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Murray: In Cohen, Pirmann, Battery have leaders to restore historic prominence

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 11/29/22, 10:20AM EST


Charleston President’s swoop to secure 2022 Championship Coach of the Year has set expectations for new era

Charleston Battery President Lee Cohen, Head Coach Ben Pirmann and Chairman Rob Salvatore at Pirmann's introductory press conference on November 17. | Photo courtesy Ben Clemens / Charleston Battery

There are few clubs in the United States with the history of the Charleston Battery.

They’re older than every current club in the professional ranks aside from fellow Class of 1993 member the Richmond Kickers.

There are the trophies, the players, the rivalries – Coffee Pot Cup, anyone? – and the fans that have made the Battery’s story one of the best in this nation’s soccer history.

And now, they’ve got the two people they believe will return the club to the prominence it deserves.

In September, the club hired Lee Cohen as its new President, bringing aboard the former Tampa Bay Rowdies executive who helped the successful transition to the club’s current ownership – which also operates the Tampa Bay Rays – and the Rowdies’ on-field ascent in the Championship’s Eastern Conference.

Then on November 17, Cohen’s first major hire was announced, bringing 2022 USL Championship Coach of the Year Ben Pirmann to Patriots Point.

For Battery fans, a new era starts now, and expectation is building.

New Charleston Battery President Lee Cohen made a major splash in securing the services of 2022 USL Championship Coach of the Year Ben Pirmann to lead the club into the new year. | Photo courtesy Ben Clemens / Charleston Battery

“[Battery Chairman] Rob [Salvatore] recruited me, I recruited Ben, so I think the one thing that the three of us are very good at, is recruitment,” said Cohen at Pirmann’s introductory press conference. “It’s going to be staying ahead of everybody else and making those phone calls. I think after today, and a marker that went down today, there’s going to be a whole different landscape.”

If there’s one thing Pirmann has proven capable of in the Championship, it’s been to deliver on a vision.

Hired as an assistant coach by Memphis 901 FC prior to its inaugural season in 2019, the 37-year-old took over a team that had won 11 of its first 46 games in the league, a winning percentage of only 23.9%, when he was appointed interim Head Coach late in 2020.

Since then, Memphis has won 37 of 69 regular-season games, a winning percentage of 53.6% and fourth-most victories in the league.

The three teams above 901 FC in that list? 2022 title winners San Antonio FC, and the past two Eastern Conference representatives in the Championship Final in Louisville City FC and the Rowdies. 

It’s not difficult to see why when protracted contract extension talks between Memphis and Pirmann stalled, Cohen stepped into the fray.

“Just like anything else in professional sports – there are people that connect dots here and there – but when I got a phone call that said this could potentially be an opportunity, I was open to it,” said Pirmann. “I’ve been here four times to play in the stadium and to compete. To me, community is one of the most important things in life. In this community and the people here, to have the opportunity to serve them and go at this together, to do the best things possible on and off the pitch, it was just an opportunity too good to turn down.”

Now, Pirmann and Cohen will get to work as they aim to deliver the Battery’s return to on-field prominence. On that front, there’s good news: the core returning pieces are strong. Between defenders Leland Archer and AJ Paterson, young starlet Fidel Barajas and two-time Championship All-League selection Augustine Williams, the Battery have some real talent, and as importantly to Pirmann, authentic personalities.

“There are really good footballers on this team, but they’re really good human beings, that’s huge,” said Pirmann. “Now we have to go find even more footballers, even more quality citizens to serve this club in this city. Then once we get everybody going, we’re going to be here training, we’re going to play some matches and we’re just going to keep getting better and better.”

Over two-plus seasons at Memphis 901 FC, Ben Pirmann won 37 of 69 regular season games, and led the side to consecutive postseasons and the club's first playoff victory. | Photo courtesy Ben Clemens / Charleston Battery

Given the work both Pirmann and Cohen have done in helping build and restock squads at their previous stops, Charleston could quickly become an attractive destination for free agents.

“The club is going to be a place that players are going to want to come to and to compete,” said Cohen. “When you have someone sitting right next to you like [Battery legend] John Wilson, he’s an advocate of this club, he’s an ambassador of this club. So, if you look at the four of us, these are the guys that are recruiting every single day, that are going to be putting this club back into the right light.”

A decade on from Charleston’s last league title – and coming off its lowest win total in a campaign in its 30-season history – the Battery have their work cut out for them.

With Cohen and Pirmann leading, there might be no better people to guide them.

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