Photo courtesy Charleston Battery
The Charleston Battery returned to the Eastern Conference Semifinals for a second consecutive season, pulling off an impressive road upset to do so. The side remained a solid playoff contender, advancing to the USL Cup Playoffs for a sixth successive season, as a solid returning core saw a number of players step further into the spotlight.
Among those was Cuban playmaker Maikel Chang, whose six assists led the side, while the acquisition on loan of Montreal Impact forward Romario Williams paid off handsomely as he proved a good replacement for the departed Dane Kelly. The club’s partnership with Atlanta United FC, which brought players such as Alex Tambakis into the fold, also seems set to give the club a solid outlet for talent in the future.
Record: 13-8-9, 48 points
Place: Sixth in the Eastern Conference
Goals For: 38
Goals Against: 33
USL Cup Playoffs: Eastern Conference Semifinals (W 2-1 at FC Cincinnati; L 1-0 at Louisville City FC)
2016 leaders: Romario Williams (10 goals), Maikel Chang (6 assists), Alex Tambakis (70 saves)
The Battery had a clear gap to fill with the departure of Dane Kelly, and in Romario Williams they continued to have a double-digit goal scorer lead the line. Justin Portillo also continued his progression with six goals and four assists as his set piece deliveries proved lethal before a late-season injury. When the team was in its rhythm it proved a match for any side in the conference, including taking a road victory against the New York Red Bulls II.
The Battery’s long-standing home undefeated streak in the USL was bound to come to an end at some point, but the back-to-back defeats to Louisville and Orlando were certainly surprising. The side also fluctuated in and out of form more than in the past, with solid undefeated streaks being undermined by losses to the likes of FC Montreal, which left the side with a sixth-place finish.
Justin Portillo’s ability to deliver from free kicks was a key weapon for the Battery, and his curled finish against the Richmond Kickers was maybe his best of the season.
Maikel Chang recorded a career-best six goals as we all his six assists in 2016, but it was the build-up play by Trinidad & Tobago international Ataullah Guerra that set up this tally against Charlotte.
Atlanta United FC loanee Alex Tambakis played the majority of the season for the Battery, and pulled of a number of highlight-reel saves such as this against FC Cincinnati’s Andrew Wiedeman.
Battery stalwart Odisnel Cooper was also strong when called upon, as the Cuban marked his fourth season with the club with saves like this from FC Montreal’s Anthony Jackson-Hamel.
“At the beginning of the season we were able to play and teams would sit back and we would be able to move the ball, but I think once we lost those two games at home, it was more we were better off getting Romario [Williams] moving and not waiting for the game. I think it was with about six or eight games left we tried to pick up our tempo defensively with the physicality.” – Charleston Battery Head Coach Mike Anhaeuser