Behind goals from Maikel Chang and Jose Cuevas, the Charleston Battery continued to push for a playoff spot with a 2-1 victory over the Rochester Rhinos on Friday night at Blackbaud Stadium in front of a crowd of 4,011.
"These guys deserve all the credit. The players have really changed their tempo," said Battery head coach Mike Anhaeuser. "They've done everything they need to do to put themselves in contention and if they keep it up, these guys will be a huge threat in the playoffs."
Charleston scored its first goal of the game in the 26th minute on the foot of midfielder Chang. After midfielder Zach Prince's throw-in found the head of midfielder Jarad van Schaik, Cuevas fired a shot, but his shot was stopped by Rochester keeper John McCarthy. Off the rebound, van Schaik slid the ball across the goal mouth to Chang. Chang shot and McCarthy thought he had made another save, but the referee ruled the ball had crossed the goal line.
Cuevas scored his third goal of the season on a penalty kick in the 41st minute to give the Battery a 2-0 lead going into halftime. Forward Dane Kelly got the penalty called when he was brought down in the box by a cluster of Rochester defenders. Cuevas stepped up calmly and blasted the ball into the left side of the goal before celebrating with a point to the Charleston badge on his jersey.
Rochester made a late push to salvage a point in the second half but could only complete half of the comeback. After winning a corner in the 86th minute, the ball was played into the Battery box and bounced around between multiple players right in front of the goal. After a high bounce, Rochester forward JC Banks tried a bicycle kick from six yards out. Despite a slight mishit, Banks' attempt slipped past Charleston keeper Odisnel Cooper to make the score 2-1.
With the quick turnaround, Anhaeseur made a couple of changes to the starting lineup to keep fresh legs on the field. Prince, Chang and Aminu Abdallah were given starts in the midfield, while veteran defender John Wilson stepped back into his normal left back position after missing Wednesday's match.
"We wanted a fresh midfield," said Anhaeseur. "We had three new midfielders but I had to keep Jose Cuevas and Dane Kelly in because they are really ticking."
Jarad van Schaik has been a key component in the midfield for the Battery's playoff push and put in another solid performance against Rochester.
"We've played the past few games like playoff games and these are huge wins," said van Schaik.
With seven points in the past eight days, Charleston (32 points, 8-8-8) jumped Rochester (31 points, 8-9-7) and continues to move up the USLPRO table as they hope to secure a playoff spot.
Charleston hits the road for its next game, playing at OKC Energy FC on Aug. 24 at Pribil Stadium in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, at 8 p.m.
The next two road games will test the Battery while they hope to hold on to a playoff spot as the season winds down.
"Now we can get some rest and get healthy," said Anhaeuser. "When you go on the road, it is tough to get points, but our guys are ready."