Matchday #2 Preview: Charleston Battery (3/16)
Well it's somehow almost the weekend again, and I am still getting use to the fact that Saturday's belong to the Blue and Green now. The lads head back down south again this time to Charleston to face the Battery.
The Opponent: Coming off their home opener against Ottawa, Charleston conceded early but rallied and forced a 1-1 draw. Highlights of their home opener are below:
Splitting possession nearly 50-50 with Ottawa, these two squads matched up pretty evenly throughout the game. Charleston had a slow start and an early goal disallowed, but picked it up in the 2nd half getting an easy tap in for the equalizer in the 65th minute off of a mishandled shot from the Fury GK. As the game grew the Battery applied more pressure to Ottawa tallying up 11 shots (6 on target) and conceded 16 fouls, showing a physicality to their game. The danger man for Charleston in this game was CAM Kotaro Higashi who seemed to be a key part of every attack that the Battery threw at the Fury.
Charleston's strong performance last week as well as their 4th place finish last year will prove to be a challenge for Hartford this week. And although Athletic has its fair share of work to do this past week, Charleston has some unanswered questions regarding its team this season.
Last season, Charleston had a top defensive line in the league as well as one of the leagues most dynamic scorers in Ataulla Guerra. Their defense let up only 34 goals (T-4th) while Guerra finished the season with 15 goals (T-9th) and 5 assists. However, from last season the team has not only lost 2 of it's starting defensemen but also has shifted tacitly from playing a 3-4-2-1 to a 4-2-3-1. Neveal Hackshaw – now with the Indy Eleven – and Skylar Thomas – signing back home in the Canadian Premier League – are two starters from last year no longer with the team. Additionally, they have moved O'Brian Woodbine from his wingback role last season to a more traditionally outside back. Their centerback and captain Taylor Mueller returns however to provide some continuity with their keeper Joe Kuzminsky to try to replicate their success from last season. It will be interesting however to see if Charleston can replicate the same defensive numbers they produced last year.
Additionally, Ataulla Guerra who resigned with the team last season was not rostered for the first game this season and there seems to be no information from Charleston or the league on why this was the case. He is a dynamic gamebreaker for them, and if he does return to the lineup Saturday expect to see an even more explosive Battery team up front.
The Lads: From the way Jimmy responded to the last game I would be shocked to see us come out as flat as we did against Atlanta. The Battery looked somewhat vulnerable on the wings, and speed on the outside is definitely something that Athletic doesn't lack. I think we ask questions of the new back four of Charleston and this week actually put some balls in the back of the net. It will be interesting to see how many changes are made to the lineup and whether playmaker Alex Dixon can get on the pitch. I'd expect the game plan to be the same as it was against Atlanta though: Attack the outside, get men into the box, and whip crosses in. Defensively, positioning and aggression are two areas the boys will need to improve. Hopefully we come out ready to go.
DR. Nutmeg: I predicted Athletic to win last week and as best said by Michael Scott... I'm not superstitious but maybe just a little-stitious. The blue and green strike first but the Battery get a quick equalizer & late winner to win 2-1.
El Dulce: I expect changes to the lineup that hopefully give the Whales more forward momentum and get us on the front foot. I think we get a goal, and we get a second. The defense does its part and we win 2-1.