USL PRO Feature
Monday, September 10, 2012
CHARLESTON, S.C. – The last time John Wilson walked off Blackbaud Stadium’s field as a champion, he announced his retirement from professional soccer.
On Saturday night, after he had helped the Charleston Battery claim the club’s fourth title, the veteran defender wasn’t in any sort of mood to make a similar proclamation.
“I feel like I’m a little smarter now than making decisions when you’re tired and you’re excited,” Wilson said with a smile. “A reporter asked me earlier like, this is my fourth one, my third one with the Battery, and he asked me how does it compare? And I said, as I’m getting older, and if this is the last one, the last championship right now, this is the greatest.”
Wilson’s retirement didn’t last long, as he returned to the Battery in the 2011 season, helping them reach the playoffs. But his performance in 2012, which saw him maintain a high level of play throughout the season and also act as a mentor to members of the Battery’s young squad, should certainly put off any retirement thoughts the 34-year-old has for the time being.
“As a coach, it’s like having a good quarterback,” Battery coach Mike Anhaeuser said of Wilson. “This year, he’s been here so long that he kind of knows what I expect and what I like to have, and then as a professional he knows what it is to do the right things every day, and shows the young guys, these young guys who stepped up and made the difference, he kept them through even the hard times and the things you have to do when things aren’t going so well.”
For the Battery there certainly was a stretch this season where things weren’t going so well. A defeat in Antigua led to a string of nine games that saw the Battery win just once, and go from competing for the regular season title to competing for their playoff lives. A 4-0 win against Rochester in their penultimate regular-season contest righted the ship just in time, however, and set up their run to the championship.
“This has been an interesting season because we had a little bit of a struggle in the second half of the season,” Wilson said. “I think that was the first time I’ve been on a team where we had that long of a struggle. But it was pretty amazing to see guys bounce back from the injuries we had, and also a young team with guys like Jose [Cuevas], who was playing for his first professional team, I think it was pretty amazing. It was amazing how things worked out for us.”
For Anhaeuser, the experience of Wilson and the club’s other veterans proved invaluable as Charleston stayed united as a team and focused on the club’s ultimate goal of a title.
“We had a rough patch there in the middle of the season, and he and Colin Falvey, they all kept the guys together and kept the guys confidence, kept their emotion level, kept their heads straight,” Anhaeuser said. “It really shows that you have to have the experience as well as the youth, and the guys who can do it on both sides of the ball.”
And with that goal accomplished, Wilson was able to reflect on what has been another remarkable season.
“I think this one, for me, is pretty exciting, but also pretty emotional.” Wilson said. “I’m 34, and I know that I don’t have as much time as the other guys. To be able to win three championships with this team is pretty amazing. My parents couldn’t be here tonight, but I know they were watching and listening, and they’ve been a big part of this from day one.
“I’m a South Carolina boy, so this is pretty awesome for me. For a kid from Seneca, South Carolina to be in your home state and to play professional soccer and win championships with your friends, it’s pretty amazing.”