The Regular Season Finale
In a pivotal match-up against Southern Derby Cup rival Charlotte, the Charleston Battery dominated with a 3-1 victory in their final regular season match in front of a packed MUSC Health Stadium. The first tally of the match came from set piece specialist Justin Portillo. He smashed a free kick into the net in the 17th minute giving the Battery the only goal of the 1st half. The scoring continued for Charleston shortly after the intermission. A deep pass from Shawn Ferguson to Dane Kelly was deflected by a Charlotte defender. Unfortunately for Charlotte, and the previous USL goal record, Kelly played the bounce perfectly and blasted a screamer past the keeper for the 2-0 lead and the USL record for most goals all time. Charlotte did get a goal back in the 78th minute, as they packed the box around Odisnel Cooper and fired a medley of shots at the Battery keeper. The first couple of attempts were deflected by Emmanuel Adjetey, until the 3rd was punched into the top corner by Caleb Calvert to close the gap to 2-1. If a one goal difference was unnerving to the Battery faithful, they wouldn't be on edge long. After an unforced error by the Charlotte defense, Navion Boyd slipped a pass out wide to Ricky Garbanzo, who knocked it into the net to set the final score at 3-1.
The Good Guys: Charleston Battery (#3 Seed in the Eastern Conference)
The Battery punctuated a great season at home with their 24th consecutive match at home without a defeat. They also broke their club average attendance record set in 2008. The final week of the regular season saw Dane Kelly finding his way onto the USL Team of the Week for the 5th time of the season. As the team heads into the playoffs, a few players could return from injury to see time in the playoffs. Austin Savage, out for a considerable time with a severe ankle sprain, is potentially ready to return to action. Obi Woodbine and Heviel Cordoves are both working to overcome leg injuries, a calf and hamstring respectively.
The Bad Guys: Richmond Kickers (#6 Seed in The Eastern Conference)
Don't think we forgot who eliminated the Battery in the first round of last year's playoff. The Battery were the visiting team in last year's playoffs and were knocked out in the opening round at Richmond in in the 2nd half of Extra Time. This year, Richmond had to rely on Charleston's victory over Charlotte to let them punch their playoff ticket. Jason Yeisley led the Kickers in goals by a margin of five, ending the campaign with 13 goals on a team high 55 shots. Goalkeeping duties will either fall to D.C. United loanee Travis Worra or Kickers keeper Ryan Taylor. Both have started 12 games this season.
The Dirty Details
9/26 7:30pm MUSC Health Stadium
Watch it live HERE.
The Winner Is....
Team awards were awarded at halftime of the Charlotte match. Winners were voted on by the fans.
The Nigel Cooper Most Valuable Player Award
Overcoming injuries through the season, Cuban native GK Odisnel Cooper took home the club's MVP. Anytime El Gato was between the pipes, Charleston had a great chance of victory. In his 19 starts this season, the Battery went 10-2-7 including 6 clean sheets. He finished 2nd in the USL in Goals Against Average with a .95 average. Always giving all glory to God, Cooper was very humbled by the honor.
Offensive Player of The Year
Dane Kelly walked away with his 2nd straight Offensive Player of the Year for Charleston. The Jamaican striker again led the team in goals and recently also became the USL's All Time Leader in goals scored. Possessing his usual great pace and strong upper body, "Cool Runnings" was able to have another great season despite being the target of every team's defensive efforts. Kelly had this to say about Charleston's fans, "I think they are the most supporting fans I've ever met. No matter what, they always have our backs."
Derek Revord Defensive Player of The Year
Steady Shawn Ferguson was voted the top defensive man as he truly blossomed into one of the elite defenders in the USL. Contributing two goals and an assist, Ferguson is a big body to handle on set pieces. However, he mainly makes his impression locking down the opponent's top man. With his physical, disciplined play on the back line, whenever Charleston needed him, he was there to deliver.
Betsy McAdams Newcomer of The Year
Ricky Garbanzo, the rookie out of Coastal Carolina, took home Newcomer of the Year with 100% effort, 100% of the time. Garbanzo, usually lining up as a supporting forward, pressured opponents' GK's and defenders without relent. Ricky added 5 goals and 5 assists. With his flying ninja kick block attempts on goal kicks or sliding challenges on a lackadaisical defender, Garbanzo was truly the Energizer bunny to the Battery attack. Pun intended.
David Vaughan Award
The award given to the player with the most "Never Say Die Attitude" went to Zach Prince. Prince's rough, physical play drew ire of opposing players, coaches, referees and even commentators. Despite not being the largest, most daunting player of the Battery roster, Prince holds the honor of leading the team in: Yellow Cards, Fouls and Games Suspended.
The Hired Gun
Memo Rodriguez was a late sub for the Battery against Charlotte. The Houston Dynamo loanee nearly notched his 2nd goal of the season, as he beautifully chipped a bending shot over the keeper charging off his line, only to have it bounce off the post. I optimistically tried to blame the shot on the nonexistent wind, but Memo said only he and the post were to blame. Memo says he is very excited for the playoffs and helping the Battery push towards a USL title.