In the Charleston Battery's first home game in over a month, Heviel Cordoves' third goal of the year was what separated the Black and Yellow and the Richmond Kickers.
It was a frustrating night for the home side, who were wearing Orange in support of the Leukemia and Lymphoma society, as Romario Williams was sent off midway through the first half for a kick out at a Richmond defender after creating no less than three chances for his team early on, and so the game became a battle of who would budge first. It wasn't until second half substitute Cordoves' 84th minute goal from a Maikel Chang corner that the deadlock was broken, and the defense stood resolute through five minutes of added on time to get a crucial three points in the hunt for a playoff spot.
Both full backs Obi Woodbine and Quinton Griffith were unavailable through injury for the home side, and so Jarad van Schaik and Skylar Thomas would step in respectively in front of Alec Kann in goal, but besides that it was a pretty straightforward lineup. Midfield staples Justin Portillo and Maikel Chang took their places in the side, with the aforementioned Williams and Attaula Guerra up front.
And the Battery would threaten as early as the first minute. An excellent scoop pass from Guerra from deep found Romario Williams in stride, but the ball, always bouncing. couldn't be properly brought under control, and the power in the eventual shot was lacking and went out for a corner that led to nothing.
A Battery free kick in the seventh minute would be taken from the left in a dangerous area, which was poised for Portillo to have a crack, but his curling effort went straight into the wall.
A couple minutes later, Kotaro Higashi would undercut an errant pass just inside the attacking half, step forward and slip a nice weighted ball outside to Guerra, who had to dig the ball out from behind him just slightly, which meant the shot toward goal would lack power and gave the 'keeper time to get a tip on it before it was cleared as it was rolling toward an empty net by a Richmond defender.
In the 10th minute, a give and go between strike partners Williams and Guerra left Williams 1-on-1 as he beat a defender for pace, but again, the touch was heavy and the goalkeeper would claim.
And with a quarter of an hour gone, Romario Williams would shoot from distance and have the effort tipped onto the bar only to fall toward Kotaro Higashi, who couldn't collect himself to get a proper shot off.
Another give and go, this time from the right, on 17', led to another shot from distance and another which rattled the ball, and this time Higashi would be ready, heading toward goal, but too close to the goalkeeper.
With 19' minutes gone, a corner for the Battery was cleared, only for it to fall to Higashi, who would blast it over the bar.
Jarad van Schaik would do some excellent work on the left on 23', retaining the ball through the challenge of three defenders before Maikel Chang's shot as the ball popped out to him would go high and wide.
A Richmond free kick had looked to put the Black and Yellow under a bit of bother on 27', when a wafting ball was forcibly cleared at the back post. The corner, though, would be cleared.
On the half hour mark, Romario Williams would get away from a marker and into open space before looking for Attaula Guerra in front, but there was too much on the pass.
In the 35th, Forrest Lasso would be booked for a seemingly innocuous challenge while trying to win a header in midfield.
And two minutes later, things got worse. Romario Williams would show a little bit of nastiness with a needless kick out at a defender, for which he received his marching orders with a red card.
The red meant that the Battery would play the rest of the match with 10 men, and that the center forward would also miss the crucial match on Wednesday against Charlotte.
On 43', a Battery free kick would be played into the box for Forrest Lasso, but his header lacked power and was collected by the goalkeeper.
In stoppage time, Alec Kann would be replaced by Odisnel Cooper. The 'keeper, who was with the Battery during the 2012 run to their fourth league title, was on a temporary loan from Atlanta United, the Battery's MLS affiliate, and was rehabbing a strained quad injury that's kept him out for upwards of two months, having gotten hurt just before Atlanta's game on July 4th. Regardless of the situation, burning a sub on your goalkeeper is not the best course of action, and the Battery would have some serious regrouping to do at half time.
In the 49th, a Battery free kick was cleared as both teams seemed to want to huff and puff, but neither seemed willing to budge just yet.
A corner for Richmond with an hour gone was cleared away before Odisnel Cooper was forced into a save as the ball was reset, and the danger was gone.
Seven minutes later, Richmond were on the counter, which looked dangerous only to lead to a shot over the bar.
With 20 minutes to go, Heviel Cordoves would replace Attaula Guerra, who, without his strike partner in Williams, was becoming increasingly isolated, and with such an important game in midweek, it's best to have your best players fresh in a sticky situation. He'd clearly gotten more and more tired as the game had gone on, and when you're isolated as he was, you're largely ineffective. The Battery would be hoping that at the very least, Cordoves' ability to hold the ball up under a challenge would lead to some decent chances.
With seven minutes left, a ball across by Richmond was headed away and hoofed clear, and the bounce of the ball led to a 50/50 challenge, which Cordoves won by forcing his man to play the ball out for a corner.
The set piece would be played in by Maikel Chang toward Cordoves at the front post, who flicked it on and past the stranded 'keeper to put the home side in front.
So now, the Battery had a lead to hold onto. And for the visitors, they had to come out and attack. The deadlock was broken, and the Battery would have to keep composed to get themselves over the line.
And with throwing the kitchen sink, the Kickers nearly found an equalizer with three minutes gone of the allotted five of injury time. A cross from the left had the defense flat footed, but a header toward goal couldn't be forced on target and the ball went over the bar.
And so, the Battery picked up a vital three points in what could be the start of a very important week coming toward the end of the season.
The Battery next face an extremely tough test against second placed Charlotte Independence, in a match that was rearranged due to Hurricane Irma on Wednesday, September 20. Kick off is at 7PM, and you stream it on the club's website.
TOP IMAGE: DESPITE BEING BEATEN, RICHMOND'S GOALKEEPER KEPT HIS TEAM IN THE MATCH AND WAS A PART OF THIS GOALMOUTH SCRAMBLE EARLY ON. ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY PHOTOS.