Colin Falvey hasn’t put on a Charleston Battery jersey in more than five years, but the former team captain wasn’t going to miss the final match at MUSC Health Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The threat of Tropical Storm Nestor, which moved the start time of the match up 5½ hours, wasn't going to stop Falvey, who played for the Battery from 2010-14, from making the seven-hour drive from Chattanooga, Tenn., to the Lowcountry to say a proper goodbye to the stadium that he called home for five seasons.
Falvey wasn’t alone either. Players from the inaugural 1993 Charleston Battery team were on hand to witness the club’s 5-1 victory over Bethlehem Steel FC and clinch a spot in next week’s USL playoffs in what is most likely the final match at the Daniel Island facility.
“There are so many memories for me in this place, it’s sad to say goodbye to it,” said Falvey, who was part of two USL championship teams during his tenure with the team. “I’m sure I feel like most of the guys that played here, it’s a sad, sad, day for all of us. We left our blood, sweat and tears on this field.”
MUSC Health Stadium, which opened in 1999 as Blackbaud Stadium, was the first soccer specific stadium in the country and sold this summer for $6.4 million dollars to Holder Properties. The stadium is set to be torn down in the next few months.
The Battery plans to play its 2020 season at a yet to be determined downtown facility.
If this was the final game at MUSC Health, the players sent it out in style with a dominating offensive performance, scoring a season-high five goals in front of a rain-soaked crowd of about 1,500 that braved the early arrival of Tropical Storm Nestor.
Needing to win its final two regular-season matches to make the postseason, the Battery defeated Memphis 1-0 Wednesday night.
On Saturday, AJ Paterson and Arthur Bosua each scored two goals and Ataulla Guerra added a penalty kick as the Battery cruised to their second victory in the last four days. Charleston will face either Ottawa or North Carolina on the road in the opening round of the USL playoffs on Wednesday night.
But this day was about saying goodbye to a facility that has been the home to the Charleston Battery for two decades.
“I’m starting to realize that this might be the last time I walk off this field,” said Battery coach Mike Anhaeuser, who has been with the club as player and coach for more than two decades. “It’s hard to say that. I told the guys before the game that if this is the last game, let’s make a statement, and the scoreboard says it all. If this goes down as the last game here, you’re going to remember that the guys put on a performance, got five goals and clinched a spot in the playoffs.”
Like many, the afternoon’s results had a bittersweet taste for Anhaeuser.
“It’s like a triple-edged sword,” Anhaeuser said. “You come in thinking just about getting the three points and making the playoffs, but in the back of your mind, you are thinking about this being the last game here. I’m going to miss standing on this field. This place has been my sanctuary, my church. This is where I’ve lived the last 20 years, and it’s a sad, disappointing day, but we’ve got to worry about the playoffs and the future.”
For Charleston captain Taylor Mueller, who has been with the club for eight seasons, MUSC Health/Blackbaud Stadium has been the only home he’s known during his professional career.
“It was a great day and a good way to send this place out,” Mueller said. “A lot of players around the league will tell you how much they enjoy playing in this place. It’s something that I never took for granted. This place has been everything to me. Everyone welcomed a kid from Washington (state) with open arms, and this place quickly became my home. It’s always going to have a special place in my heart.”
It was a relatively quiet first half as Bosua's goal sent the Battery into halftime ahead 1-0.
Bosua gave the Battery a 2-0 lead in the 67th minute. After a Bethlehem goal, Guerra gave the Battery a 3-1 on his penalty shot.
Paterson put the final touches on the afternoon with back-to-back goals just four minutes apart late in the second half.