The Charleston Battery punched their ticket to a thirteenth consecutive postseason in a 2-0 victory over Miami FC Sunday night at Patriots Point. After brushing off a shaky start and a Miami side fighting to avoid elimination, the Battery took full control of the home pitch by the 20th minute to complete their sixth shutout win for the season and a berth to the USL Championship Playoffs.
- Sunday’s win clinched the Battery’s 13th appearance in postseason play, far outpacing any current USL Championship clubs’ playoff streaks and stands for second longest postseason streak in professional North American soccer.
- The win marked the 4th clean sheet for Battery keeper Joe Kuzminsky as he added two key saves on the evening to keep Miami off the board. Through 6 starts, Miami had been the only team to score on Kuzminsky to date.
- Battery attacker Zeiko Lewis continued his team-leading scoring campaign with a beautiful goal in the 18th minute. On top of his sixth goal for the season, Lewis had two key passes and contributed solidly on the defensive side with two interceptions and eight recoveries.
- Going nine games straight without a loss, the Battery are now back to just 3 points behind Group H leader Tampa Bay Rowdies with one game in hand. The final regular season match on October 3rd in Tampa Bay looks to be shaping up as a final fight for first place.
After what was arguably their best first half performance for the season last week against the Tampa Bay Rowdies, the Battery may have put the pressure on themselves to replicate as they had a shaky start through the opening minutes of the first half. With three offsides calls in the first 16 minutes, the Battery opened up opportunities for the Miami attack to put pressure on early. But the Charleston unit quickly changed course as they invited early pressure to then defend the ball and quickly launch the counter attack.
The game plan came to fruition in the 18th minute as the team pushed forward and defender Leland Archer floated a ball from just inside the Miami zone to Zeiko Lewis pushing forward on a route up the middle. Lewis settled the ball with one touch before popping the finish into the top-right corner of the net past a charging Miami keeper.
“The guys were moving the ball well and we put them under pressure and that’s what we were trying to do. I’ll tell you, that first goal really made the difference,” Coach Mike Anhaeuser noted.
Miami responded almost immediately as Vincent Bezecourt fired a shot from the penalty area that bounced off a teammate. Bezecourt fielded his own rebound with a header that went just wide right. And as it looked like both teams were settling in for a back and forth battle, the Battery broke through again a minute before halftime as Nicque Daley intercepted an attempted defensive pass back to the keeper. Miami keeper Mark Pais got a hand on Daley’s initial chip shot before the Battery forward took a narrow angle shot off the rebound to put the Battery up by two.
Facing elimination, Miami had an early opportunity in the second half as Tomas Granitto fired a heater over the crossbar. And Prince Saydee, subbing in for Miguel Gonzalez, the only player to have scored on Joe Kuzminsky this season, took a shot a tough angle only to be deflected by the Charleston keeper . But for much of the remaining 45’ it was the Battery limiting Miami’s chances with the back pushing the ball forward for the midfield to contain in the attacking end.
On the thirteenth year in a row making the postseason, Coach joked, “It’s a lucky number, huh?” Further adding, “Thirteen years in a row, it’s an incredible accomplishment. But this is about this team. The team’s playing well and we’re not done yet. We’re shooting for that top spot. We want to come out next week in our last home game here and hopefully have a playoff game at home. We want to keep it rolling. I’m proud of the guys for doing it, at the beginning of the season there were people thinking we wouldn’t finish in that top two.”
Sitting three points behind Tampa Bay in Group H, the Battery return to the pitch Saturday, September 26th for the final home game of the regular season in an out-of-group match against Loudoun United FC before hitting the road for their final two against Miami FC and Tampa Bay. With wins in the next two matches, the final match of the season on October 3rd against Tampa Bay Rowdies could prove to be the deciding factor for first place in Group H.
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