MONTREAL - Quinton Griffith's pace earned the free kick, Jarad van Schaik put it deftly into the mixer and Colin Falvey's header in the 20th minute made the difference for Charleston Battery in a 1-0 victory over the Montreal Impact Reserves in soccer Monday morning.
The rare work-week start at 10:30 a.m. gave the Battery their second two-game winning streak of the season, their first three-match undefeated streak of the season and pushed them into a three-way tie with Orange County and Charlotte for the final USL Pro playoff spot.
Playing just two days after their 2-0 home win over Arizona United FC, the Battery's rescheduled match at the Impact's training ground at the Complexe Sportif Claude-Robillard was played without a scoreboard clock, on a slippery pitch in 64-degree, rainy weather, in front of an estimated 120 fans. Two of them were former Battery stars Nicki Paterson and Tony Donatelli, who came in from Ottawa to watch their old teammates play.
They witnessed an open and entertaining match. A Montreal lineup composed of seven MLS players and four academy prospects attacked the Battery from the opening whistle, and at several points in the first 10 minutes appeared to be on the verge of putting the match away before the visitors ever found their footing.
Charleston's veterans got things settled down around the 10th minute, and attacking midfielder Jose Cuevas began unlocking the Impact back line, picking out teammates and sustaining possessions that probed dangerous parts of the field.
But the sequence that produced the morning's only goal began around the 19th minute when Griffith gave up the ball in a vulnerable area, and the Impact surged forward. The Battery won the ball back quickly and got it wide to Griffith, the speedster from Antigua and Barbuda. His swift counterattack with the ball at his feet took him down the right wing.
With Impact defenders scrambling to get back into position, one of them knocked down Griffith's ensuing cross with a hand-ball just inches outside the penalty box. Van Schaik put the free kick on Falvey for the header finish. It was the captain/defender's second league goal of 2013 - both of which have come in shutout wins.
Dane Kelly and Aminu Abdallah both came close to adding to the Battery's lead down the stretch, but it took saves by goalkeeper Eric Shannon. And it took clutch stops by Falvey and defender Taylor Mueller to preserve that lead.
The match ended just moments after an Impact header off a corner kick sailed over the crossbar with about a minute remaining in stoppage time.
Coach Mike Anhaeuser fielded a squad with four changes from Saturday's lineup, with Shannon in goal and Falvey, Mueller, Griffith and Emmanuel Adjetey across the back. Van Schaik, Aminu Abdallah and Zach Prince worked the midfield, giving Cuevas, Kelly and winger/forward Adam Mena freedom to press the attack. Defender Shawn Ferguson and midfielders Justin Portillo and Dante Marini figured as substitutes.
The match was the final installment in the Battery's two-year interleague series, which concluded with the club going 3-0-1 against MLS reserve teams in matches that counted in the standings for both USL Pro and the MLS Reserve leagues. MLS will cease reserve-league play in 2015, with all its clubs required to affiliate with USL Pro clubs or field their own USL Pro franchises.
Charleston plays at Rochester at 7:35 p.m. on Friday and then returns to Blackbaud Stadium on Friday, Aug. 8, to face the Dayton Dutch Lions. Tickets range from $10 to $18 and can be purchased at (843) 971-GOAL or online at charlestonbattery.com.