The Pittsburgh Riverhounds took all three points away against the Charleston Battery after Corey Hertzog's late header stunned the home side, handing them their first loss of the season.
The match started wonderfully for the hosts. Attaula Guerra opened the scoring early as he squeezed a shot from just outside the box past the 'keeper at the near post. That got the tails up for the Black and Yellow, but they couldn't take their chances, and let the opposition come into it, forcing Alex Tambakis to make some great saves before the dam finally broke and they conceded hal way through the second half. Roles were reversed by time Corey Hertzog got his head to the winner late on, but a touch and go offside decision from the referee cancelled out a late equalizer, meaning the Riverhounds took all three points.
The Black and Yellow were in front from just about their first real attack, as on 8', Dante Marini's short pass found Attaula Guerra in space, and Guerra, who's played in a much more advanced role so far this season and been much improved for it, took a touch to control before looking up and having a crack at goal. The ball somehow found its way past the Riverhounds goalkeeper and into the back of the net. The 'keeper looked unsighted by the effort, initially going to his right before trying to scramble back to his left, which left him a flat footed mess as Guerra got his name on the scoresheet for the first time this season, in stark contrast to last campaign, where he had to wait for his first goal until late in the season in a mid-season friendly with Rangers, before tallying one goal in the league later on.
After 16', Forrest Lasso got his head to a free kick that was played in deep, but he was adjudged to be offside.
A minute later, a Battery free kick looked dangerous before being headed behind for a corner, which was taken short, crossed by Marini and cleared off the line before it could be turned in on the doorstep.
The Battery were creating chances, mostly from set pieces, but with the likes of Justin Portillo and Maikel Chang at the controls, and with the aerial threats that they possess, it was to be expected.
With just over half an hour gone, a Battery counter led to a shot by Chang which was deflected behind, leading to a succession of them, but the ball was eventually headed over the bar.
Six minutes later, on 37' the visitors were given a free kick which was cleared. They recycled the chance after winning possession again back around to the opposite side of the pitch and looked about ready to threaten before the offside flag went up.
Just before half time, Guerra would continue his solid first half display playing a great ball to Romario Williams, which the striker took wide in an effort to beat his man and cut inside. When that avenue was cut off for him by stout defending, he played the smart, dangerous ball across the face of goal, but had no support as Pittsburgh would counter and go down the other end, eventually creating a 1 on 1 with Tambakis in goal and forcing a great save to tip it around the post, and the ensuing corner was also well collected as half time descended upon the teams.
All in all, it was a good opening first half for the Black and Yellow, yet couldn't be called stellar. They would need to keep continuing to create, and take at least one chance to try and put the game to bed. The longer the scoreline stayed the same, the longer Pittsburgh would know the had a chance.
And Corey Hertzog created the first chance of the second half after some good buildup play for the visitors, but his shot went wide as the slender lead stayed intact.
On 51', Romario Williams took a ball out of the air, turned, and played a one-two with Guerra before his shot, which forced a save from the Pittsburgh 'keeper, lacked power and the chance had gone.
Four minutes later, Taylor Mueller was the last line of defense as Pittsburgh got a man free before the Battery captain's last ditch tackle forced the interception and the ball was eventually cleared.
But then, just before the hour mark, Marshall Hollinsworth would find his way through the defense and in another 1 on 1 with the 'keeper before slotting home and levelling for the visitors. The goal had been coming, and was a consequence of the Battery not taking their chances, for which they only had themselves to blame.
But the Battery could've been in front again shortly after. Justin Portillo seemed to have pushed himself up into an attacking position more and more as the home side looked to retake the lead. He found himself with the ball at his feet on the edge of the box before shimmying himself some room for a shot on his left foot toward the opposite corner that the midfielder just looped over the bar.
Maikel Chang took a little bit more initiative as well as he created his own chance on 71', when he cut in on his left before having his own shot at goal. But like Williams' effort before him, the shot lacked power, and while looked destined to be going into the opposite corner, was an easy save for the 'keeper.
A minute later, a Battery free kick would find the ball pinging around the box, but nobody was able to put the ball on frame and the ball was cleared.
With 74 minutes played came perhaps the most guilt-edged chance to put the home side back in front, as an overlapping Quinton Griffith's cross toward the back stick was laid up for an onrushing Heviel Cordoves, who had replaced Williams just a few minutes earlier, but somehow, the free header went narrowly wide at the far post as the striker tried to simply nod the ball on target. One would think that if the striker had come at the ball more and powered his head through the effort instead of just simply trying to redirect the ball on, the chance may have been taken, but we remained level.
And with nine minutes to go, a Battery corner that looked initially as if it were too flat appeared to strike the hand of a defending Riverhounds player, but the ref wasn't phased by appeals and instead gave a free kick to the visitors for an apparent push.
Three minutes of stoppage time were given, and by this time, the game was much more open than anyone would've liked. Both teams were going forward and looking dangerous, but this time it would be the Riverhounds finding the defining chance. A ball found its way down the wing, leading to a cross into the box for an unmarked Corey Hertzog, who got himself to the ball and stuck it into the back of the net. It was a bit difficult on Tambakis in goal, who had made some real quality saves in the first half to keep his side in front, only to watch helplessly as they would ultimately be in vain.
Though going behind didn't exactly dampen the Battery's spirits. Even with the late goal, they had time, as it had come just as we went into the three minutes added on. A Battery corner in the 93rd minute, right at the death, refused to be cleared and was eventually recycled before Dante Marini got his head to the ball to stick it into the back of the net, but he was adjudged to have been coming back from an offside position, and the goal was ruled out.
On further inspection, you can see just how tight the call was. The replay showed on TV and the video board at the stadium looked to point toward the linesman's decision being correct, but looking at the replay from another angle, it looked to show Marini just a shade onside before the ball was played back in. Nevertheless, the referee stood by his assistant's decision, and the offside was given.
The night wasn’t the greatest for Atlanta’s loanees, with only Tambakis and Ambrose featuring. The cross for the Hertzog winner came down Ambrose’s side, but he couldn’t be specifically blamed for the goal. Tambakis gave up the two goals, but without his save near the end of the first half, the scoreline could’ve been much worse for his side, and couldn’t really be blamed for either goal. Both continue their solid run of form early in the season, as both receive much needed playing time in Charleston.
The result means the Battery were handed their first loss of the season. They next face the Rochester Rhinos, which will also be their first match as part of the inaugural Old Guard Shield supporters' trophy on Saturday April 15.