St.John’s, Antigua – Ahead of the national utility players return to the Bennaboys setup for matches  versus Guatemala on September 4th and 8th. Griffith’s Battery recorded a 2 – 0 win versus Richard Kickers in the USL action on Saturday night.

The Charleston Battery carried the weight of a six-game winless streak into their biggest rival’s stadium Saturday night, rediscovered their luck and grit, and emerged with a 2-0 win and a continued share of third place in the USL East.

It was a match that lived up to every bit of the pre-game hype: The two oldest continuous rivals in American professional soccer, tied for third place, battling for a home date in the playoffs, with Richmond surging and Charleston fading.

Sensing an opportunity to put down a struggling Battery team quickly in front of an energized crowd of 5,957 fans — Richmond took the attack hard at the visitors to start the contest. But the Battery defense — which had surrendered three goals in each of its last two outings, both of them on the road — rose to the challenge for the first 29 minutes.

Then, in the 30th minute, a foul by Kickers/D.C. United goalkeeper Travis Worra in his penalty area during an extended set-piece gave Charleston the break it needed. Midfielder Justin Portillo coldly put away his fifth penalty kick of 2015 (his fourth in USL play), and the Battery grasped a lead they would never relinquish.

Midfielder Zach Prince doubled that advantage seven minutes later. The veteran from Irmo ran under a diagonal entry pass from right back Quinton Griffith just above and outside the near post on the right, and though closely marked by two defenders, his perfect first-touch, turn and shot torched Worra for the final goal of the evening in the 37th minute.

It was Prince’s first goal since May, when he also notched one of his four USL scores at City Stadium.

The Battery went to the break up 2-0, but with Richmond leading 6-4 in shots (with one of those Portillo’s penalty) and 4-3 on corners. The difference: Three saves and several key defensive plays by Charleston goalkeeper Odisnel Cooper.

Kickers Coach Leigh Cowlishaw wasted no time making changes, swapping out two midfielders and a defender for attacking midfielder George Davis IV and  forwards Matt Delicate and Anthony Grant before the second-half kickoff. Once again, the hosts attempted to break the Battery as quickly as possible. After all, the visitors had lost all four of their previous road games — including a late collapse to give up a 2-0 lead in a heartbreaking 3-2 loss at Saint Louis FC on Aug. 20. The Kickers threw everything they had at the Battery.

Cooper and the Battery back line, however, gave not an inch. Center backs Shawn Ferguson and Taylor Mueller were stout against Richmond’s three forwards, while fullbacks Quinton Griffith and Emmanuel Adjetey marked George Davis IV — who has traditionally played well against Charleston — largely out of the match.

But it was Cooper, the third-year former Cuban international netminder, who turned in perhaps his best performance of 2015, finishing with credit for five saves, including two denials of SC Battery Academy product defender Braeden Troyer in the final minutes. In addition to his stats, Cooper boldly fought his way through clutter, punched away threats, went high above the crowd to pluck away dangerous crosses, and battled toe-to-toe with Delicate and starting forward Jason Yeisley for position and advantage.

Despite the early subs and fresh legs, Cowlishaw’s Kickers couldn’t break the Battery wall — though they repeatedly took their guests to the limit. The game ended with Richmond winning the shots battle 13-5 and outpacing Charleston 9-5 on corners. But after six weeks of league results that didn’t match the quality of their performance, Charleston players finally walked out of an opposing stadium with three points.

They did it on a night when their hosts limited Battery forwards to a collective one shot — a hopeful effort by rookie Ricky Garbanzo that came nowhere near the goal. But with midfielders helping pick up the scoring load, the result was a win, instead of the team’s recent run of draws.

With New York Red Bulls II also winning Saturday (2-0 over Wilmington) Charleston remains tied with the Baby Bulls for third place.It now leads Richmond by three points, and trails second-place Louisville by six.

With its 1-0 win over Louisville, Pittsburgh now sits in the sixth and final Eastern playoff spot with 35 points. Charleston visits Highmark Stadium in downtown Pittsburgh next week for yet another hugely important showdown.

Harrisburg and Charlotte are just below the playoff line, with 34 and 32 points, respectively. The Riverhounds, City Islanders and Independence all have one or more games in hand on the Battery.

The win gave Charleston (4 pointes) the season series with Richmond (1 point), and narrowed Richmond’s advantage in the all-time series to 24-23-8. The two clubs are America’s oldest professional teams in continuous operation, and their series dates back to 1993.

Story courtesy Charleston Battery –