It wasn’t always the beautiful game for the Charleston Battery on Saturday night against the Wilmington Hammerheads.
As a matter of fact, it was downright ugly at times. But Charleston got the result and the three points in the United Soccer League standings and that’s all that matters at the end of the day.
Justin Portillo scored on a penalty kick in the first half to lead Charleston past Wilmington, 1-0, before a sellout crowd of more than 5,400 at Blackbaud Stadium.
The Battery improved to 6-1-4 (22 points) and remained in second place in the USL’s Eastern Conference. The Battery trail Rochester (7-0-4, 25 points) by just three points in the standings.
The Battery played more than half the match with a man advantage as Wilmington’s Aaron Wheeler was issued a red card in the 37th minute after shoving Charleston defender Shawn Ferguson to the ground.
It was the fifth match in last 16 days for the Battery, which have played in two U.S. Open Cup matches in the last two weeks. The fatigue and heavy legs from playing so many matches in such a short period of time showed during long stretches.
“Right now, we’re not real happy about the way we played,” said Charleston captain Jarad van Schaik. “But I think in a month we’ll look back on it and realize that we grinded out a win and got the three points. In the end, getting the result, getting those three points, is all that matters.”
That sentiment was shared by Charleston head coach Mike Anhaeuser.
“We’re going to take three points and we’re going to get out of this hectic schedule we’ve had and run with it,” Anhaeuser said. “Sometimes you have games like this and obviously we’re a little fortunate that we got out of here with all three points.”
Charleston could have easily won by three or four goals, but that last pass eluded the Battery all night.
“When you have heavy legs, those decisions are sometimes hard to make,” Anhaeuser said. “We were a little off on our passing all night. We couldn’t make that final pass to spring a guy and get a goal. We could have very easily scored three or four goals.”
The referee awarded Charleston a penalty kick in the 19th minute when Ricky Garbanzo was taken down inside the 18-yard box. Portillo calmly connected on the penalty kick to give the Battery a 1-0 advantage.
Charleston had several chances to put the game away, especially in the second half, but Wilmington keeper Andrew Rawls made four quality saves to keep the game close.
“You have to give their keeper credit,” van Schaik said. “He played well.”
But so did the Battery defense, which allowed just seven shots, but few scoring chances. The Hammerheads’ best opportunity came in stoppage time, but Sunny Jane’s blast bounced off the post.
“I know we had some heavy legs out there and that’s what happens when fatigue becomes a factor,” Anhaeuser said. “Some of our defenders have logged a lot of minutes.”