Tuesday, April 9, 2013

We're Almost There!!

As the preseason draws to a close, the Charleston Battery have been busy doing what they do best: winning.  Sometimes the preseason can be a false indicator of how your team performs when the games begin to count, but if the Battery performs even half as well as they have in the past month, we've got nothing to worry about.  With many returning veterans and new recruits quickly gelling in the squad, this Charleston outfit might just be the best we've ever seen! (Lamar Hunt Cup, anyone?)

 Since the USL PRO season officially kicked off a few weekends ago, its a good thing the Battery performing like they're in mid-season stride.
Here are the latest results:

Carolina Railhawks 1-2 Charleston Battery

The Battery were on the board in less than twenty minutes, owing largely to the pace and precision of Jose Cuevas and Jarad van Schaik.  The two combined, sliding down the right half and allowed Quinton Griffith the ball and space to work with.  The thunder-footed Antiguan wasted no time rifling home the opening goal from a difficult angle at 18 minutes.  On the half hour, Micheal Azira scored an opportunist's goal, seizing on an errant clearance and burying a volley from twenty yards out.  Reclaiming one goal at 70 minutes, the Railhawks pressured the visitors for the equalizer, but the Battery stood their ground and saw off their NASL foes at WakeMed Park.

College of Charleston 0-0 Charleston Battery

The Cougars gave our boys a good run for their money in a scrimmage at Patriots Point.  If the woodwork could be awarded man-of-the-match, that would have been the case, as the Battery were denied by the post at least twice, if not more.  The Battery set the tempo, finding several opportunities in the first half as Cuevas, van Schaik, and Kelly took turns barraging C of C.  However, the finishing was lacking as each shot skipped wide or was literally "on frame."  The defensive Cougars were emboldened after the break sought the scalp of their professional neighbors.  Late in the match, Colin Falvey stole a march on defenders, surging down the pitch, but his would-be assist was fired wide by Zach Prince.  However, Falvey was soon called on about 10 minutes from time, and his stretching goal-line clearance proved to be the decisive play in the game.  

Charleston Battery 2-0 Wilmington Hammerheads

Charleston bested Wilmington in a classic rematch of the 2012 USL title game.  Griffith and Kelly nearly found the mark in the first half, but fans were forced to wait until the 69th minute for the breakthrough.  Having just arrived from the Vancouver Whitecaps, Ben Fisk latched onto a through ball from Jose Cuevas and neatly finished to score the game's first goal.  Returning the favor, "Ben 10" served Cuevas five minutes later and Charleston's "Chiva" ripped home a low shot into the right corner of the net.


Coastal Carolina 0-2 Charleston Battery

Visiting the Chanticleers' stomping grounds in Myrtle Beach, the Battery repeated their result from the weekend, trumping this resilient university side two-nil.  Perhaps the best news from this game was Nicki Patterson's return to action.  Linking with Cuevas on a set piece, the Scotsman's precision was the decisive factor Charleston's first goal.  Sounding a bit a like a broken record, Jose Cuevas led the team and scored midway through the second half.  Taylor Mueller put the result beyond doubt moments later, scoring from a fine overlapping run down the left flank.

Charleston Battery 1-0 Carolina Railhawks

Rounding out an unusually busy preseason, the Battery recorded a dominant performance, grounding the Railhawks for a second time in as many weeks.  Patterson and Cuevas combined for the goal, coming early in the first half.  Quniton Griffith also logged an impressive individual effort, keeping the Railhawks on the back foot for the better part of the match.   

HERE WE GO!!!

Of course, "all's well that ends well,"  but this is only the beginning.  Charleston have finished their preseason matches unbeaten in the last ten outings.  The boys netted an incredible 26 goals in only 12 games.  Eight of those are accredited to the 2012 USL Rookie of the Year Jose Cuevas, and as exciting as that is, its worth noting that twelve other players found the net, most of whom have already agreed to terms with the Battery.

Experience is key to the unity and effectiveness of any given squad, but especially considering the high turnover rate of talented players in lower division football.  And while Alec Kann and Ryan Richter will surely be missed (transfered to Chicago Fire and Toronto FC, respectively), Charleston have retained the majority of their 2012 roster, practically unheard of in a Championship year.  Some of these guys have been kicking around together for three years now and when you combine that with the swell of fresh talent signed this season, the Charleston Battery are going to be tough to beat.

This season will bring lots of new excitement and changes.  It will be interesting to follow the development of the young partnership between MLS and USL and the crossover matches with the MLS Reserves are sure to liven up the table this year.  The addition of two new franchises introduce new blood and more unique soccer culture with Phoenix FC and VSI Tampa Bay debuting in USL in 2013.  Improved venues (i.e. Pittsburgh's Highmark Stadium) will ensure that the  USL drama will unfold on the finest of stages.  An expanded schedule adds more length to the season, and what kind of fan could take issue with more matches??`

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