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Why the Charleston Battery’s attention to detail is making the difference in an undefeated start

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 05/16/24, 9:46AM EDT


Halftime insight from Head Coach Ben Pirmann set up Battery’s eighth in the last nine league outings

The Charleston Battery's Emilio Ycaza and Mark Segbers celebrate following their side's sixth consecutive league victory, the Battery's longest such run in the USL Championship era. | Photo courtesy Ben Clemens / Charleston Battery

For almost the entire first half, Charleston Battery fullbacks Mark Segbers and Nate Dossantos had held the line, literally.

But as the Battery found difficulty in breaking down a deep-set and tightly compressed Birmingham Legion FC defense, at halftime Battery Head Coach Ben Pirmann asked for both to be more aggressive in carrying the ball into the attack, with the potential it could create a decisive opportunity for the side.

Just past the hour-mark, it all came together. Picking up the pieces from a challenge by Aaron Molloy that kept possession in the Legion half, Segbers quickly carried the ball into a vacant central space, using a stepover to shake off Birmingham’s Kobe Hernandez-Foster, and played a pass against the grain to his right. MD Myers dummied, leaving Phanuel Kavita stranded, to put Emilio Ycaza in on goal for a chance he buried into the bottom-left corner.

“A couple of times this year, our coach has given us an insight and it has ended up playing out exactly how he says,” said Segbers. “I think it’s just a testament to him and us trusting the process and going out and trying to execute. It’s always good to score a goal, but it definitely feels better when you know that the space is there that you were already told about.”

Almost everyone would tell you Wednesday night wasn’t the Battery’s best performance this season. The fact they still came away with a 1-0 victory on the road against a well-drilled opponent for the club’s sixth consecutive victory – its longest in the USL Championship era – says everything about the attention to detail the defending Eastern Conference title holders are currently living by.

“I thought we made enough plays to tilt the game into our favor and in the last 15 minutes, we had to hang on,” said Pirmann. “I told the team in the first two or three weeks of the season that we would probably tie that game, but we saw it out. It wasn't our best performance, tough travel, tough opponent, but we focused on what we could control and found a way to get all three points.”

As great as the Battery attack has been this season, that fortitude to see out results may be the biggest difference so far between the side that was seconds away from lifting the USL Championship title and the one that currently sits with an 11-game undefeated streak to start the current campaign. Last year, the Battery were prone to lapses, dropping 15 points from winning positions over the course of the season. So far this campaign that number sits at two points, the only blemish coming in a 1-1 draw against Oakland Roots SC in the second game of the campaign.

Since then, the Battery are 8-0-1 in the Championship with goalkeeper Adam Grinwis’ brave five-save performance being aided by another stellar display by his back line. Center backs Graham Smith and Leland Archer each recorded eight clearances and combined to go 5 of 5 in aerial duels while Segbers (6 of 8 duels won) and Dossantos (6 of 9 duels won) were also solid as the Battery held firm.

Since his arrival from Miami FC late in the 2023 season, Mark Segbers has become a key part of the Charleston Battery's success. | Photo courtesy Ben Clemens / Charleston Battery

While Birmingham outshot the Battery 12-7, none of the chances the hosts created presented a similar threat to the clear-cut opportunity Ycaza buried to decide the game. Aware of Legion’s threat, Charleston’s defense and midfield pinched in to keep the hosts and center forward Stefano Pinho from getting moments in transition that make them dangerous.

“I think with Pinho coming over onto the wing, I made sure that I was a little more smart with my movements,” said Segbers. “I didn't just fly up to fly up, I had to make sure that if I slide up, Nate is sliding over, and our back line still has that cover because Pinho is very athletic and very good in transition. I also had to pick my moments and I thought we did a good job on him tonight.”

As great a start as the Battery have made, there’s more to come.

First up, a home game against Atlanta United FC next Tuesday night in the Round of 16 in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. June brings a string of three consecutive fascinating contests against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, Detroit City FC and Phoenix Rising FC as well as the second Southern Derby of the season against North Carolina FC.

With the ultimate goal of more silverware at the end of this campaign, every detail matters, just as Wednesday night’s victory illustrated.

“What makes it special is we're a very, very mentally sound group,” said Segbers. “We don’t let our highs get too high and our lows get too low. We just get on to the next game and get on to the next challenge. We were happy to get three points, but all of our focus is on our next game already.”

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