VAUGHAN, ONTARIO -- Fortunately for the Battery, most of its games are played in the United States.
For the second times in two trips to Canada, Charleston dropped a 1-0 loss. This time it came at the Ontario Soccer Centre, against the run of play, off a set-piece header by Toronto FC II in the 89th minute. The late goal reversed the outcome of the teams' first meeting on March 21, when it was Charleston pulling out the late-game, 3-2 match-winner.
In that first-meeting it was Taylor Mueller with the last word, putting away a corner kick. This time it was Toronto Academy forward Mo Babouli -- just back from the Pan American games -- lifting a perfect free kick over Charleston's two-man wall to find center back Skylar Thomas -- just back from an injury -- at the far post. Thomas powered his header over Battery midfielder Jarad van Schaik, who had just dropped back to center back in relief of defender Forrest Lasso, who left the game with an injury on the previous series.
With that one leap and snap of the neck, Thomas ended a TFC II scoreless streak that was less than two minutes from reaching five matches. Charleston went from staring at a frustrating draw to accepting a difficult defeat. Its streak of clean sheets ended at three.
Meanwhile, the Battery's dream of possibly catching first-place Rochester -- at least temporarily -- with back-to-back road wins, evaporated. The loss opened the door for red-hot Louisville City F.C. to pass Charleston in the USL Eastern Conference Standings Saturday with a win at Wilmington.
In stoppage, Thomas would step up again, blocking a chance by Dane Kelly within the six-yard-box. But for all Thomas' late heroics, the author of Toronto's improbable win had to be goalkeeper Quillan Roberts. In the first half alone, Roberts -- sporting a freshly shaven bald head -- denied the Battery with five saves. He dove left, twitched right, and repeated came up with the right answer. Stats were not available for the full game, but Roberts turned in an award-worthy performance.
Charleston fell to 9-3-7, with two of its losses coming in Canada. The other? A 1-0 loss, also against the run of play, at Montreal on May 14. Toronto improved to 4-9-3.
Kelly had multiple chances in the first half. He broke free of center back Adam Bouchard on a great individual play. He recovered a blocked chance by Garbanzo. He latched on to passes from fullback Quinton Griffith and midfielder Memo Rodriguez. But every attempt was either off-target or stopped by Roberts.
Later it would be van Schaik tasting frustration. The Battery captain had two shots on goal blocked.
For the Battery, who traveled to Canada with 16 players and started a rotational roster ahead of Sunday's big game in Rochester,, it was a night of frustration and missed chances.
Courtesy; Charleston Battery