Markanich’s winner sends Battery into playoffs with momentum, defeat Birmingham 1-0
CHARLESTON, S.C. (Oct. 14, 2023) – The Charleston Battery secured a 1-0 victory over Birmingham Legion FC in the regular season finale at Patriots Point on Saturday, completing a season sweep of the Alabama club. Nick Markanich scored the eventual match-winning goal in the 33rd minute. Trey Muse recorded his 12th clean sheet of the season, tied for the most in the USL Championship.
Charleston’s victory was meaningful as it capped off a record-setting turnaround season, as the club set a new USL Championship record for the largest season-to-season points gain in league history (+34; 25 in 2022 to 59 in 2023).
Despite Charleston and Birmingham already clinching spots for the playoffs, both teams made it known early they wanted to end the regular season strong. The clubs traded shots on target through the first 20 minutes, but neither could put one past the goalkeepers.
The Battery struck first in the 33rd minute when Nick Markanich bounced on a loose ball inside the box and sent it in for the goal. Birmingham authored their own demise on the play by failing to clear Arturo Rodriguez’s corner kick, allowing Markanich to capitalize.
The goal was Markainch’s 11th of the season across all competitions.
Charleston nearly doubled their lead just before halftime when Markanich fired in a shot from distance that forced an athletic save from Matt van Oeklel. The 1-0 lead held into halftime.
Play resumed in the second half with Legion FC looking for an equalizer. Goalkeeper Trey Muse was called on to make a save in the 50th minute, denying Tabort Preston.
The Battery nearly doubled their lead in the 77th minute when Beto Avila, fresh off entering the game from the bench, had a big chance inside the box. Tristan Trager played the ball to Avila with an open net but his first-time hit was too tall for the frame.
As the night wore on to the closing stages, Charleston tightened their grip on the game to not allow Birmingham a way back into it. Legion FC’s final attempt to level the score came at the end of stoppage time when Grayson Dupont went for a shot inside the box that was blocked by Leland Archer’s stretch.
Charleston capped off the regular season with a victory at Patriots Point, 1-0, completing a season sweep of Birmingham. The win also snaps a two-game losing streak to set the Battery up with momentum going into the playoffs.
The Battery’s victory also set a new USL Championship record for the largest season-to-season points turnaround in league history (+34; 25 in 2022 to 59 in 2023).
Trey Muse tallied his 12th clean sheet of the season, tied for the most in the league this year with Louisville’s Oliver Semmle.
As for the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal on Sun., Oct. 22, Charleston’s opponent is still to be determined pending the results of other games around the conference.
Head Coach Ben Pirmann and forward Nick Markanich addressed the media after the win, with key quotes to follow.
Coach Pirmann on setting a record for the largest season-to-season points turnaround in USL Championship history…
I think that shows the ambitions of our club owners, the presidents, the executives, the front office, the backroom staff, the coaches, the players. Everybody wants this club to do well. It’s not about individuals. It’s just about doing the best we can for the Lowcountry. I’m proud of it, very proud. We can put ourselves in the history books in the league, but now the focus is the playoffs, one day at a time. Eight days from now, we want this place to be rocking so we can push on and try to get the win.
Coach Pirmann on the importance of winning in the regular season finale…
If you look at the last four games, we had been winning and conceded goals. One of them we won, one we tied, the last two we lost, which isn’t like us. For us [tonight], really good performance. We learned a little bit from the last couple of weeks as well, not taking our foot off the gas, but everybody, start to finish, whether they played 5 minutes or all 95 minutes, they were a top selfless group. I’m really really proud to be with them.
Coach Pirmann on his message to fans for their support this season…
It’s a long season for coaches, players, front office, [the fans], the media, everybody. It’s a long season. Our supporters have never wavered. We’ve been up, we’ve been down, we’ve done a lot of great things. Obviously, it’s a historic season, but I’m just so appreciative of this club. I’m appreciative of our supporters. That’s why we do it. I know our players, first and foremost, are proud to put on that jersey and fight every weekend for our supporters. Now we get to do it in front of them again in a week’s time [in the playoffs] and hopefully, we’re going to get this place rocking, because we need them to help to try to advance.
Markanich on his match-winning goal and overall performance…
I don’t know how it came out to me. A bunch of stuff going on, but luckily it came out to me. I just toe-poked it, so I got lucky. This week, we focused on having a good week of training to prepare for today and to prepare for next weekend. I think building up to today helped us a lot and we’ll do the same for next weekend. We’ll be ready for whoever we play in the playoffs.
Markanich on the successful regular season…
The coaches brought in great players. We have a great team this year. Everyone was just sticking to the plan and we were working together. We know that we can go far in the playoffs. We just believe in ourselves right now. The coaches have been saying every game that we were preparing for a playoff game. I think we’re ready for next weekend, we’re excited for it.
Markanich on the support tonight for Fan Appreciation Night…
It was the last game of the regular season and the fans, we’re happy to get a win for them. The fans have been amazing all year. This is a great atmosphere to play and the fans are great, they help us a lot.
The Battery will next host the USL Championship Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at Patriots Point on Sun., Oct. 22, at 4 p.m. ET (opponent TBD). Playoff tickets are available now via SeatGeek.com, the Battery’s exclusive digital ticketing provider.
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