Battery and Wilmington set to battle for USL PRO championship

TAMPA, Fla. - The Charleston Battery and Wilmington Hammerheads have shared a rivalry for more than a decade, but Saturday night will mark the first time the two teams compete for a championship as they meet at Blackbaud Stadium in the 2012 USL PRO Championship presented by Umbro. The contest will be available via USL Live on UNation, the USL's free streaming video service, with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. ET.

Both teams took victory on the road last Friday, with the Hammerheads advancing to their first championship game since the club's only championship in 2003 with a 4-3 upset of regular-season champion Orlando City. Corey Hertzog, named this week to the USL PRO All-League First Team and one of the three finalists for USL PRO Most Valuable Player, scored twice against the Lions, underlining the importance he has had to the Hammerheads since his arrival on loan from Major League Soccer's New York Red Bulls.

"He's a big part of our success, there's no question about that," Hammerheads coach David Irving said. "When you bring players in they have to be the right players. It's not just about his playing ability, his goal-scoring ability, it's about his attitude and what he's about, and he jells in with the rest of the players."

After struggling on the road for most of the USL PRO regular season, the Hammerheads have also become road warriors in their past three outings. After taking victory against the Charlotte Eagles to book their place in the playoffs on the final day of the regular season, Wilmington also defeated Richmond at City Stadium in the quarterfinals before last week's upset of Orlando. As such, the side is eager to visit its nearby rival, with a large contingent of fans expected to accompany the side.

"We'll have more than a handful of fans in Charleston," Irving said. "This is the best final that we could get because of the rivalry and that we're so close to each other."

{}Battery coach Mike Anhaeuser agrees with Irving. While the two teams haven't always been in the same division during their time in USL, they have maintained a friendly rivalry with exhibition games.

{}"It's going to be a great final," Anhaeuser said. "Two teams that are only three hours apart, right up the coast, both on the Atlantic Ocean, and they're going to bring a great crowd down. I'm already excited."

{}Charleston reached its second championship game after a dramatic penalty shootout victory against the Rochester Rhinos at Sahlen's Stadium last Saturday. After the two teams finished tied after five shots, J.C. Mack's goal in the seventh round sent his side through. The Battery also received heroics from Tony Donatelli, who sent the game to extra time late in second-half stoppage time.

Now the Battery have the chance to cap their 20th Anniversary Season with a championship on home turf, against a local rival. With that as the backdrop, Saturday night's contest should be one to remember.