(Editor’s note: Big photo gallery at the bottom of this post. dc)
The S.C. United Battery Academy played its first home date of the fall season Sunday at Blackbaud Stadium, dropping one-goal decisions in the U14 and U18 matches but picking up a 3-1 win over the U16s from the Carolina Railhawks Academy.
One thing to note: With the league instituting a U14 series this fall for the first time, this morning’s match marked the Charleston debut for Troy Lesesne’s U14 squad, which opened on the road last week in Georgia.
I was able to shoot and cover that first match, but had to go to Academy director (and U16/U18s coach) Clark Brisson to get the results of the two later games. So the only pictures today are from the youngest group.
Battery Academy U14s 0, Railhawks 1
In a match that pitted Carolina’s superior strength and size against the Battery’s speed and possession, the difference boiled down to consecutive defensive headers that both went the wrong way in front of goal about midway through the first half.
The own-goal came off a Railhawks corner that descended toward the near post, where a Battery player attempted an aerial clearance. The ball skimmed off his head back toward the goal instead, and his teammate manning the far-post also attempted to head it away — only to put the ball into the roof of goal. Coach Lesesne agreed after the match that the idea of clearing the ball wasn’t a mistake, but that sometimes the ball just bounces the wrong way with at the younger levels of academy play.
“And they punished us for that,” Lesesne said. “We had the chance to do that to them, and we didn’t do it. So that’s the difference in the game.”
The match was an entertaining, back-and-forth affair that featured big plays and near-misses at both ends of the stadium. But with the Battery pushing hard for an equalizer in the second half, the Railhawks grew increasingly tight in the midfield, denying the Battery much in the way of possession and flow.
“I thought we played really well,” Lesesne said. “I thought that we improved quite a bit from last week. Last week we were definitely not the better side. I thought we were the better team today.
“I thought we had a lot more of the ball in this game. Last week we really didn’t see a lot of possession. I thought we dictated the tempo for the most part, and we also won the ball higher up the field. We won the ball in their half a lot. It was in their half the majority of the game. So those are things that are big positives. If we keep doing that, we’ll get a result.”
Brisson singled out winger Jonathan Amon, the younger brother of former U17 World Cup player Joe Amon and current U16 player Benjamin Amon, for his play against the Railhawks.
“He’s a really bright spot for us. He needs to learn to play with his teammates, but he draws a lot of attention, and his teammates need to learn to play with him… So good gene pool. But I talked to their coach afterward, and he said they were keying on him. And rightfully so. I thought he did well, but he needs to learn to maybe pass a little bit earlier in the midfield, to maybe some bigger guys. But he was, to me, the most dynamic player on the field.”
Lesesne agreed, but praised the team effort as well. “I was very pleased with everyone else. I thought the guys who came on as substitutes did really well. But Jonny stuck out from the standpoint that he created the most for our team today.”
Said Brisson: “In my opinion, our 14 team has a lot of good pieces to the puzzle. We need to define the roles of our players, in all of our teams — we’re only in the second game of our season — of how we’re going to play and where are they going to play. And I feel like the 14 team, dealing with crossed balls, where …we’re not the biggest team, dealing balls in the air will be good, will be a focus. But I feel like early in the season, we’re still just trying to gain our identity. Who we are, who is going to step up for us, and what is that going to mean long term?”
Game 2: Battery U18s 1, Railhawks 2
The 18s, they got a goal in the first half from their left back, he cut in and made a great right-footed shot. One-nothing at the half.
Second half, we had a great goal from Rex Epps, beat a couple of guys and shot top corner, 1-1. Pretty much a standoff for the second half, and then they scored a goal with two minutes left for the victory. A little disappointing, but it was what it was.
I think from our 14 game to our 18 game, completely different. Our 18 team, I think we’ve got some dynamic players up front, I think we’re not as good in the midfield as the 14 team, but we’ve got to learn how to defend a little bit better through periods of time and define what we’re going to do.
Game 3: Battery U16s 3, Railhawks 1
The 16s was Nick Wright, from Mount Pleasant, (who) scored the first goal on assist from Conor Sloan. Second goal was (Barrett) Stevens, a midfielder from Irmo. And the third goal was Robbie Robinson, a midfielder, and he’s from Camden, South Carolina.
Good result, fair result. We probably had chances to make it 3-0. At 2-nothing they scored a goal, and it became interesting. And we got the third goal and killed it off.
I think our 16 team is our brightest group in terms of our talent level, and it showed today in the way we played. We’re a little young for academy standards, we’ve been playing a lot of 98s, but we’re a nice squad, and I expect big things from that team.
The Battery Academy teams travel to Winston-Salem, N.C., for matches next weekend, then return to Blackbaud for U16 and U18 games two weeks from today.
TOP IMAGE: A wrong-way defensive header arcs back toward the net just moment before a second failed attempt to clear the corner kick provided the only goal in Sunday’s U-14 match. Dan Conover photos. Click on an image to see it larger, and click any image in the gallery to launch a slide show.