CHARLESTON, SC August 6, 2014 – The Charleston Battery return to Blackbaud Stadium Friday night riding a four-match undefeated streak and looking ahead to the first of three critical home matches in just seven days. First up: Dayton Dutch Lions.
Dayton made the USL PRO playoffs for the first time in 2013, but its struggles this season culminated on Friday with the resignation of Head Coach Sid van Druenen. He was replaced on the sidelines Saturday night by assistant coaches Jack Hermans and Catherine Gordon. Van Druenen stays on with the club — which also includes a youth academy and a successful women’s team — as technical manager.
The change may have given the Dutch Lions (5-15-2) a spark — they forced Harrisburg goalkeeper Nick Noble into seven saves Saturday night — but produced the same losing result, with Dayton falling 1-0 to the City Islanders in front of their home fans. It kept them winless at home and was their sixth straight loss. Things get no easier for them this week, with a 2/24 road trip to Charleston on Friday and Wilmington on Saturday.
Meanwhile, things have been looking up for Charleston (6-8-7) since the return of Jose Cuevas in mid-July. With Cuevas slotting into a familiar attacking central midfielder role, Coach Mike Anhaeuser has turned to a more creative midfield lineup for the past four matches, with Dane Kelly operating as the lone central forward. Result: A 2-0-2 record since the loss at Richmond on July 19.
But while the improved offense is reason for optimism, the Battery’s defense continues to be the foundation of its success. The club gave up one goal to second-place Richmond on July 22 and hasn’t surrendered another in the three matches since.
That job got harder last Friday when the team traveled to Rochester without center back and captain Colin Falvey, a USL PRO Team of the Week selection for his game-winning goal in the Battery’s 1-0 road shutout of Montreal Impact Reserves last Monday. Falvey picked up a leg injury and has been limited this week, but defenders Taylor Mueller and Shawn Ferguson — who have rotated as starters opposite Falvey this season — were solid in replacing him.
With eight points in their last four matches, Charleston has climbed from a tie for last place into sole possession of ninth, just one point behind Wilmington and two behind Harrisburg in the playoff race.
The Battery return to Blackbaud Stadium on Wednesday, Aug. 13, for their only 2014 meeting with the re-branded Orange County Blues, who held a share of the 8th playoff spot as recently as last week. They finish the week with the final regular-season meeting in their three-match 2014 series against Rochester on Friday night.
With five teams all within three points of each other for the last two tickets to the post-season, the stretch drive to the playoffs is sure to be tightly contested. Coach Anhaeuser, speaking about the schedule last week, described this upcoming home stand as an opportunity.
“Thing is, we’ve got more home games than away games now,” he said. “What is it, five of our last seven at home? If we can win at home and get results on the road, we’re going to be OK.”
Gates open Friday at 6 p.m. with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10-$18 and can be purchased online at www.charlestonbattery.com or over the phone at (843) 971-GOAL (4625).