CHARLESTON, SC – A bad break, a textbook goal and a moment of magic saw the Charleston Battery into the second round of the USL Playoffs. Substitute Forrest Lasso provided the deciding goal in Charleston’s 2-1 extra-time win over the Richmond Kickers on Saturday night at MUSC Health Stadium in front of a crowd of 3,427.
“We deserved the win tonight and we deserve to play in the next round,” said an excited Battery head coach Mike Anhaeuser. “We kept Forrest up because we were looking to win the game and we got the win.”
During the 90 minutes of regulation time, both teams were clearly just trying to avoid making a costly mistake. With that mentality from both teams, regulation was spent playing between the boxes and chances were few and far between.
When the whistle blew to finish the second half, the excitement began.
Everything changed when Battery defender Taylor Mueller found himself at the end of a Richmond cross in the 92nd minute. His attempted clearance misfired and arched over Charleston keeper Odisnel Cooper to give Richmond a 1-0 lead.
Suddenly, Charleston was in an unexpected hole and the team visibly deflated in reaction to the own-goal. Afterward, Charleston began to throw men forward seeking the equalizer, with Mueller having the best attempt at a goal. Richmond midfielder George Davis IV stepped up and blocked the attempt. The teams would head into the second half of extra time with the score still 1-0 in favor of the visitors.
At the break, Charleston brought 6-5 center back Lasso in place of Mueller, but pushed him up as a forward in an attempt to add some height to set-pieces in the final 15 minutes.
The substitution had an immediate impact as Charleston found an equalizer in the 107th minute. With the added attacker, Charleston were pouring men into the box when midfielder Dante Marini sent a cross into the middle of the box from the left wing. The ball was met by a flying Dane Kelly, who used his head to power the ball past the keeper to tie the game 1-1.
Confidence returned to the Battery squad. Charleston continued to push men forward, opting to keep Lasso up front rather than send him to the back line to help preserve the draw.
As the match played out, the decision was clearly the correct one.
In the 114th minute, Charleston forced a corner. Lasso planted himself above the back post as midfielder Justin Portillo sent the corner into the box. As the ball came in, Lasso used his height and size to separate himself from everyone else and buried a header into the back of the net. As the stadium erupted, Lasso sprinted to the corner flag and ripped off his shirt in celebration.
Richmond knew time was short and began to fire away from all angles as time ticked along. Charleston went down to 10 men in the 120th minute when Navion Boyd picked up a second yellow card for a foul at midfield.
On the final play of the game, Richmond forward Matt Delicate had an open shot from short range — but a spectacular diving save from Odisnel Cooper prevented penalty kicks and saved the game for Charleston.
Battery midfielder Ricky Garbanzo started the match and was taken off for a substitute in the 93rd minute but received a red card from the bench in the 96th minute for an incident that happened along the sideline.
With the win, Charleston advances to face Louisville City FC next Saturday in Louisville in the Eastern Conference semi-finals of the USL Playoffs.