Battery fall 3-2 to El Paso, but secure home field advantage in playoffs

El Paso Locomotive FC vs Charleston Battery at Southwest University Park on Saturday,...
El Paso Locomotive FC vs Charleston Battery at Southwest University Park on Saturday, September 30, 2023, in El Paso, Texas. Photo by Ivan Pierre Aguirre/El Paso Locomotive FC USL, Locomotive, El Paso, Ivan Pierre Aguirre, Charleston Battery(Ivan Pierre Aguirre | Ivan Pierre Aguirre )
Published: Oct. 1, 2023 at 12:03 PM EDT
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EL PASO, Texas (Sept. 30, 2023) – The Charleston Battery suffered a 3-2 road defeat to El Paso Locomotive FC at Southwest University Park on Saturday. Goals from Augi Williams and Emilio Ycaza powered Charleston’s efforts in the Sun City but a pair of late goals for the hosts made the difference in the inaugural meeting between the sides.

Regardless of the defeat, Charleston secured home-field advantage in the first round of the USL Championship Playoffs by virtue of the losses by Memphis 901 FC and Louisville City FC on Saturday. The playoff game will take place on Sun., Oct. 22, at 4 p.m. ET, and tickets for the contest will be available on Mon., Oct. 2, via SeatGeek.com, the club’s exclusive digital ticketing provider.

Action in Texas began after scattered thunderstorms passed through the area with El Paso dominating possession early. The hosts held upward of 90% of possession but were relatively unthreatening with the ball.

The first opportunity of the night came in the 10th minute when the Battery were awarded a penalty following an El Paso handball inside the box. Augi Williams took the ensuing spot attempt, from the portion of the field with grass covering the baseball field, but his strike went off the woodwork and was then cleared away.

El Paso managed to strike first in the 33rd minute via Petar Petrovic. Charleston were undeterred, however, and continued to press for a goal.

Augi Williams was finally rewarded for his efforts in front of goal with a strike in the 38th minute that found the back of the net, tying the match at 1-1. Fidel Barajas sent in a perfect cross to Williams and the striker went airborne for the first-time strike off the volley.

The goal was Williams’ 13th across all competitions and the assist was Barajas’ ninth.

Charleston and El Paso went into the break with the 1-1 score intact.

Play resumed with both sides eager to find the breakthrough goal. Charleston and El Paso each recorded shots through the 65th minute, although off target.

Emilio Ycaza, barely five minutes removed from entering the match, stepped up to the plate to score the go-ahead goal and make the score 1-2. Tristan Trager’s shot off Derek Dodson’s cross was blocked and Ycaza sent the rebound into the back of the net. The goal was Ycaza’s second of the season.

Despite the Battery’s lead, the hosts looked for a way back into the match. Emmanuel Sonupe put El Paso back on level terms with a goal in the 75th minute. The Locomotive FC skipper, Eric Calvillo, would put away the go-ahead goal in the 84th minute, making the score 3-2.

Charleston pressed forward for an equalizer but were unable to register a shot in the final 12 minutes of the match. El Paso held on for the 3-2 victory, snapping Charleston’s five-game unbeaten, in the inaugural meeting between the sides.

Thanks to losses by Memphis 901 FC and Louisville City FC on the same night, Charleston secured home-field advantage in the first round of the USL Championship Playoffs since neither side can catch the Battery’s points total with two games remaining in the regular season. The playoff game will take place on Sun., Oct. 22, at 4 p.m. ET

Goalkeeper Trey Muse recorded two saves in what was his 100th career appearance in the USL Championship regular season.

Head Coach Ben Pirmann and defender Derek Dodson discussed the match after the final whistle, with key quotes to follow.

Coach Pirmann on his assessment of tonight’s match…

In summary, the first 72 minutes of the game went 100% the way we prepared. We knew exactly what we wanted to do. [El Paso] had to change shape, they had to change their identity. They had some possession, provoking us, but it was a dominant performance for 72 minutes.

Then, two weeks in a row, we took our foot off the gas. This time we played a team who punished us. [El Paso] deserved to win it because for the last 18 minutes, they pushed on and they went out and got the win.

[There were] some really uncharacteristic individual mistakes. That’s not to call out individuals, those things weren’t happening in the first 70 minutes. As we took our foot off the gas and allowed El Paso to get momentum, they played with the emotion and they executed.

Coach Pirmann on his message to the team after the game…

All we worry about is taking one day at a time and constantly improving. We talked after the game about how, two games in a row, the first 70 minutes we were first class. We had great performances. Then, we took our foot off the gas. I’m not exactly sure why, that’s something I need to reflect on and figure out.

We talked about managing our emotions and I don’t mean fighting or those types of things, I mean doing our job when we’re in those individual moments. We talked at halftime about reversing the ball in the attacking third. In 72 minutes, [El Paso] didn’t even touch the ball in our half, then we took our foot off the gas and we lost 3-2. Fair credit to El Paso. They took advantage of us falling asleep at the end of the game for the second game in a row.

Dodson on what seemed to change late in the match…

For those first 70 minutes, we were able to exploit the areas that we wanted to. We were disciplined in defending and didn’t give up too many chances. You have a team that’s fighting to make playoffs, they needed to win. They made a couple of subs to get attackers on and started really pushing for those goals and a change in momentum. Being able to handle those last couple of minutes when you’re up a goal or when you’re tired, and trying to see the game out or push for that extra goal, it’s about handling those last 15 to 20 minutes and sticking it out until the end.

Dodson on the road ahead with two games left before the playoffs start…

This late into the season, every game is going to be a playoff game and is going to be hard. Two teams, one’s fighting to make playoffs and the other is fighting to solidify their position on the table, so every single team is going to be going for it for the whole 90 minutes. This is the reality of these last couple of games. They’re going to be tough and teams are going to throw everything at you and really push to get points or get a win.

Dodson on the mindset within the locker room to close out the regular season strong…

We have had two very tough games. Two really good teams are coming to Charleston. One is in eighth place with two teams right on their tail, so they know that they need to get three points out of these last games. Then, Birmingham is still fighting for position in the table, to get as high up as possible. These teams are going to fight for 90 minutes and really push for results. We have to get back in on Tuesday, work on getting better, and then prepare for Miami this weekend.

The Battery return home on Sat., Oct. 7, to take on Miami FC for Breast Cancer Awareness Night at Patriots Point. This game is followed by the final match of the regular season, Fan Appreciation Night, on Oct. 14 at Patriots Point. Tickets are available now via SeatGeek.com, the Battery’s exclusive digital ticketing provider.

Lineups:

CHS: Muse, Segbers, Palma, Archer, Dodson, Allan, Booth (Rodriguez, 87′), Markanich (Ycaza, 65′), Trager (Reedy, 85′), Barajas, Williams (Avila, 65′)

ELP: Diaz, Navarro, McCue, Dollenmayer, Petrovic, Lyons (Hinds, 74′), Kostyshyn (Garcia, 74′), Rose, Calvillo, Knudsen, Gomez (Sonupe, 68′)

Scoring Summary:

ELP - Petar Petrovic 33′ (Josue Gomez)

CHS - Augi Williams 38′ (Fidel Barajas)

CHS - Emilio Ycaza 71′

ELP - Emmanuel Sonupe 75′ (Eric Cavillo)

ELP - Eric Cavillo 84′