Battery Beats Hammerheads For USL PRO Title

Mike Azira (L) Scored Game-Winner Against Wilmington

Jose Cuevas knows hard work. There was a time where he made his living picking peaches in California.

Cuevas has also learned to deal with disappointment. He didn’t make the Charleston roster a year ago, but went back to California and put in the hard work to make himself a better player.

In the 2012 US PRO championship game, in front of a crowd of 4,963 at Blackbaud Stadium Cuevas was in a Battery jersey, putting in the hard work. His assist on Mike Azira’s goal in the 74th minute proved to be the “money ball.”

It was the game’s only goal against the Wilmington Hammerheads and gave the Charleston Battery its fourth championship in four finals.

Cuevas, named the USL PRO Rookie of the Year before the last game of the playoffs, threaded a pass through the Wilmington defense to Azira, another rookie, who first-timed a left-footed shot into the far corner from the left side of the goal.

Cuevas was also named MVP in the championship game.

Four for four for the Battery, which also won championships in 1996, 2003 and 2010. Charleston entered the playoffs as the #3 seed, while Wilmington was seeded fifth.

The Battery reached the title game with wins over #6 Harrisburg and #3 Rochester. But Battery Head Coach Mike Anhaeuser said it was a regular-season contest in Rochester on August 11 that put his squad on track for the title.

“In the beginning of the season after the first three or four games, I really felt like we had a team that could win it,” Anhaeuser said.

“We had a little hesitation or hiccup in the middle of the season, but when we won that game in Rochester 4-0, and I saw the guys play the way they did, I knew that we could beat anybody.”

The Hammerheads had a great playoff run, reaching the championship game after upsetting top-seeded Orlando City in the semifinals. They fell just short of capturing their second title.

“I thought (Charleston) deserved to win,” Wilmington Head Coach David Irving said. “The occasion may have gotten to us a little bit, but just to get here and the way we played the past few games is a credit to the boys. We just weren’t ourselves tonight and we definitely didn’t play the way I know we can play.”

The first half was an even match in steady rain and wind. Conditions dictated both teams’ ability to possess the ball. Charleston’s best chance came on a header from Cuevas in the 40th minute.

All-USL PRO midfielder Bryce Tylor entered the game at halftime for Wilmington, and fueled a stronger attacking effort for the Hammerheads.

After Azira’s goal gave the Battery the lead, Wilmington pushed everyone forward and sent ball after ball in the Battery’s penalty area, but the veteran Charleston defense, led by John Wilson and Colin Falvey and backed up by goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra, on loan from D.C. United, was able to hold tight.
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