The Charlotte Eagles outplayed the Charleston Battery on the soccer field Tuesday night. But the Battery won the game where it really counts — the scoreboard.
Osvaldo Alonso scored on a penalty kick in the 90th minute to lift Charleston over Charlotte, 2-1, in the second round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup before a crowd of 1,411 at Blackbaud Stadium.
With the win, the Battery will take on Major League Soccer's Houston Dynamo in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup next Tuesday night beginning at 7:30 at Blackbaud Stadium.
The Eagles did everything right for 90 minutes, outworking, outplaying and outhustling the Battery for long stretches of the match.
But in the end, it didn't matter as the Battery found a way to win and advance to the next round of the national tournament.
"We didn't play our best tonight and that was pretty obvious," said Charleston keeper Keith Wiggans said. "I don't think there's any question Charlotte was better than us on the field. But we found a way to win and advance.
"The difference between this year's team and last year's team is that's a game we would have lost last year. So, even though we didn't play well we still got the win and that shows the character we have on this team."
With the score tied at 1 in the final minute of regulation, forward Lazo Alavanja crossed the ball to striker Randi Patterson inside the 6-yard box. Just as Patterson was going to volley the ball into the open net, Charlotte defender Steve Shak slid in from behind and tackled the former UNC Greensboro All-American to the ground.
Referee Skye Arthur Banning immediately called for a penalty kick.
Alonso, the former Cuban national team captain, calmly knocked in the game-winner, beating Charlotte keeper Terry Boss with a low strike to the left corner of the net.
All in all it was a lackluster performance from the Battery, which had to chase Charlotte, a USL Second Division team, around the field most of the night.
"We were not as prepared as we should have been," said Charleston Battery coach Mike Anhaeuser. "You've got to give credit to Charlotte, they played a good game. They were solid defensively and they created plenty of chances offensively. They've got three or four players that are very good technically. We got the penalty kick there at the end and right or wrong we put it in and won the game.
"We can't look back. It wasn't the prettiest game, it wasn't the prettiest win, but we're moving on and that's all that matters."
Charleston grabbed a 1-0 lead on Darren Spicer's fourth goal of the tournament in the 12th minute. Charleston striker Aaron King took a shot from just inside the 18-yard box that Boss attempted to punch out. Spicer was there for the rebound and blasted the shot pass Boss for the score.
"Aaron did well to get a shot off and it kind of deflected right back to me and I was in the right place at the right time again," said Spicer. "It was an ugly win, but it was a win and that's all that counts."
The Battery had a chance to extend their advantage in the 30th minute when Charlotte defender Ben Johnson misplayed a ball just outside the Eagles' penalty box. The ball squirted past Shak and King was off to the races, sprinting down the field on a breakaway with the Charlotte defender in his wake.
Just as King was about to shoot, Boss came off his line and smothered the ball to end the threat.
Charlotte tied the game on Jorge Herrera's header in the 66th minute off a throw in. Johnson threw the ball in from the left side into the 6-yard box and Herrera got just enough of the ball to knock it past Wiggans for the score.
--Charleston coach Mike Anhaeuser elected to rest several starters including, keeper Dusty Hudock and defender John Wilson.
--Midfielder David Kenga (lower leg) and forward Ian Fuller (groin) missed the game with injuries.
--Defender Marco Reda returned to the lineup after missing six games with a high ankle sprain and a strained calf muscle. Reda played nearly an hour before getting replaced by Brandon Curran.