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Battery Grind, Keep Upper Hand on Kickers

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 06/11/17, 10:11AM EDT


Late defensive effort sees Charleston move four points clear in East

Photo courtesy Zach Bland / Charleston Battery

CHARLESTON, S.C. – After their late defensive collapse against Louisville City FC, getting back on track defensively was a clear priority for the Charleston Battery as they welcomed longtime rival the Richmond Kickers to MUSC Health Stadium.

The Battery did just that, weathering a storm of pressure in the second half that saw the Kickers carry much of the play to earn a 1-0 victory behind Justin Portillo’s first-half penalty kick. The victory, and the Tampa Bay Rowdies’ 1-1 draw with the Rochester Rhinos later in the night, saw the Battery extend their lead at the top of the USL’s Eastern Conference to four points.

“It’s a huge difference from last week,” said Battery Head Coach Mike Anhaeuser. “Tonight, our chances were limited, but we buried one of the few that we earned then defended well for the rest of the match. Our matches with Richmond are always unpredictable, so you have to be ready for anything. I’m happy with the way our guys responded to their playing style tonight.”

The victory also allowed the Battery to maintain the upper hand in recent contests between themselves and the Kickers, both of whom are celebrating their 25th seasons this year. The 60th meeting between the clubs – who first met competitively in 1993 – saw the Battery extend their undefeated streak in the series to eight games.

They accomplished that thanks to Portillo’s penalty kick in the 26th minute, which capped a good opening spell for the hosts. A handball in the penalty area gave Portillo the chance, and while he was forced to retake after encroachment saw his initial goal ruled out, the midfielder playmaker went to the same right side a second time to beat the dive of Kickers goalkeeper Marcel DeBellis.

“This was a good win for us,” said Portillo. “After giving up four goals here at home last week, it’s nice to get a shoutout. If you look at what we’ve done in the span of two games, I think it shows how versatile we are. We can beat you in different ways and there’s a lot to be said for that.”

Photo courtesy Zach Bland / Charleston Battery

There wasn’t to be a repeat of the Battery’s offensive fireworks against Louisville, with Romario Williams unable to add to his 10 goals this season despite some good openings. Instead, the Battery defense came to the fore as the Kickers outshot their hosts 11-3 in the second half. Mired in an attacking slump, Richmond did everything but score, with a late effort that rebounded off the crossbar before being hustled away to safety an indicator of how the side’s season as a whole has gone.

For the Battery – who celebrated their 20th season with a championship – the omens remained good that the side can continue its forward momentum both into Wednesday night’s game in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup against Atlanta United FC, and in the league.

“The biggest thing for us tonight is that we earned three points,” said Anhaeuser. “We want three points every time we play here at MUSC Health Stadium. I think we were excellent defensively for the majority of the match, which sets us up well for the Open Cup midweek. A win like this, where you really have to grind for 90 minutes, is great heading into our match against Atlanta United.”

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