The Season Ending Defeat
If you're going to lose, you might as well lose on two goals by the record shattering, USL MVP frontrunner, Louisville forward Matt Fondy. Similar to their first round match, the Battery went to extra time tied 0-0. Regulation was a back and forth affair, with a multitude of great saves by both Odisnel Cooper and LCFC keeper Scott Goodwin. The Battery had roughly half the total number of shots as their opponents throughout the match.
It took until the 2nd half of the extra time for a shot to find the net, and who else but Fondy to deliver. On a perfectly struck corner, Fondy was able to knock the ball in to give LCFC a lead. Now needing a goal to tie, the Battery again subbed on Forrest Lasso, who immediately tallied a trifecta of shots in great areas, but none of which were on target. LCFC then struck again on a counter attack, as Fondy tapped one past a charging Cooper for the dagger. It was an exciting match, but one that just seemed destined to find Charleston on the losing side. The Battery's final tally this season was 13-7-10, with ZERO losses coming at MUSC Health Stadium.
An end to a season usually leads to reflecting on the past campaign, so I will give a brief recap of each one of my beloved members of the Battery this season.
A defender hailing from Ghana, "Jetey" was his usual pacey self on the backline this year. Able to rundown even the fastest forwards, he helped solidify the backline as well as use his speed to push the ball forward into the midfield. He started in 25 of the 26 games he appeared in.
Did not appear in a match for Charleston this season.
Most famous for his Carolina Challenge Cup "lightning goal", the Jamaican midfielder provided lightning pace every time he touched the ball. He was a problem for defenses all year as he pushed passed countless defenders and looked for his teammates on crosses or occasionally put one towards the net himself. He finished the season with one goal and 2 assists.
2015 was a huge step forward for the Cuban midfielder. Chang was at the top of the USL assists sheet for most of the beginning of the season, as he constantly found teammates with his creative passing and deft touches. A top moment for Chang was his last minute equalizing goal on the road to steal a late draw for the Battery when points were a must. Maikel finished with 3 goals and a team high 6 assists in his 3rd season with the club.
Simply put, when Cooper was in the net, Battery fans felt confident their team would not lose. Arguably the most athletic keeper in the USL with reflexes to match, Cooper only lost 3 matches he started this season. Whether it was a leaping grab off an opposing corner or a reflex save from point blank range, El Gato was always must see entertainment. Voted the club's MVP, Cooper is a fan favorite and rightfully so, as he continues to cement himself as one of the elite keepers in the USL. He finished 2nd in the USL in Goals Against Average, only trailing #1 USL seed Rochester keeper Brandon Miller.
When Cooper was out with an injury or needed a night off, it was rookie Kevin Corby who took the goalkeeping duties. Corby is a strong keeper and controlled his area well in his 8 starts, scoring 2 clean sheets in the process. Like they say with pitching in baseball, you can never have too many good goalkeepers, so it's a comforting thought to know you have a strong, starting quality backup to Cooper with Kevin Corby.
If you were able to knock the Cuban forward off the ball, you were one of the few. Built like a stallion, Cordo battled back from multiple injuries to be a great substitute for Dane Kelly at the forward position. Cordoves finished with 5 goals on the season and was 2nd on the club in shots.
Easily one of the best defenders in the USL, Ferguson drew the opposing players top man in the marking department nearly every match. Steady and sturdy doesn't even begin to describe his play this season as he was always able to stifle an attack with brute force and great footwork. Paired with Taylor Mueller in the middle, Ferguson pushed Charleston towards the top of defending teams in the USL.
In the nicest way possible, Ricky might be the most annoying player in the USL. Whether he was chasing an opposing defender mercilessly or attempting a ninja kick on any goalkeepers goal kicks, Garbanzo was badgering opposing backlines. He seemed to have endless energy, combined perfectly with goal scorers such as Kelly or Cordoves, he created possessions with his efforts, and even found the net five times to match his 5 assists. Being that he did that in his rookie year, the Battery truly found a gem for years to come in Ricky Garbanzo.
Without officially confirming it, I would be willing to bet Q is the fastest Battery player. One of my favorite reoccurring plays this season would be when Q would bring the ball up from his defensive position with his great pace, pause for a second as he entered the attacking zone, then blaze past ANY defender in the USL. The moment they went flat footed defending the Antigua & Barbuda national team captain, they had lost. Q overcame an early knee injury that required surgery to return to his top form by midseason providing the Battery his great added dimension of elite speed on the backline.
The USL's All Time Leading Goal Scorer. That tells you the type of talent the striker from Jamaica has. Cool Runnings was the focal point of the Battery attack again this season and responded by netting 11 goals on a team high 96 shots. Kelly was almost always met with multiple defenders hanging on him when Charleston would play the ball in to him and he won many of those battles. A strong upper body, combined with great pace and striking ability, it would not shock me if Dane ended up in the MLS in the near future as I've mentioned in previous articles. A hungry player who strives to continually improve, Kelly will continue to be a problem for USL defenses as long as he's around.
