Charleston's vaunted defense surrendered three goals in the first 22 minutes, lost its top goalkeeper to injury, and limped to a 4-1 loss Saturday night against the previously 13th-place Harrisburg City Islanders.
With the win, Harrisburg equaled Charleston's 16-point total, avenged a 4-0 defeat by the Battery's young guns on May 2, and further damaged the visitors' playoff chances.
The Battery offered Harrisburg an open match from the start and created some of the game's first chances. But the Islanders struck first in the 7th minute when forward Jimmy McLaughlin got a nice touch on a cross and fired from left to right to beat Battery goalkeeper Odisnel Cooper.
They would double that lead just three minutes later, when midfielder Jose Barril lined up over a free kick from danger and curled a ball around the Battery's four-man wall. The bending shot dropped just inside the right post and left Cooper grasping at air.
But the hosts would truly add injury to insult in the 21st minute, when Harrisburg forward Morgan Langley collided with Cooper in the six-yard box as he put back a rebound off the goalkeeper's athletic save attempt. As the City Islanders celebrated their stunning 3-0 breakout, Cooper writhed on the stubbly grass.
After the match Battery athletic trainer Bobby Weisenberger said the injury was probably an ankle sprain. Cooper spent the rest of the match in obvious pain on the team bench.
With backup goalkeeper Eric Shannon taking over in his first USL PRO relief appearance (Shannon had one previous league start and two starts in U.S. Open Cup), the Battery made it to half without allowing more damage. Not only was it the first time the Battery have trailed 3-0 at half this season, it was the first time the Battery have trailed by three goals. But the damage wasn't over yet.
At half, Coach Mike Anhaeuser turned to forward Heviel Cordoves, who had previously sparked a short-lived Battery comeback attempt off the bench at Charlotte. The Cordoves-for-John-Wilson swap at Harrisburg appeared to be paying dividends in the 48th minute, when the Battery earned an Andre Lewis free kick from the left.
Battery Captain Colin Falvey headed Lewis' ball back across the face of goal to center back Shawn Ferguson, whose sharp header forced Harrisburg keeper Nick Noble into a quality save. But the ensuing play ultimately sprung Harrisburg midfielder Matt Bahner on a counterattack, and he finished calmly after stranding Shannon in an awkward position.
Down 4-0, things deteriorated for the Battery when rookie attacking midfielder Lewis -- making his fourth consecutive official start -- drew a red card. The ejection appeared to be the result of something he said to the referee.
Midfielder Jarad van Schaik salvaged a point of pride for the short-handed Battery in the 86th minute, after a defender's inadvertent hand ball in the penalty area forced the referee to point to the spot. Noble guessed correctly, but was unable to keep van Schaik's strike from blasting through his hands.
On paper, the match looked deceptively even, with both teams finishing even on shots (12) and saves (4). But the home team took control of the match from the half-hour mark, and absorbed the pressure that the Battery threw the Islanders' way.
The Battery will play their next match at home on Saturday, July 12 against the Charlotte Eagles. Gates open at 6, kickoff is at 7:30, and tickets start at $10.
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