The Charleston Battery earned a place in the USL Playoffs for the 12th consecutive season on Saturday afternoon, sweeping aside Bethlehem Steel by a score of 5-1.
The match, initially scheduled for 7:30, was pushed forward to 2PM due to severe weather in the Charleston area. Nevertheless, it was an emotional day for all involved, as the match was the final regular season game to be played at MUSC Health Stadium after 20 years, with the promise of a win securing a playoff spot.
That emotion seemed to make its way on the pitch, with Arthur Bosua heading a cross from the left over the bar with just over 30 seconds played.
AJ Paterson was tireless for the entire 90 minutes, and after seven minutes, would find himself on the end of a cross from the right, firing a shot toward the near post that forced goalkeeper Matt Freese into his first save of the evening.
Bosua would again be on the end of a chance just a couple minutes later, with Paterson setting up a cross to Attaula Guerra, who would find his strike partner on the turn, but Bosua would put his shot straight at the ‘keeper.
In a near carbon copy of the Battery’s opener in midweek, a corner from the right found Taylor Mueller at the front post, but his header back across goal would go whizzing over the bar.
On 14′, Kyle Nelson got on the end of a Battery free kick, but he couldn’t generate enough power on his header as it went over the bar.
But after 23′, the Battery finally got the goal their play deserved. A great run down the left by Zeiko Lewis ended in a great low cross into Arthur Bosua, who created space between himself and the defense to open his body and finish first time.
It had been coming, but the Battery knew they needed to take their chances if they were going to make their way into the playoffs. It was a well worked goal and hammered home the importance of a good start for the Black and Yellow.
However, Joe Kuzminsky was involved shortly after at the other end of the pitch, having to clean up an extremely dangerous ball from the left as Bethlehem were determined to find an equalizer.
Bosua had the chance to double his tally on 27′, when a Battery break from a corner by the visitors would fall to the center forward. Though his shot was on target, the ‘keeper would be forced into a save to keep the score at 1-0.
Three minutes later, however, the action would find its way down the other end thanks to a slaloming run through the box that seemed to take even Kuzminsky out of the play, but a shot from close range would go just inches wide.
And that’s how the first half would end. The Battery were certainly on top for the majority of the first half, though they would have liked to convert one or more of their other chances after going up midway through the half, especially in such a pivotal game.
After making a half time substitution, with Faris Moumbagna replacing Shanyder Borgelin, the visitors came out of the break with their tails up, forcing the Battery to defend deep in their own half and concede a few early set pieces. However, the hosts would weather the early storm.
Just before the hour mark, the Battery had a corner of their own, drilled in from the left to the top of the box and into the path of AJ Paterson. His shot was blocked away, but a loose ball would be recovered by Angelo Kelly, whose powerful run found him in the area, would square to Zeiko Lewis, but Lewis’s shot would be saved.
But the insurance was coming, and on 67′, Attaula Guerra found himself with the ball at his feet, and connected with the overlapping run of Kotaro Higashi, who would find another square ball, this time for Arthur Bosua on the doorstep to make it 2-0.
It was a poachers’ finish from Bosua for his, and the Battery’s second goal of the match, and the Battery were good for it. The home side undoubtedly knew the implications of this match for the team and fans alike, and were playing like it from minute one.
Inside the final 20 minutes, Zeiko Lewis would be taken down inside the box after a mazy run, and it would be Attaula Guerra to step up, dispatching to his right to put the Battery up 3-0.
Guerra played a big part in creating both goals, and now had one of his own. The game looked certain to go the Battery’s way with just under 15 minutes to go, but there would be drama yet.
On 78′, the substitute Moumbanga would spoil Joe Kuzminsky’s clean sheet with a fine effort into the opposite corner from the top of the box, making it important that the Battery didn’t take their foot off the pedal.
And that they didn’t, forcing a corner with nine minutes left, the ball would eventually find Angelo Kelly, who played the ball on a dime with a world class pass from the top of the box to AJ Paterson, who was got there before the ‘keeper to head the ball into the back of the net.
It was a goal that he fully deserved. The fullback had been up and down the pitch all match, first to every header, dangerous with his crossing, and solid and smart defensively, putting in a man of the match display.
And after 85′ came the icing on the cake, Guerra again playing provider with the ball at the top of the box, finding Paterson again for a powerful finish across goal for 5-1.
It was at that point that the Battery knew the game was safe, having taken conceding the goal on the chin and finding an extra gear to put the game away in a truly complete performance.
The full time whistle blew, and with it, the Battery’s 2019 regular season. It was also the final bow of MUSC Health Stadium, and after such an emotional day, what a way to sign off.
The Battery will now play on Wednesday, October 23rd at 7PM against either North Carolina FC or Ottawa Fury.
TOP IMAGE: BATTERY DEFENDER AJ PATERSON CELEBRATES WITH THE REGIMENT AFTER CAPPING OFF AN EMPHATIC VICTORY. ROSS ALMERS PHOTGRAPHY PHOTOS