The Charleston Battery will return to MUSC Health Stadium after locking up the second seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs with a win against the Charlotte Independence to close out the regular season.
Attaula Guerra's strike toward the end of the first half opened the scoring, and the visitors would have to dig deep to keep their rivals at bay despite the home side having the better of possession in various spells throughout the game.
It was Charlotte who came out the blocks the strongest, themselves looking to lock up a home tie in the playoffs, both teams coming in at 3rd and 4th respectively.
Charlotte would create a quick 1-2 on the edge of the box in the second minute, only for a shot inside the box to be blocked by the Battery defense and away.
A Charlotte free kick in the ninth minute was headed away and dealt with well by the defense
And then, Enzo Martinez made an angled run into the box after another good bit of build up, and would've been clean through, but the flag would go up for offside
A 1-2 on the other side on 18' by Quinton Griffith and Maikel Chang ended up looking for Guerra at the top of the box, but he was given offside.
A deep cross on the right for Charlotte looked for Enzo Martinez at the back post shortly after, but his looping header drifted wide.
On 24', A dangerous cross from the right was cleared for a Battery corner, which eventually came to nothing.
Charlotte would have a corner of their own three minutes later, but the Battery defense would clear away.
On 31' Attaula Guerra went looking for Heviel Cordoves, but he was adjudged to be offside before a chance could be created.
On 32', Forrest Lasso would misplay a cross from the right which fell invitingly for a Charlotte attacker before a shot was blocked down by Taylor Mueller. Players for the home side were appealing for a handball, but the referee was unmoved by the protests.
Then, on 36', came the breakthrough. Justin Portillo would find Heviel Cordoves, who used great one touch passing to link up with Maikel Chang. He then would find Kotaro Higashi before the midfielder, recently awarded newcomer of the year, would find Attaulla Guerra in stride, who would loop the ball over the onrushing Cody Mizell in the Charlotte goal and in off the post to give the Battery the lead.
This, however, would mean that the home side would pile on even more pressure, which nearly told a minute later.
A cross from the right found Jorge Herrera, whose shot full on the volley was saved point blank by Odisnel Cooper. The ball would wriggle out for a corner, though it was cleared away.
Cooper was again forced into action on 41', when a free kick was given away on the edge of the box, and Herrera was again denied , this time from long range.
And so the Battery went in at half time 1-0 up after having been very clinical with their chances. They soaked up pressure in that first half, and had a few chances on the counter, but it was only that Guerra chance that made the defense worried, and they scored from it.
A ball was played inside on the edge of the box on the other side of the break, before Forrest Lasso would use his body to shield an attacker off the ball and out of play. The attacker then took offense to contact off the ball from the center back and there was a little bit of handbags as the two players settled their differences, but the referee did well to de-escalate the situation.
A Charlotte free kick on the left ten minutes into the second half looked to have looped over everyone, and if not for Odisnel Cooper applying some more acrobatics to palm the ball onto the crossbar, the score very easily could've been level. The ball would clatter off the woodwork and somehow stay in play before a Charlotte attacker would be given offside.
On 56', Quinton Griffith would intercept a pass and run at the home side's defense before picking up his head and trying to play Chang in the middle. Chang would miscontrol just slightly as the ball was behind him, but it would eventually pop out to Guerra, who would try to curl a shot wide.
On the hour mark, a counter for the hosts led to a ball flat across the 18 yard box to substitute Caleb Calvert, whose shot was saved by Cooper
Three minutes later, another good bit of 1-2 play from Charlotte beat the defense all ends up and left Enzo Martinez in on goal for a tidy finish, but it would be given as offside.
On 65' came the arrival of Romario Williams, with an eye on running at tired defensive legs with his pace and perhaps realizing that the hosts had begun to turn the screw a little bit more since coming out in the second half.
On 72, Taylor Mueller was booked after giving away a foul in a dangerous area for the Battery, but the set piece would be blocked away.
Forrest Lasso nearly paid for the mistake of clearing the ball right into the path of Lewis Hilton on 77', but his shot went wide of the target.
On 81', the Battery would force a corner that would only be punched away by the 'keeper. The second ball would eventually lead to another corner, which was cleared at the top of the box before a shot was taken by Chang and seemed to catch a defender on the arm, but the referee wasn't impressed and played on. A foul by Justin Portillo on the edge of the Charlotte box prevented a counter, but also meant that Portillo found himself in the referee's notebook.
All hands were to the pump for Charlotte as we got closer to full time, and a shot with four minutes to go was blocked by Forrest Lasso for a corner, which led to naught.
Lewis Hilton almost struck a blow to Battery hearts when, on the 89', Odisnel Cooper was again forced into a great save from close range off a header, and the ensuing corner was cleared.
Four minutes stoppage time was added as the Battery continued to look to hold on, but wouldn't make it easy for themselves, giving away a rather needless free kick with two minutes to go, though Charlotte were kept at bay.
And with that, the final whistle would eventually blow. The win meant that the Battery would lock up the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference, and earn the right to play a home match on Saturday, October 21st. At time of writing, the opponent is still To Be Determined, but kick off is scheduled for 7PM.