UPDATED to correct the spelling of Matthew Aurednik’s name, plus the name of the Chicago Academy. — dc
The U18 boys battled to a draw and the U16s fell just short as the local South Carolina United Battery Academy hosted an impromptu day of soccer with a barnstorming academy from Chicago on Saturday at Patriots Point.
The U18s finished 1-1, with the U16s ending 2-1 in favor of the Chicago Magic.
Though not on the original academy schedule, the chance for an informal friendly arose recently when the coach of the Chicago Magic called Clark Brisson, director of the S.C. United Battery Academy, and asked if his U16s and U18s might be available for play on short notice. The Illinois academy had been in a spring-break minicamp in Myrtle Beach. The opportunity caught the local academy a bit flat-footed, and with several of Brisson’s U18s unavailable to play because of previous commitments, the elder squad operated with just two subs, one of whom was not quite 100 percent.
BATTERY ACADEMY U18s 1, CHICAGO MAGIC 1
In the opening match, the U18s fought to a stalemate in a first half that saw the Magic dominate possession in midfield but generate relatively few chances. Battery Academy keeper Joe Wichmann manged the Magic threats, while several Battery attacks broke down only in the final moments. In one notable flurry, an upfield push by Eli Dent — a forward playing out of position Friday at right back — got the ball to the feet of striker Hamilton Carlin, who fought his way up the gut of the central defense. The aggressive move forced the keeper off his line, but the Chicago netminder was only able to partially deflect Carlin’s shot, and the crowd held its breath as the ball bounced toward the goal. It rolled just wide.
The Battery U18s surrendered the first goal of the match when a Magic counterattack overwhelmed the back line with superior numbers and froze Wichmann. Moments later, the Battery pulled that goal back. Carlin held the ball up just long enough to allow Matthew Aurednik to make a run toward the box, waited one more beat for him to break open, and then fed the ball through to him in space. Aurednik, a forward who shifted to midfield for this match, controlled the pass in stride, held off his marker, and calmly beat the keeper to knot the score.
Both teams had chances in the waning seconds, with Aurednik whiffing on a bicycle-kick attempt off a free kick, and a Chicago striker blowing an open chance inside the 18-yard box.
“I was happy with the performance,” Brisson said. “(Chicago is) a good team, and I felt we created better quality chances than they did, especially in the second half. We had three or four good looks to win it. Going down one-nothing and scoring a goal showed some character, and I was pleased with the performance. We’d like to get the result, but that’s secondary right now.”
Brisson said Chicago’s ability to possess the ball wasn’t a concern.
“It was a little bit of their style versus ours,” he said. “We’ve been working on our possession… and having only two subs, we allowed that at certain parts of the field, to allow us to get back and get our shape. So if they possessed the ball in their half or in the midfield, we were fine with that.”
The coach was encouraged by the chemistry that seemed to be developing between his two powerful attacking players in Carlin and Arednik, both of whom bulled their way to multiple scoring chances. Brisson described Arednik’s as a handful all game. “After the game he said ‘Coach, I should have had a hat trick, maybe four.’ He got himself in some good positions. The goal we scored was great. It was a nice pass from Roberto Medina to Carlin, he held it up, and Aurednik takes the pass and dribbles the keeper.”
Brisson also credited the back line with doing a reasonably good job and praised midfielders Hunter Danna and Roberto Medino. “Danna covered an enormous amount of ground today. I mean the amount of work he did, and if someone was going to clock his mileage today, it was amazing. I thought Medino on the left-hand side, whom we just signed … today, he made one of the best plays of the game: One-v-one, beat two or three guys and almost got in.”
In addition to offense, Medino repeatedly dispossessed Chicago players and initiated several counterattacks. He came out of the match with an injury for several minutes, but returned for the final push.
BATTERY ACADEMY U16s 1, CHICAGO MAGIC 2
The local U16 side opened the 12:30 match with “six or seven changes (from the academy team’s usual lineup),” including several players who were playing three years above their age division, Brisson said. The result was a visual mismatch, with the Magic team towering above the Battery kids. S.C. United kept it close, but conceded a goal in the first and went to the half trailing. The Magic scored again soon after play resumed.
But Battery forward Avery Ryan managed to put the team back in contention moments later. Acquiring the ball near the top of the box in a thicket of defenders, Ryan somehow kept regaining control of the ball, pivoted toward the net and shot through traffic to tie the score.
After Ryan’s goal, the Battery threatened an equalizer on multiple occasions, several of them arising via forward Anson Girone. Girone kept finding space near the goal mouth, but three of his headers either missed wide or arrived on goal without the necessary pace.
“I thought the game was well played by us, and probably we outplayed them,” Brisson said. “(The Magic) took advantage of a couple of mistakes, but overall I thought it was real promising for the future.”
Brisson agreed that size did matter in this one, but suggested it wasn’t everything.
“Yeah, we could run under their legs half the time,” Brisson said. “But we have some quick little sharp guys, and we were a little bit younger. Size was a factor on their behalf, but I think that’s the great thing about this game: If you’re quick and you’re good on the ball, you can play.”
The coach credited defender Adrian Thompson, midfielders Caleb Moore and Jonathan Amon, who “showed some sparks and some really good stuff.” Winger Cole Gaston did well out wide, Brisson said, and both Avery and Girone played well.
Chicago boarded their bus for the trip back to Illinois after the match. With the local academy heading into its own spring break, the two academy squads will practice just twice next week before driving up to Greensboro for matches against the Carolina Fusion on Sunday, April 7.
Top photo: Chicago’s goalkeeper partially deflects South Carolina Battery Academy forward Hamilton Carlin’s shot in the first half of Friday’s U18 matchup.
All photos by Dan Conover.