-1 lead into the locker room.
The Battery came out guns blazing in the 2nd half, striking yet another equalizer in the 46th minute. Romario Williams would come up big for the Battery once again, using his speed to draw the attention of the Rochester back line, allowing Williams to dump the ball to a wide-open Ricky Garbanzo who would go on to knock in a deflected equalizing goal past keeper Tomas Gomez.
Despite the Battery's two equalizers, Rochester looked to be the greater goal scoring threat, with Charleston lacking organization and creativity in the attacking 3rd often bombing the long ball rather than working their way down field with their passing.
Often it seemed the Battery relied too heavily on Williams to create chances on the attack. Williams did a fantastic job picking up the slack with Ataullah Guerra out with a knee injury.
The remainder of the match descended into a bit of ugly soccer, with an abundance of stops due to some at times very questionable officiating, and injuries.
The decisive moment would come in the 78th minute, when Rochester's Christian Volesky put the ball into the box for a Dos Santos shot that would lead to a handball by Battery CB Shawn Ferguson.
Tony Walls would go on to put away the game-winning penalty, using a nifty stutter step to send Tambakis diving the wrong direction. The Rhino's would go on to win 3-2.
MAN OF THE MATCH:
Williams bounced back from his recent dry spell by putting the team on his back, scoring the Battery's 1st goal of the match and playing a key role in creating the vast majority of Charleston's chances.
KEY TAKE AWAYS:
A rough night for Tambakis has many Battery supporters wondering if it's time for Odisnel Cooper to return to the starting role. Tambakis got the starting nod through for the 1st four matches of the season, beating out the 2015 GK of The Year Finalist Cooper. Tambakis looked solid but went largely untested in his 1st four starts, and Friday's performance has left quite a few questioning if he is the right guy starting.
NEED TO STAY HEALTHY
The Battery have spent the bulk of this season looking like they were missing a piece or two to the puzzle, largely due to injury after injury. This week the missing piece was MF Ataullah Guerra. In the 1st half of last week's match against Pittsburgh, Guerra provided a much needed spark at midfield, opening up the Battery's play into the attacking 3rd. His presence was sorely missed Friday night.
Just two days rest for the Battery who travel to Harrisburg to face the Islanders Monday night at 7p.m