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Battery Begin Silver Anniversary in Style

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 03/26/17, 7:28AM EDT


Portillo leads victory in third consecutive home opener for Charleston

Photo courtesy Zach Bland / Charleston Battery

CHARLESTON, S.C. – As the club celebrated the start of its 25th season, the Charleston Battery also maintained a newer tradition; earning victory in their home opener.

Led by a vintage display by midfielder Justin Portillo, the Battery took a 2-1 victory against FC Cincinnati at MUSC Health Stadium on Saturday night for their third consecutive victory on opening night at the historic ground.

“It was a great game, any time we get to open up a season at home it’s a plus,” said Portillo. “We had great support from the fans today and we’re really happy to get the win for them here tonight.”

With high expectations coming into the season, Cincinnati made a strong start as it aimed for a modicum of revenge after the Battery had defeated it in last season’s Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the USL Cup Playoffs. Newcomer Aodhan Quinn almost bagged his first goal for the club as a good free kick was turned away by Battery goalkeeper Alex Tambakis, but as the first half progressed the hosts steadily came into the game.

At the center of it was Portillo, who was making his first competitive appearance since acute appendicitis brought his season to a premature end last year. His delivery from a corner kick on the left led to the Battery taking the lead, with Forrest Lasso heading home after Cincinnati goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt came for the cross but was unable to claim it.

“Coach stresses how important set pieces are,” said Portillo. “We work on that stuff all the time. I just try to put it in there for the big guys and tonight Forrest was there and scored a great goal.”

Cincinnati found an equalizer after a good start to the second half as Djiby Fall nodded home an excellent cross by Andrew Wiedeman from the right just before the hour-mark, but then the Battery wrested back control, with the distribution by Portillo and fellow midfielders Neveal Hackshaw and Ataulla Guerra key to the change in momentum.

“[Portillo] was tremendous, he was able to control the game especially in the second half,” said Battery Head Coach Mike Anhaeuser. “He was getting the ball and moving it from side-to-side really well. He made their midfielders chase the ball and I think they got a bit tired.”

Photo courtesy Zach Bland / Charleston Battery

Making the Cincinnati midfield and defense chase as the Battery used its wide players effectively, a questionable challenge from Austin Berry that brought down Romario Williams after a clever slipped pass by Guerra gave the Battery a penalty kick with 19 minutes to go. Portillo had his initial effort to the left corner saved by Hildebrandt, but alertly knocked home the rebound to earn his side three points.

“Moments define games,” said Cincinnati Head Coach Alan Koch. “A few momentary lapses cost us dearly. Charleston are a good team and coming here is a tough place to play. But our expectations are to get points in every game we play, home or away.”

With a visit to regional rival the Charlotte Independence and 2016 MVP Finalist Enzo Martinez up next for the Battery, Portillo’s strong showing was a welcome sign as the Battery began their silver anniversary in style.

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