In the grand scheme of things, the Charleston Battery’s 2-1 loss to the Harrisburg City Islanders Friday at Blackbaud Stadium is not especially concerning.
Coming off a five-game shutout and unbeaten streak, the Battery (6-3-1) conceded goals on an uncharacteristic blunder by goalkeeper Odisnel Cooper and a penalty kick. Charleston sits near the top of the USL Pro standings with much of the season remaining, and the squad is one of two USL Pro teams still alive in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
But Friday’s contest did present an opportunity to close the gap on league-leading Orlando City and expand the cushion over the clubs that trail the Battery in the crowded league standings.
Instead, the Islanders (6-2-1) pulled even with Charleston on points — with a game in hand — while Richmond jumped into second place.
“It’s a big loss for us, but it’s not the end of the world,” said Battery midfielder Jose Cuevas, the 2012 USL Pro rookie of the year. “We’ve been winning, winning, winning and getting comfortable, so sometimes we need that loss to get us going and see our mistakes.”
The intensity of the match picked up after the opening half-hour.
Vancouver Whitecaps loanee Ben Fisk gave Charleston a 1-0 lead in the 36th minute, one-timing Mike Azira’s cutback cross from 12 yards out.
Less than two minutes later, though, an awkward sequence allowed Harrisburg to knot the match at 1. Colin Falvey played a backpass to Cooper, who awkwardly maneuvered the ball under his legs. As he casually turned around, Sainey Touray poked the ball free and finished into the empty net.
The game remained deadlocked at halftime, but not before a flurry of chances for Charleston in the 43rd minute and a superb save by Cooper in stoppage time ignited the crowd of 2,913.
Stephen Basso accounted for the only scoring of the second half, burying his penalty kick in the 53rd minute after the referee whistled Azira for a foul in the box.
The Battery’s best opportunity to level match came in the 84th minute, but Nicki Paterson’s bouncing shot from close range was pushed aside by City Islanders goalkeeper Nick Noble.
Despite its recent success, Charleston has not scored more than one goal in its past six games.
“There’s times like this when we get scored on, and we need to have more than one goal,” Cuevas said. “I need to get back into it, and I know once I get one I’ll keep it rolling. Nicki (Paterson) as well. We’ve been on a drought but I think we’ll be okay.”
Battery coach Mike Anhaeuser made four changes to the starting lineup employed in Tuesday’s 1-0 win over MLS’ San Jose Earthquakes in the U.S. Open Cup third round. Defenders Emmanuel Adjetey and Taylor Mueller were inserted in place of veteran John Wilson and Mark Wiltse. Fisk replaced Zach Prince in the midfield, and forward Heviel Cordoves took the place of Jamaican Dane Kelly.
The changes are part of a continuing effort by Anhaeuser to manage minutes during the busiest stretch of Charleston’s season. Friday’s contest was the Battery’s fifth in 13 days, and there won’t be a reprieve anytime soon. After hosting Charlotte and the Houston Dynamo Reserves next week, the Battery will travel to Real Salt Lake (June 12; U.S. Open Cup), Pittsburgh (June 15) and Rochester (June 16).