USL PRO Feature
Sunday, September 2, 2012
Even as the seconds ticked away, and his club’s chance to play in a second USL Championship Game in three seasons appeared to be slipping away, Charleston Battery coach Mike Anhaeuser still believed something good was coming.
“I never thought we were done,” Anhaeuser said by phone late on Friday night. “We had been on the end of so many losing ones, I thought maybe this was a time where we’re going to catch one late.”
With practically the final touch of regulation, Tony Donatelli proved his manager right. Heading home from Kyle Hoffer’s dinked cross after an unlucky deflection kept the ball in the Rochester Rhinos’ penalty area, the veteran midfielder sent the game into extra time, snatching defeat away from their hosts at Sahlen’s Stadium.
The defeat only became crueler for the Rhinos as the game went to a penalty shootout, with a miss by Donatelli and save by Kristian Nicht on Colin Falvey putting Rochester’s captain Troy Roberts in a position to earn his side victory and its first appearance in a USL Championship Game since 2006. Roberts’ shot went wide of the left post, giving the Battery new life that they took advantage of in the seventh round, with J.C. Mack III driving his shot home to earn victory.
“Him scoring was so well-deserved, because in extra time, and even when he went in, he had two or three great chances to put us ahead, and I know he was really disappointed that he wasn’t able to score one of those in regulation,” Anhaeuser said of Mack. “He’s worked hard all the last two weeks on penalties, and really just making sure he has to confidence to step up, and I’ll tell you, he just stepped up there and drove it home.
“When you don’t play a lot of minutes, these are the games when you come off the bench or you come in that you can shine in, and he did a fantastic job in showing a lot of resolve there to come in and do the job.”
Now the Battery will return to Blackbaud Stadium, thanks to their nearby rival the Wilmington Hammerheads, who upset defending USL PRO Champion Orlando City in Friday’s other semifinals to set up the second USL Championship Game in Charleston in the past three seasons.
In 2010, the Battery were in a similar circumstance, hosting long-time rival the Richmond Kickers in the USL Second Division Championship Game. With the closeness of the two sides, three hours separating the cities on the Atlantic coast, Anhaeuser is expecting a atmosphere that will reach, or even surpass, the level of that final, and a game to match when they meet next Saturday night.
“Richmond was a great final for us, because we’ve played and had such a great history,” Anhaeuser said. “Wilmington, we’ve been battling with them forever, even if we weren’t in the same division for a few years, we always played scrimmages and exhibitions and had our own friendly rivalry.
“It’s going to be a tremendous asset to both clubs to play and have one of us be the champions, and to be in Charleston is absolutely fantastic. I’m delighted the final is in Charleston, and I’m sure a lot of people are feeling the same way right now.”