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Charleston claims A-League title

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Charleston claims A-League title

Battery blank Minnesota 3-0 in final

CHARLESTON, SC – The Charleston Battery controlled the 2003 A-League Championship tonight in the friendly confines of Blackbaud Stadium with a 3-0 victory over the 1999 champion Minnesota Thunder in front of a franchise-record crowd of 5,711 fans.

The Battery scored all three goals in the first half en route to the league’s fourth shutout in single-game championship history – and with a record three-goal margin.

The scoring began in the 13th minute when Paul Conway sent the ball into the middle of the box from the right flank. With his back to goal, Josh Henderson turned to take a left-footed shot only to have it blocked by Minnesota's Mark Schulte. The ball deflected out to Charleston's Ted Chronopoulos, who slotted home the early go-ahead goal from the left flank to the far post.

Eight minutes later, the Battery would push the lead to 2-0 off a direct free kick from 20 yards out, just left of center. Conway sent a curling shot into the right upper-90 out of reach of Minnesota goalkeeper Joe Warren.

Henderson set up the third goal of the match in the 37th minute to give Charleston the commanding lead. Conway sent a cross into the box, where Henderson headed the ball off the crossbar. The rebound came out to Steve Klein, who rose above the Minnesota defense to head the ball into the back of the net from five yards.

Klein’s goal and presence in the midfield garnered him Championship Most Valuable Player honors. It was only Klein’s third goal of the year and first of the postseason, coming just days after the birth of his first child.

“This was the best week of my life. The championship is a dream come true – this one’s for him,” said Klein, referring to the birth of his son and winning the title.

“This is great, Tony Bakker getting his championship. I’m really happy for him,” added Klein about the club’s majority owner, who financed the building of Blackbaud Stadium – the nation’s first privately financed soccer-specific stadium in the United States in the modern era.

The stadium debuted in 1999, three year’s after the club won the Pro League (third division) championship in 1996 with a 3-2 victory over the Charlotte Eagles via a shootout.

Celebrating the championship after the final whistle, Bakker helped injured defender Terry Phelan out onto the field to join his teammates after being knocked out of the game in the 57th minute with an injury to his left leg. Bakker would later be lifted into the air by the team during the cup presentation.

Outmatched by Charleston’s size, Minnesota’s most dangerous chance came in the eighth minute when Johnny Torres sent a corner kick to the top of the box to Marco Ferruzzi, who blasted a 22-yard shot on goal, forcing Charleston goalkeeper Dusty Hudock to make the stop.

Minnesota nearly gave Charleston the lead in the sixth minute when defender Mark Schulte headed the ball back to goal and nearly into the back of the net only to be saved by the right post.

Minnesota forward John Menyongar regularly proved to be a threat in the offensive third of the field for the Thunder, but was unable to muscle past the Charleston back line to find the back of the net.

Match Report

Scoring Summary
CHB: Chronopoulos 13
CHB: Conway 21
CHB: Klein 37

MIN: None
CHB: Phelan 15, Wilson 32

Lineups - Stats >>

Attendance: 5,711 (franchise record)

Referees: Jair Marrufo, Piran Abbas, Chris Kenney, Sean Hurd

Gerald Barnhart - USL Public Relations - Tampa, FL - 813.963.3909 - fax 813.963.3807

Many Thanks to News Digger John Zukas who scours up all of the local news links during the year.