Battery, Kickers renew long-standing rivalry

Battery striker Dane Kelly gets a shot off — but Richmond goalkeeper Joe Willis made the save — during last year’s game at Blackbaud Stadium. Wade Spees/Staff Tuesday, July 22, 2014

It is the longest running rivalry in professional soccer in the United States. The rivalry pre-dates Major League Soccer by two years.

The Charleston Battery and Richmond Kickers, which both started playing in 1993, have met on the field 54 times over the last 22 years. There have been some epic matches during that time, one of the most memorable at least from the Battery’s standpoint, was the club’s 2-1 victory over the Kickers in the 2010 USL 2 title game at Blackbaud Stadium.

While, there won’t be a championship on the line when two teams meet for the 55th time Wednesday at Blackbaud Stadium beginning at 7:30 p.m., it’s a still a significant match for the two clubs. Charleston (6-1,5, 23 points) and Richmond (6-2-4, 22 points) sit in second and third place, respectively, in the USL’s Eastern Conference. A regulation win could move either club into first place in the USL standings by night’s end. Rochester is currently in first place (7-0-4, 25 points) in the USL.

“It’s been such a great rivalry over the years and it seems like every time we play against them it’s always pretty important no matter what time of year we’re playing,” said Charleston Battery coach Mike Anhaeuser. “It’s only June, but both clubs at the near top of the table and no one wants to stumble. The winner is going to take sole possession of second place and could tie or be in first place if they can get the full three points. There’s a lot on the line.”

It’s been a back-and-forth rivalry over the years with the two teams seemingly exchanging victories nearly every season. Richmond leads the overall series, 24-22-7.

“We’ll go up there and beat them and they’ll come down here and beat us later in the season,” Anhaeuser said. “That seems like the way this series has gone. It’s not like one team has been able to dominate the other at any one point. The games are always highly competitive and very intense. It always has a playoff-like atmosphere even if the games are in April or May.”

One of the most recognizable faces on the Kickers team is 33-year-old striker Matthew Delicate. Delicate has played in more than 200 matches for the Kickers and has been one of the USL’s premier goal scorers over the last decade. Since the formation of the revamped USL in 2011, Delicate entered the 2015 season with the most goals (35), points (77) and game-winning goals (10) during that four-year stretch.

This year Delicate is tied for third in the USL with six goals. A year ago, he scored 14 goals, which was second in the league and good enough to put him in the conversation for the MVP award.

“His numbers speak for themselves,” Anhaeuser said. “He’s been one of the top goal scorers in this league for a very long time and he’s dangerous every time he steps on the field. It’s always a challenge to try and stop him.”

Delicate said he always looks forward to playing the Battery.

“This is my 12th season playing against them, and we’re always among the teams pushing for championships,” Delicate told uslsoccer.com. “This is typically a high-profile game, and because we’re at the top of the table, this will be like a playoff game. We go into it knowing we still have to raise our game.”

Anhaeuser said he doesn’t expect the Kickers to sit back and play for the draw on the road.

“That’s just not their style, they like to push forward and attack,” Anhaeuser said. “We’ve had plenty of 2-2 games over the years with both teams really getting forward.”