Battery tough to beat at home home

Charleston's Shawn Ferguson and Cincinnati's Sean Okoli battle for the ball during thier match Saturday, March 26, 2016 at MUSC Health Stadium. Paul Zoeller/Staff

To say that the Charleston Battery have a distinct home field advantage at MUSC Stadium would be, well, a vast understatement.

Over the past two seasons, the Battery have been nearly unbeatable at home, especially against USL opponents.

The Battery have won 27 straight matches at MUSC Stadium, with their last home loss coming to Wilmington, 1-0, on May 10, 2014. The only Battery losses at home over that stretch have come in exhibition matches against Major League Soccer’s New York City FC and the English Premier League’s West Bromwich Albion.

The Battery will put their unbeaten home winning streak on the line Saturday when they host Pittsburgh at 7:30 p.m.

Charleston Battery captain Shawn Ferguson isn’t sure exactly what it is about playing at MUSC Stadium that has made it so difficult for opposing teams to come in and get a win. He only hopes the club’s dominance at home will continue.

“I hope every team that comes in here is thinking how hard it’s going to be to get out of here with three points,” Ferguson said. “I know we love to play in front of our fans and they do a great job of supporting us. Our defense at home has been really good the last couple of seasons, so it’s going to be tough to break us down. A team is going to have to have an excellent performance to beat us here.”

Battery coach Mike Anhaeuser said the combination of the club’s solid defensive core, the heat and humidity and the club’s rapid fan base make it difficult on any opponent.

“We train here every day and I think that’s a huge factor for us,” Anhaeuser said. “We play on a fast field and then you have the heat and I think that’s a factor, especially as we get into the summer. We tend to wear teams down, especially teams from the North. If we can get a goal early in the match, teams tend to have to pick up the pace and they’re not used to playing in the heat and then we can wear them down. I think as this has gone on longer we’ve kind of gotten into a zone like a shooter in basketball or a hitting in baseball. We’re just so confident in playing at home.”

In order to beat the Riverhounds, the Battery will have to contend with two potent strikers — Corey Hertzog and Romeo Parkes. Parkes has been one of the few bright spots so far this season for the Riverhounds. The Jamaican center forward has scored in three straight matches.

Hertzog is a proven goal scorer at every level he’s played. The former Penn State star helped lead Wilmington to the 2012 USL finals, scoring nine goals during the regular season. During his junior season of college, he led the NCAA in goals (20), points (46), and points per game (2.09) in 2010.

“Pittsburgh likes to score on free kicks and a lot of set pieces, so we’ve got to be prepared for those,” Ferguson said. “We’ve played against Hertzog a ton in the past and we know he runs a lot and works his tail off, so we need to be prepared for the pressure he’s going to bring on our back four.”

The Battery will be without midfielder Zack Prince, who received a red card and two-game suspension against Bethlehem. Striker Heviel Cordoves will also miss the game with an injury.

“For the most part, we’re pretty healthy,” Anheauser said. “I think where we are after five games of the season. We need to continue to win at home and if we do that Saturday night we’re right back near the top of the table.”