Battery rolls to 4-0 win over Harrisburg

Harrisburg center back Shane Johnson heads away a Battery corner kick in the first half. Harrisburg City Islanders photo

Forward Dane Kelly converted two Ricky Garbanzo assists in the first 16 minutes as the Charleston Battery rolled to a 4-0 victory against a shorthanded and frustrated Harrisburg City Islanders squad Wednesday night at Skyline Sports Complex.

With the win, Charleston (8-2-7, 31 points, second place in the USL Eastern Conference) kept pace with the first-place Rochester Rhinos, who beat FC Montreal 2-1 in other USL action Wednesday. It also marked a rare season-series sweep of Harrisburg, with the Battery going 3-0-0 on an aggregate score of 10-1.

With team captain Jarad van Schaik serving a one-game suspension for yellow-card accumulation and Sebastien Thuriere away with Haiti in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, coach Mike Anhaeuser entered this match low on central midfielders. His solution: Pinch outside midfielder Zach Prince in beside central mid Justin Portillo in a 4-4-1-1 and put returning fullback Quinton Griffith out on the right side of the midfield.

The new lineup paid dividends almost instantly when Griffith played a ball ahead to Garbanzo in the second minute. The rookie forward from Coastal Carolina got around his mark and sent a square pass to Kelly lurking level with Harrisburg center back Shane Johnson at the back post. Instead of leading him, Garbanzo played Kelly to the trailing foot. He stopped, Johnson didn’t, and the finish at the left post was relatively simple.

It was the second time in two matches with Harrisburg that Kelly has scored in the second minute. And 14 minutes later, the Griffith-to-Garbanzo-to-Kelly combo did almost the exact thing again for the 2-0 lead. The goal was Kelly’s eight in USL play this season — with five coming in three games against the City Islanders.

Coach Bill Becher’s Islanders tried to make a game of it over the next 20 minutes, with Philadelphia Union strikers Antoine Hoppenot and Jimmy McLaughlin carrying the majority of the freight. But the Harrisburg attack too often looked like a series of individual efforts, easily dealt with by the Battery back line and goalkeeper Kevin Corby. Corby made his fourth consecutive start Wednesday in relief of the injured Odisnel Cooper.

Things fell apart for the Islanders in the 36th minute, when Garbanzo beat center back Dante Leverock down the left side. Leverock shoved him down, drawing a yellow and setting up a free kick from near the corner flag for Portillo. The second-year midfielder dropped it over the near-post wall, where team captain Taylor Mueller made contact and scuffed an assist back to center-back partner Shawn Ferguson, who put the ball away for the 3-0 lead. It was Ferguson’s first goal since Week 1.

At the top of the 63rd minute, Kelly’s pass to Navion Boyd set up his fellow Jamaican for his first USL goal of 2015. With the tally, Boyd became the 12th Battery player to score in USL this season.

The shutout was the second in a row for Charleston, which has allowed only a penalty kick in its last three matches, all of them with Corby in goal. The rookie from Missouri got credit for five saves, improving his team-best goals-against and save-percentage stats.

Charleston plays at home against West Bromwich Albion of the English Premier League in its next match on July 17.