Charleston Battery captain Jarad van Schaik anticipated a little bit of a letdown Saturday night against the Wilmington Hammerheads.
It was to be expected.
After all, the Charleston Battery had played against the English Premier League’s West Bromwich Albion in an exhibition match just 24 hours before their kickoff against their USL rivals.
But van Schaik was pleasantly surprised to see a workmanlike effort in the Battery’s 1-0 victory over the Hammerheads on Saturday night before a crowd of 3,156 at Blackbaud Stadium.
Charleston striker Dane Kelly scored a highlight-reel goal, the only of the match, in the first half and Battery keeper Odisnel Cooper recorded five saves in the victory.
The Battery improved to 9-2-7 (34 points) and remained in second place in the USL, just six points back of first-place and unbeaten Rochester. Wilmington fell to 2-10-6 (12 points).
Playing their second game in as many days and without a sellout crowd and the excitement of facing one of the world’s elite teams, the Battery still managed to produce some respectable moments against their closest USL rival.
“It wasn’t always a great game, it wasn’t our best, we had to kind of grind it out a little bit, but it was three points and at the end of the day that’s all that really matters,” van Schaik said. “It was tough tonight to get into it emotionally after (Friday night), but we knew it would be. It was going to be a defensive grind. It was about being smart and not running around out there like a chicken with its head cut off. I thought we played a solid, smart game.”
It capped a memorable weekend for van Schaik and the Battery, which hosted an EPL team for only the second time in club history and won a league match.
“A great weekend, one that I’m not going to forget for a long time,” van Schaik said. “Got three points, which keeps us close to Rochester, and got to play against West Brom. I’ll take that weekend.”
Kelly continues to show off his scoring touch of late. Kelly, who leads the team with nine goals, created a scoring chance when it appeared none existed. Kelly got the ball just outside the 18-yard box on the left side with several Hammerhead defenders within striking distance. Kelly twisted a shot into the upper right-hand corner of the net for the score.
“Anytime I’m around the box I’m going to shoot, so that’s what I did,” Kelly said. “I wanted to put it in the upper corner and that’s where it went.”
It would be all the offense the Battery would need.
The Battery allowed 10 shots on goal, but Cooper (7-0-4) made five saves to record his third shutout of the season. It was the Battery’s third straight shutout in the USL.
“Defensively I thought we did a fantastic job for the most part,” said Charleston coach Mike Anhaeuser. “Cooper made a couple of great saves. He had that one in the first half when he was one-on-one with the guy and then made another big save in the second half that kept us in it.”
The Battery have been nearly unbeatable at home over the last 14 months. The Battery are 15-2-10 at Blackbaud Stadium against all competition, but have gone 20 games (13-0-7) without a loss in regulation against USL teams. The only two regulation losses at home have been to Major League Soccer’s New York City F.C. (3-0) in the Carolina Challenge Cup in February and West Bromwich (2-1) Friday night.
“This is your home and you have to defend it, no matter what it takes,” Kelly said.