Orlando City beats Charleston Battery, 2-1
The irony of the situation wasn't lost on Orlando City midfielder Ian Fuller.
For five seasons, Fuller had been a mainstay in the Charleston Battery's lineup and had scored his share of big goals for the club.
He had the game-winning goal in the Battery's USL Second Division championship game in 2010, that gave the club their third title.
This time Fuller's heroics came at a cost for the Battery.
Fuller's header in stoppage time capped an improbable comeback as the Lions scored two goals in the final three minutes of the match to beat Charleston, 2-1, Thursday night before a crowd of 2,983 at Blackbaud Stadium.
With a month left in the regular season, Orlando (14-1-4, 47 points) all but assured itself the USL Pro Division's regular season title. The second-place Battery fell to 11-7-0 (33 points). The two teams meet again next Friday night in Orlando.
Fuller, who also serves as an assistant coach for the Lions, has been used mainly as a substitute. But playing against this former team, the former Clemson star started and played the full 90 minutes.
“That's a lot of minutes for a guy my age,” said Fuller, who will turn 33 in August. “I felt like I was pretty fit, but in this heat, it's a lot of minutes.”
After Matt Luzunaris tied the game in the 90th minute off a cross from defender Luke Boden, the Lions got a corner kick late in stoppage time. Boden sent a searching cross into the six-yard box that Fuller snapped into the goal for the game winner.
As Fuller walked off the field, he was greeted and hugged several Battery fans. “This is bittersweet for me,” Fuller said. “I love Charleston, the club and all the fans. I still have a lot of great friends on this team.”
Charleston captain and defender Colin Falvey, who played with Fuller on the Battery's championship team in 2010, was nearly at a loss for words after the game.
“I'm speechless right now,” Falvey said. “Ian made a great play. We talked about how good he is in the air before the game. I thought Orlando possessed the ball a lot, but we were brilliant defensively for 89 minutes. Unfortunately for us, it's a 90-minute game and we didn't play a full 90 minutes.”
Orlando and Charleston came into the game as the two top defensive teams in the USL Pro Division, both allowing a league-low 13 goals.
For the first 60 minutes of the match, neither team was able to generate much of an attack.
The Battery finally broke through in the 64th minute. After a scramble in front of the net, Tony Donatelli back-heeled a pass to Jose Cuevas in the six-yard box. The forward spun and blasted a shot past Orlando keeper Miguel Gallardo.
“We didn't generate many chances, but the one we got we finished,” said Charleston Battery coach Mike Anhaeusder. “Jose had a great goal that put us up. I think what this shows us is that we can play with these guys. We just have to do it for 90 minutes.”