It's the most important game in one of the oldest rivalries in minor league soccer.
Since 1993, the Charleston Battery and Richmond Kickers have played 40 times during their storied rivalry, but Saturday's USL Second Division title game will be the first time the two teams have faced each other with a league championship at stake. Kickoff for the nationally televised game will be at 6 p.m. at Blackbaud Stadium.
"It's an historic game," said Charleston Battery coach Mike Anhaeuser. "We've played in a lot of big matches against Richmond during the regular season, in U.S. Open Cup play and during the playoffs, but this is the first time we've ever played each other when a league title was on the line."
While the rivalry has had its ebbs and flows over the years, the two teams are tied in their overall series with each team winning 18 games and tying four.
"It can't get any closer than that," Anhaeuser said. "It's always a competitive, hard-fought game, and the team that makes the fewest mistakes always seems to come out on top. I don't expect anything different on Saturday."
True to form, the Battery and Kickers split their four-game season series with each team winning two home games. Charleston, which went 7-0-3 at home during the regular season, beat Richmond 4-1 (June 11) and 1-0 (July 9) at Blackbaud Stadium.
The Battery earned the right to host the championship game by winning the regular season crown.
"Winning the regular season was a huge incentive for us," said Anhaeuser. "In the past, a club could outbid you to host a game in the playoffs, but the league decided to reward the regular season winner by letting them host the championship game. We haven't lost at home all season, and hopefully that trend will continue on Saturday."
Richmond, the defending USL-2 champion, defeated Pittsburgh, 2-0, last weekend to advance to Saturday's title match. The Battery spent the open week fine-tuning their game, and holding an intra-squad scrimmage.
"We didn't want to change our routine too much," Anhaeuser said. "We kept the same training schedule that we normally would. We wanted to rest some guys, but we also didn't want to lose our edge."
Anhaeuser said the team is as healthy as it has been all season.
"Everyone trained (Monday), and besides some minor bumps and bruises, everyone should be available on Saturday," Anhaeuser said. "Hopefully, we won't get any injuries during training this week, and everyone will be ready to play."
One key player the Battery will be without is midfielder Rudolph Mayard. Mayard, who finished with six goals this season, was recalled to Montreal earlier in the month.
"He was certainly a dangerous player for us this season," Anhaeuser said.
This is the Battery's first appearance in a USL championship game since 2003, when Charleston defeated the Minnesota Thunder 3-0 to claim the A-League title. The Battery also won the D-3 title in 1996.
USL-2 team announced
The Charleston Battery had three players selected to the USL-2 All-League first team. Charleston forwards Lamar Neagle and Tom Heinemann and midfielder Alioune Gueye were chosen for the first team.
Mayard was named to the second team.
2010 USL-2 All-League First Team
GK - Hunter Gilstrap, Pittsburgh Riverhounds
D - Dustin Bixler, Harrisburg City Islanders
D - Gareth Evans, Real Maryland Monarchs
D - Shintaro Harada, Pittsburgh Riverhounds
D - Yomby William, Richmond Kickers
MF - Alioune Gueye, Charleston Battery
MF - Jorge Herrera, Charlotte Eagles
MF - Luke Vercollone, Richmond Kickers
F - Matt Delicate, Richmond Kickers
F - Tom Heinemann, Charleston Battery
F - Lamar Neagle, Charleston Battery
2010 USL-2 All-League Second Team
GK - Brian Levey, Real Maryland Monarchs
D - Anthony Calvano, Harrisburg City islanders
D - Greg Dalby, Charlotte Eagles
D - Sascha Goerres, Richmond Kickers
D - David Hertel, Richmond Kickers
MF - Michael Burke, Richmond Kickers
MF - Rudolph Mayard, Charleston Battery
MF - Jason Pelletier, Harrisburg City Islanders
MF - Darren Toby, Charlotte Eagles
F - Jeremy Deighton, Pittsburgh Riverhounds
F - Chad Severs, Pittsburgh Riverhounds