Tah Brian Anunga’s 89th minute goal was the difference Saturday night as the Charleston Battery defeated the Tampa Bay Rowdies, 3-2, at Al Lang Stadium.
For the second straight game, Charleston showed its offensive prowess, finding the back of the net three times against a team that hadn’t conceded at home yet this season. Goals from Anunga, Forrest Lasso, and Maikel Chang helped the Battery knock off the first-place Rowdies and jump to the top of the USL Eastern Conference.
The Rowdies opened the scoring in the 34th minute when Georgi Hristov found Joe Cole with a clever pass inside the six yard box. The former English international saw his first shot saved, but finished the rebound to put the home side in front.
Charleston answered six minutes later through the now-familiar set piece duo of Justin Portillo and Forrest Lasso. Portillo swung a dangerous free kick into the space between the penalty spot and the six yard box and Lasso rose up and flicked a header into the back post. The goal marks the third time Portillo and Lasso have converted from dead ball situations this season.
Maikel Chang scored at the stroke of halftime to give the Battery their first lead of the match. The Cuban midfielder received a pass from Quinton Griffith, turned, and ran at the Rowdies back four before curling a left-footed shot past goalkeeper Matt Pickens. Chang’s second goal in as many games sent the Battery into the break with a one-goal advantage.
The two teams came out of the locker rooms unchanged and traded chances and possession fairly evenly for the first fifteen minutes of the second half.
Tampa equalized in the 62nd minute when Georgi Hristov tapped in a spilled free kick. Leo Fernandes served a long ball into the box and Odisnel Cooper couldn’t hang on, leaving it for Hristov to tap into the empty net.
The game was end-to-end following the Rowdies’ equalizer, with both teams pushing for the go-ahead goal. Both sides had chances to win the match, but it was the Battery who took advantage of their final scoring opportunity of the night.
The goal came following a Justin Portillo corner kick. After Portillo’s delivery, the ball pinged around the Rowdies’ penalty area, with the defenders unable to scramble it clear. Eventually Anunga found the ball and hammered it into the back of the net, scoring his first ever goal for the Club.
The win in Tampa moves the Battery to the top of the Eastern Conference table with 12 points after five matches played. Charleston will look to keep the winning run going when the team returns home next Saturday for another match against a former NASL side. The Battery will take on Ottawa Fury FC at 7:00pm at MUSC Health Stadium. The match will be followed by fireworks on the field with the team. Tickets are still available and can be purchased at charlestonbattery.com.
CHARLESTON - Odisnel Cooper, Quinton Griffith, Taylor Mueller, Forrest Lasso (goal, 40), O’brian Woodbine (yellow card, 62), Maikel Chang (goal, 45), Justin Portillo (assist, 40), Tah Brian Anunga (goal, 89), Kotaro Higashi (Dante Marini, 70), Ataulla Guerra (Neveal Hackshaw, 88), Romario Williams (yellow card, 36; Heviel Cordoves, 69)
Unused substitutes: Joe Kuzminksy, Skylar Thomas, Ricky Garbanzo, Nico Rittmeyer
TAMPA - Matt Pickens, Kyle Porter (Deshorn Brown, 66), Damion Lowe, Neil Collins, Luke Boden, Martin Vingaard, Marcel Schafer, Alex Morrell (Leo Fernandes, 56), Joe Cole (goal, 34; Martin Paterson, 80; yellow card 89), Darwin Jones, Georgi Hristov (goal, 62).
-per Charleston Battery