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  • Ian Brooking

Former Coastal players living life in Charleston

Two former Coastal Carolina men’s soccer players have made a significant impact while playing for the Charleston Battery, a professional American soccer team based in the United Soccer League.

Justin Portillo, who played from 2010 to 2013 at Coastal Carolina, has made a huge impact this season for the Battery, starting every single game for Charleston in the midfield and scoring six times. Portillo also has six assists on the year as well.

Portillo, a native of New Orleans, Louisiana, attributes his success in Charleston back to his collegiate roots here in Conway.

“Coastal did everything for me,” said Portillo. “When I walked onto that campus, I was 17-year old kid and didn’t really know much. Coach Docking helped instilled in myself and all of us on that team that hard work leads to success. He wanted us to hit the books and hit the practice field hard and all of that got me to where I am at now.”

During his time at Coastal Carolina, Portillo scored 10 goals and had 29 assists. His 29 assists are sixth all-time in the Coastal Carolina record books. Portillo played in 89 matches for the Chanticleers and started 87 of those matches.

At the time, those 89 matches played was a Big South and Coastal Carolina record. However, Ricky Garbanzo broke that record after Portillo left in 2013. From 2011 to 2014, Garbanzo played in 94 matches and started 76 of them. His 40 goals are tied for fifth on the Coastal Carolina all-time list.

Garbanzo reminisced about his time in Conway.

“Coach Docking did a very good job on getting his players to the next level,” said Garbanzo. “He made our environment on the training grounds like a pro-environment, so every day we came out and gave 110 percent.”

Garbanzo, a native of Rock Hill, South Carolina, also talked about what it was like joining the team and having a former college teammate already on the squad.

“I love Charleston” said Garbanzo. “The whole team and the city, the way they come together to support the Battery here is amazing and I love it. And to have a guy like Justin on the team means a lot. He and I played great together at Coastal and he’s my best friend. I hope that I can be able to finish out my soccer career with him.”

Garbanzo has played in 11 games this season for the Battery, starting in five. He has scored a goal and had an assist. Garbanzo has been injured a bit this season but hopes to see the field in the final five matches of the season.

Throughout his career in Charleston, Garbanzo has played in 69 matches, scoring 7 goals. In his first season in Charleston, he was voted by the fans as the Newcomer of the Year after scoring five goals and notching five assists in 2015.

Portillo has played in 72 matches for the Battery since joining the team in 2014, scoring 12 goals. After his first season was over, he was voted as the Newcomer of the Year.

Both Garbanzo and Portillo hope that this year’s team keeps up the same effort they did and hopes the players here now enjoy their time at Coastal.

“Keep working hard and keep improving each day,” said Garbanzo. “Always listen to coach and do what you have to do to win the Sun Belt again.”

In a recent United Soccer League game that took place on Sept. 16 in Charleston, the Battery defeated the Richmond Kickers 1-0. Garbanzo did not see action, but Portillo started and played all 90-minutes.

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