You never know who might be watching. That’s the attitude of Charleston Battery midfielder Nicki Paterson.
Every time he takes the field against a Major Soccer League opponent, Paterson feels like he’s auditioning for the next level.
Paterson certainly put on a show worthy of consideration for a leading role on an MLS team Saturday night.
Paterson scored two goals and Quinton Griffith had a goal and an assist to lead Charleston past the Houston Dynamo reserve team, 4-1, before a crowd of 2,988 at Blackbaud Stadium.
With the victory, the Battery snapped a three-game home winless streak. The Battery, who had been 0-1-2 in their last three home games, improved to 7-3-2 (23 points) and moved into sole possession of third place in the USL Pro standings.
After helping lead the Battery to a USL Pro division championship a year ago, Paterson spent most of the offseason training with the MLS’ New York Red Bulls. When he didn’t earn a contract, Paterson returned to the Battery.
“There are a couple of guys on our team that probably deserve to be playing in the MLS,” Paterson said. “We don’t think there’s a lot of difference between the fringe players in the MLS and guys on our team. Any time you’ve got a chance to prove that, you want to go out and play your best.”
Paterson and the Battery have certainly been at their best against MLS opponents during the regular sason. This was the second time the Battery has beaten the Houston reserve team and the third win over an MLS opponent in the regular season. Charleston defeated San Jose, 1-0, on May 28 in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup. The Battery will get another chance against an MLS team on Wednesday when they play at Real Salt Lake in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup.
“I don’t know what it is about playing MLS teams, but it seems to bring out the best in us,” Paterson said. “They give us a certain amount of respect and let us pass the ball, and tonight we proved we can pass the ball and break teams down.”
Besides a brief lapse defensively that led to the Dynamo’s only goal, it was one of the most complete performances of the season for the Battery.
“I know the guys wanted to make up for Wednesday’s draw against Charlotte,” Battery head coach Mike Anhaeuser said. “This is a huge confidence boost for the guys. We needed a performance like this. We haven’t been playing that great at home over the past couple of weeks.”
Charleston grabbed a 1-0 lead on Paterson’s free kick in the 18th minute. After a hard challenge on Charleston striker Dane Kelly, the Battery was awarded a free kick from about 25 yards out. Paterson’s bending shot beat Houston keeper Tyler Deric for the score.
Charleston pushed its advantage to 2-0 on Jose Cuevas’ first goal of the season. Midfielder Bryce Alderson sent a searching ball into the box on a corner kick. The ball squirted to the back post where Cuevas was waiting and slammed the ball home for the score in the 63rd minute.
Houston midfielder Brian Ownby scored less than 30 seconds later to cut the gap 2-1.
Charleston answered in the 77th minute on Paterson’s second goal. Griffith got the ball about 35 yards out and found Paterson, who headed the ball in from just outside the six-yard box.
The Battery took a 4-1 lead when Griffith volleyed home a pass from Mike Azira for the score in stoppage time.