By Corbin Ensminger
The Battery clinched a playoff spot on Saturday after a huge 2-0 win over Louisville City FC at MUSC Health Stadium. Second half goals from Justin Portillo and Dane Kelly sealed the win.
The victory, combined with other results around the league, guaranteed that the Battery would at least get a playoff game. If they win against Charlotte this Saturday, that playoff game will be played at home. Louisville was already assured of second place, after clinching that last week. There were questions about where Louisville’s mindset would be, since they had nothing to play for. Regardless, it was clear that the Battery desperately wanted the win. They seemed to have an extra burst of speed all night, beating the visitors to lose balls and making great runs and passes.
Louisville gave it a good effort, and took the game to Charleston a few times, but for the most part the Battery controlled the game. Charleston outshot their guests 12-5 on the night. The Louisville defense was able to keep off Charleston from scoring from the run-of-play, but two set pieces led to goals which tilted the game in the Battery’s favor.
The game against Charlotte is going to be a big one. The home playoff game is on the line as well as the Southern Derby Cup. The playoff scenarios are numerous and complicated. Scroll down to the bottom of this post for more on that.
Charleston: GK: Cooper DEF: Adjetey, Ferguson, Mueller, Prince MID: Portillo, van Schaik, Chang, Garbanzo (Thuriere 67′), Boyd (Marini 59′) FWD: Kelly (Rodriguez 89′)
Battery coach Mike Anhaeuser used his regular lineup Saturday, but with one change. Zach Prince played as the right back, a position he has been called upon to play when needed. Quinton Griffith and O’Brian Woodbine were both on the bench but did not play. Griffith had just returned from spending the international break with Antigua and Barbuda, and Woodbine has been recovering from an injury.
Both of them should be available to Anhaeuser on Saturday, and Charleston will need to be at full strength against Charlotte.
64th minute, GOAL Charleston (Portillo, unassisted.)
Portillo put Charleston ahead mid-way into the second half on a freekick from right outside the box. Kelly was fouled on an off-the-ball play, and Portillo decided to take the kick himself. It took a deflection off of the Louisville wall and beat goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh.
81st minute, GOAL Charleston (Kelly, assisted by van Schaik.)
Dante Marini was fouled by defender Enrique Montano outside of the box in the 81st minute, and Jarad van Schaik stepped up to deliver the ball into the box. He sent it to the far post where Kelly was able to make contact with his head. The headed ball bounced off of the grass and into the net for Charleston’s second goal.
Other results Saturday
The other crucial games in the Eastern Conference went about as well as they possibly could for the Battery on Saturday, as they gained points over all of the other teams chasing a playoff spot.
The New York Red Bulls II fell to FC Montreal 2-0, leaving them one point behind Charleston. Charlotte also lost 2-0 to Saint Louis FC, allowing the Battery to open a three-point lead over the Independence. Elsewhere, Richmond and Harrisburg drew 1-1 and Pittsburgh and Wilmington had the same result in their match.
There are still several different things that could happen to change the playoff lineup. But the first four spots are filled — Rochester, Louisville, Charleston and the New York are already in. The last two spots are up for grabs.
The first two teams out, as of Tuesday, are the two from Pennsylvania. But both Pittsburgh (37 points) and Harrisburg City (36) have only played 26 games, while all of the teams above them except for Rochester have played 27 of the 28 regular-season games. Pittsburgh hosts Rochester Wednesday, while Harrisburg travels across the border to face FC Montreal.
Then, the two teams face eachother in the last game of their seasons on Saturday. Richmond is sitting directly above Pittsburgh with 38 points, and will face Toronto FC II in their final game of the season. Charlotte is currently fifth with 40 points. But so much can still change.
It’s very complicated and confusing. Thankfully, Battery communications assistant Sarah Cardamone wrote a great breakdown of it on the team’s website. Read it here.
— Ferguson was voted by media members as the USL player of the week for his performance in the shutout. Portillo made the “bench.”
— If the Battery has at least 3,430 fans come out to Saturday’s game, the season-average attendance will be at 4,000 for the first time ever.
Top photo: Maikel Chang brings the ball up the field for Charleston against Louisville City FC Saturday. Photo credit: Charleston Battery.