Charleston Battery defender Taylor Mueller scored off a chaotic set piece in stoppage time to give Charleston an improbable 3-2 victory Saturday night over visiting Toronto FC II in the season opener for both clubs Saturday night at Blackbaud Stadium.
Mueller’s clutch goal capped a furious three-goal rally for Charleston as the Battery was forced to dig themselves out of the 2-0 hole just 15 minutes into the match.
“We talked about it at the halftime,” said Charleston Battery coach Mike Anhaeuser. “We told them it was going to be a battle. It really shows the character of this team. “This kind of win can be huge for our season. They did a tremendous job.”
Mueller was never in doubt about the final outcome.
“We knew at halftime we could come back, and win,” Mueller said.
Toronto scored the first two goals of the game as Jordan Hamilton scored off a long ball that shocked the defense in the 8th minute, and Mo Babouli’s opportunistic finish in the 15th minute gave the visiting team a 2-0 advantage.
The Battery regained the moment as Dane Kelly goal scored in the 38th minute off a Quinton Griffith assist to get the Battery back within striking distance.
Charleston looked more confident with its possession in the second half, with midfielders Maikel Chang and Justin Portillo combining with overlapping fullbacks Griffith and Obi Woodbine.
In the 55th minute, an intense attacking series initiated by Woodbine ended with a Dane Kelly shot being blocked out for a corner.
The contact on the play ended Kelly’s night, and after his replacement, Heviel Cordoves, entered the match, Battery defender Shawn Ferguson tied the match in the 57th minute. After a block on the original shot off the corner kick, Ferguson pounced on the loose ball and blasted it up into the crossbar to ricochet into the net to even the score at 2-2.
Toronto would generate other chances, including a dangerous ball in the 67th minute that forced Charleston keeper Odisnel Cooper to clear a threat just beyond his penalty area with a sliding kick in front of a free-running Reds striker.
But the rest of the night largely belong to the Battery’s attacking corps. Forward Ricky Garbanzo, a rookie making his first professional start, joined Chang and Cordoves in launching a series of threatening chances.
Just moments into stoppage time, the Battery earned the team’s fifth corner kick of the night. Much like Ferguson’s goal, Toronto stopped the initial effort, but was unable to clear the ball. Mueller’s finish left no doubt.
“We had the draw, and we knew that,” Mueller said. “But you never want to draw at home. I don’t think it was nerves early. We just made some mistakes. But at the end maybe there was a bit of pressure. We wanted the win.”