Lasso will be known best by Battery fans for knocking in the game winning goal in their first round match up with Richmond in extra time. The rookie from Wofford is a physical specimen at 6'5'' 210 pounds who possesses incredible aerial abilities. Unfortunately, his minutes will be limited as long as he is stuck behind the staunch veteran Mueller-Ferguson duo in the center, but as he grows as a player, it will be hard for them to keep Lasso on the bench.
The diminutive Dante usually came on as a sub in the midfield or for Ricky Garbanzo in the #10 role. He possesses great effort, energy and a nice touch passes. He netted one goal this season, as well as assisting on Kelly's goal in the playoff match against Richmond.
Star Cuban defector Ariel Martinez's time on the pitch with the Battery this season was limited to their final match loss to Louisville City. The top player on the Cuban national team, his defection and eventual signing with Charleston is a big deal in not only the USL, but world soccer in general. It's not known if he'll remain in Charleston next season, but with fellow Cubans Chang, Cooper, and Cordoves, it's entirely possible which would be an absolute nightmare for USL defenders in 2016.
Paired with Shawn Ferguson on the backline in the middle, Mueller was nearly as sturdy as Shawn. He also tallied two goals and two assists for the Battery this campaign. Now that we can look back and laugh about it, he also put one of the most wicked shots past El Gato this year with his own goal against Richmond.
The set piece ace for Charleston, Portillo added to his Newcomer of the Year rookie season in 2014 with a dazzling sophomore effort in 2015. The Little Easy, a nickname I just thought of due to his size, calm demeanor, and New Orleans roots, was a passing magician this year, whether on a corner kick or from his midfield position. He was second on the club in goals scored with 6 as well as adding officially 2 assists, with countless others starting a Battery attack.
The unofficial enforcer and instigator of Charleston this year, Prince led the club in fouls, yellow cards and suspensions with his physical play in the middle of the pitch for the Battery. Prince also added 4 goals this season, 3 of those coming early in the campaign when the Battery were trying to overcome injuries to multiple forwards at the same time. Prince is also the longest tenured Charleston player, having just finished his 6th year under Coach Anhaeuser.
The only Houston Dynamo loanee for almost the entirety of the season. The Homegrown Product always impressed during his time on the pitch, netting a beautiful bending goal and a hustle play assist in his rookie professional season. He earned 17 appearances and 6 starts for a contending Battery team as a loanee, which speaks volumes for his pure talent. As Memo continues to develop his strength and toughness on the pitch, his creative passing and natural abilities will help fulfill his potential. Next year, it will likely be the Memo & Carson Show again, but this time at the newly formed RGVFC, until the Dynamo decide they'd like him on their MLS side. Memo is hoping to see some time for Houston this weekend in their Charities Cup match on Saturday.
The possibly retiring forward Savage has had a rough go of it these last two years despite his high talent level. After being cut due to an influx of Whitecaps loanees in 2014, Savage battled back and earned a roster spot this season, partially due to a great preseason for the Battery, scoring the lone goal in a win against the Dynamo in the 2015 CCC. Savage struggled to see the field this season, stuck behind the talents of Garbanzo, Kelly, Cordoves, and others. He also overcame a severe ankle sprain to return to form in time for the postseason, though he never saw any action. When he is healthy, Savage is a great player around the net and on the attack. He has a great nose for the ball. My personal hope for Savage is that rather than retire he latches on with another team or finally earns a share of the time in Charleston as he's a very talented player and an incredibly hard working young man.
The consistent Haitian national team midfielder provided a calming presence and versatile play in the midfield in the 2015 season. However, his appearances were limited due to a stacked midfield, as well as national team call-ups at various times this season.
Jarad van Schaik
The captain of the 2015 Charleston Battery, van Schaik added 1 goal and 3 assists to the club from his defensive midfield position. While listed as a midfielder, his defense talent and willingness to defend, allowed the Battery another man back more times than not, helping to solidify one of the league's top defensive units. Van Schaik also handled the corner kicks from the right side, sending his bending left footed strikes into the box.
The 3rd member of the Battery's Reggae Boyz, Woodbine is a steady, veteran defender for the Battery. He, like Griffith, has great pace from the backline to help start an attack at any time. He was injured for most of the end of the season and will hope to return to his top form in 2016.
The Heartfelt Thank You
With this being my last article covering the Charleston Battery, I wanted to personally thank everyone involved in my season here. There are far too many people to individually thank but I literally did not encounter a single person who did not make me feel welcome, respected, and appreciated this season which ranges from season ticket holders, to coaches, to players, to the front office. I truly loved my time covering the Battery and now consider myself a lifetime fan. I will continue to stay in touch with all of my Charleston "family" and will always have great things to say about the city, the club, and the people. So unless you're playing RGVFC (I have no choice!), I wish the Battery the best of luck in their 2016 season and every campaign moving forward.