When Charleston Battery coach Mike Anhaeuser walked off the field at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando after the team’s 3-2 loss to the Lions a little more than a week ago, it was hard not to think about what might have been for the club.
The Battery was just two wins away from capturing their third USL title in the last four years and their fifth overall. But the one-goal loss to Orlando City in the USL Pro semifinals ended any hopes to repeat as league champions. The Battery won the USL Pro title last year and captured the USL Second Division title in 2010.
“I think any time you don’t win a championship it’s disappointing,” Anhaeuser said. “We really wanted a chance to defend our championship, so for it to end in the semifinals was difficult. We thought we had a good chance to repeat.”
The Battery finished the regular season with a 13-7-6 (45 points) mark, which was good enough for third place in the USL Pro standings. Charleston made it to the fourth-round of the U.S. Open Cup, beating Major League Soccer’s San Jose Earthquakes, 1-0, at Blackbaud Stadium in the third round.
“I thought it was a decent year,” said Charleston captain Colin Falvey, who was named the USL Pro Defender of the Year. “I thought not making it to the championship game was disappointing because I felt like we had the players and the club to do it. When you’ve been to two cup finals in the last three years, it’s kind of depressing to be at home during the finals.”
Charleston was fifth in the league in scoring with 45 goals and had the third best scoring defense — allowing just 29 goals all season.
“I thought we were a very balanced team,” Anhaeuser said. “We could score, but we really knew how to defend properly. We were not the kind of team that was going to sit back and play for a tie. We were going to push forward and create chances even when we were on the road.”
The Battery was especially tough at home, going 9-1-4 and outscoring their opponents, 35-11.
“It was going to take a very good team to beat us at home,” Falvey said. “We played with a lot of confidence on our pitch all season.”
Charleston played seven matches over a 19-day stretch in late May and early June that included league games and matches in the U.S. Open Cup. The matches took their toll as the Battery was able to win just twice over that span. Two of the matches were played in Portland, Ore., and Salt Lake City.
“We had a lot of games in the middle of the season and we did a lot of traveling,” Anheauser said. “All the traveling and all the games eventually caught up with us.”
The Battery finished strong, going 6-2-0 over the final five weeks of the season.
“We were playing our best soccer heading into the playoffs,” Anhaeuser said. “We played well against Los Angeles in the quarterfinals and just ran into a very good Orlando team on the road in the semifinals.”
Striker Dane Kelly had a breakout season, finishing with 11 goals in 22 games in the league. The third-year forward was tied for fourth in the league in goals scored.
“Dane had a fantastic season for us,” Anhaeuser said. “He was very focused this year and when he got his chances, he put them in the back of the net.”
Midfielder Nicki Paterson and Haviel Cordoves each finished with seven goals each. Midfielder Mike Azira, who had five goals and two assists, was named to the USL Pro Second Team after the season was over.
Rookie keeper Odisnel Cooper was fourth in the league with seven shutouts.
“I think we’ll look back on it in a few weeks and realize it was a good season,” Anhaeuser said. “But right now, we just wish we had made it to the finals.”