Charleston Battery midfielder Zach Prince has been in and out of the starting lineup for most of his professional career.
The former College of Charleston star is making a strong case to remain in the starting lineup.
Prince scored for the third straight game as Charleston got goals from Dane Kelly and Dante Marini to lead the Battery past Pittsburgh, 3-1, Saturday night before a crowd of 3,126 at Blackbaud Stadium.
The Battery, which are unbeaten in their first seven matches of the season, improved to 5-0-2 (17 points) and are off to their best start in more than a decade. Charleston is one of just two teams in the USL that is unbeaten on the season.
Prince started for the fifth time this season against the Riverhounds, but has been challenged for playing time at his midfield position by veteran Navion Boyd. But Boyd has been out with an injury of late and Prince has made the most of his opportunity, scoring in his last three games.
“To be honest, I’m doing what I’ve always done all along,” Prince said. “I’ve gotten some good opportunities and I’ve been able to finish. That was my role this week, to try and score goals, but that might change next week. I don’t care what my role is as long as we’re winning.
“Through the years I’ve been in and out of the lineup and I just go out and do whatever they need me to do that week. You always want to play, but we’ve got some really good players on this team and they deserve to play as well.”
Charleston coach Mike Anhaeuser said Prince is making a strong case to remain in the starting lineup.
“Zach is playing at a very high level right now,” Anhaeuser said. “He’s a guy that can score goals and when he gets on a stretch like this it makes us a very tough team to beat. Zach is doing a great job, he’s made the most of his opportunity. He’s making it very tough on me to make a decision on who plays now, which is a good thing for us.”
Prince scored in the 13th minute off an assist from Maikel Chang, who recorded his team-leading fifth assist.
“Great pass from Maikel,” Prince said. “When you start scoring, you get a lot more confidence and the ball just seems to find the back of the net.”
Leading, 1-0 at halftime, Kelly scored for the third time this season in the 64th minute to give the Battery a 2-0 advantage.
Marini, in his second professional season, finally broke through with his first goal in a Battery uniform off an assist from Boyd in the 73rd minute.
“It’s definitely a great feeling,” Marini said. “I’ve waited a little bit, but I’m glad it’s finally here. Last year, I was definitely disappointed not to get a goal. I had chances in a lot of games. I feel like I’ve been working my butt off in training and I could feel it starting to pay off. “
The only negative during the game was the late goal the Battery gave up when Miroslav Cabrillo headed in a shot in the 80th minute. The Riverhounds came into the game as one of the USL’s top scoring teams.
“I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get the clean sheet,” Anhaeuser said. “We had about 10 minutes to go and then we almost let them back in the game, giving up a couple of scoring chances. Up until then we’d done a very good job defensively, kept our shape and really didn’t give up anything to a very potent attack.”