The talk before the Charleston Battery’s opening game of the season against Phoenix Rising FC was one of confidence.
New Head Coach Ben Pirmann had everyone on the same page, and eager to represent the crest.
“The energy, the vibes around the team have been immaculate all preseason,” Battery veteran AJ Paterson told the Post & Courier’s Andrew Miller. “Coach brings an energy to the club, to training sessions that makes guys want to work that much harder for him and the crest. There is always a lot of turnover at this level, but he’s done a good job of getting everyone on the same page, the chemistry on this team has been great.”
It’s pretty standard preseason fare. Everyone’s optimistic about where they’re at before the opening game, right?
And then the Battery delivered the most comprehensive performance that – unfortunately for them – didn’t ultimately claim victory on the USL Championship’s opening weekend.
Facing a Phoenix Rising FC side with its own overhaul and confident preseason vibes, the Battery looked every bit the part of a team that will contend this season. Their pressure in Phoenix’s half caused the visitors to Patriots Point problems consistently – Charleston won possession 12 times in the attacking third, comfortably the most of any team in action in the Championship on Saturday.
The Battery’s ability to sustain pressure was evident on their opening goal. A corner kick came into the penalty area, and while a Phoenix defender got a header half-clear after the near-post flick, Leland Archer kept the play alive, setting up Augustine Williams for a close-range chance that was well saved before Andrew Booth turned home the rebound.
There were other examples. Young Mexico U-17s starlet Fidel Barajas picked up where he left off at the Concacaf Men’s U-17 Championship, holding possession well, making smart decisions, and completing 4 of 5 crosses including a perfect delivery for Nick Markanich late in the first half that the forward couldn’t quite put away.
And then, of course, a defensive lapse proved costly. Phoenix didn’t create a lot, but if you give Gabriel Torres and Danny Trejo space then you’re likely to get punished, and with 16 minutes to go the visitors pulled level.
That shouldn’t take the gloss off the performance the Battery put in, though. As last year’s opening night victory against FC Tulsa proved a false dawn, this performance showed exactly the sort of promise Charleston and a tremendous crowd at Patriots Point can hang their hats on for this season.
“I think so, hopefully you guys can feel it, the crowd can feel it,” said Pirmann after the game. “That’s what this is going to be. We want to work our tails off, we want teams to be miserable here, [Phoenix] are a very methodical build-up team, and they were frustrated, they had to make changes.
The pressure had been mounting and the persistence pays off! @Andrew_Booth_ taps in @augiwilliams' saved shot for our first goal of the night and season #CHSvPHX | #CB93 #YourTownYourClub https://t.co/13FOjaOBIZ pic.twitter.com/MgNkqRNi5h— Charleston Battery (@Chas_Battery) March 12, 2023
We took them out of their game and played our game. When we’re here, we want everybody to know what the Black and Yellow are about.”
One game in, we’ve already got a very good idea.