Charlotte, here we come…

Charlotte, here we come…

Ralph-Lundy-soccer-sponsorship-message-2So Janet and I will be making our first road trip to a Battery away match today, and that means some unusual things about tonight’s routine here on the site.

First, it means I won’t be writing an in-cycle story on the match. However, I’ve got one writer who has tentatively agreed to cover the match tonight, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Second, it means I won’t be going down to Molly Darcy’s for an away game for the first time this regular season. But if you’re here in town tonight, I recommend it. Tommy Snee and his staff do a great job of taking care of Battery fans, and we need to support their efforts in the same way that they support local soccer. If things work out, our writer will be working from the bar tonight. Not a bad assignment.

Finally, it will be a while before I get a game wrap-up posted. We’ll drive home tonight, but when I get up in the morning my day starts with an interview appointment, so it will be close to lunch before I get down to writing. Sorry about that.

But the main thing from my perspective is that seeing your local team on the road, when you can afford it, it a good way to understand what their experience is like. Somebody smart once told me that “Good writing is done with the legs.” So if you give me a chance to go see, that’s what I want to do.

Charlotte: Land of Many Queens Streets

queensqueensI lived in Charlotte for a summer while I was in college (there was this girl…), and I will confess I’m not wild about the place. Sure, there are lots of good things about Charlotte, but it’s also a city shaped by years of exposure to smug corporate bankers and crooked televangelists (the best job I ever had in Charlotte was engraving the names of donors to the PTL Ministries Broadcast Center onto little brass plates. One of those names was my grandmother’s).

And then there are the street names. Don’t get me started about the street names.

Anyway, there’s not enough time in my schedule this week to do a true advance on the Charlotte Eagles. And that’s why you’re here, right?

But if you’re not particularly familiar with the team, here are the basics.

175px-Charlotte-eaglesThe club was founded in 1991 and went professional in 1993. And if you were wondering about that cross in the team logo, that’s because the Eagles are a combination pro soccer franchise and evangelical mission. The club operates as a division of Missionary Athletes International.

With mission funding, the Eagles haven’t had to worry quite as much about their gate receipts. To put their fan support in perspective, the Eagles have played four home matches in 2013, and their attendance so far is 2,373. That’s TOTAL attendance, not average. The Battery averaged more than 3,800 fans per game last year. In Charlotte, their average attendance this season is 593 people per game.

In possibly related news, I’m told there’s no beer at Queens University Stadium.

That said, they’re off to a decent start. The Eagles began the season with four consecutive home games, beating Antigua and Pittsburgh and drawing Rochester and Orlando. In their first road game of the season, they drew Richmond 3-3 on Saturday. That’s good enough for nine points in the USL PRO table. Charleston, on the other hand, has 12 points and is rolling on a five-game winning streak that includes its last two road matches.

‘They’ve had our number’

The Southern Derby Cup: If Charlotte wanted it so bad, how come they didn't come get it?

The Southern Derby Cup: If Charlotte fans wanted it so bad, how come they didn’t come get it?

But here’s why you don’t get cocky about this game if you’re a Battery fan. As multiple Battery fans have told me, Charlotte has always played better against Charleston than they have in generic league matches. “They’ve had our number,” Regiment board member Bobbi Bees told me on Saturday.

That includes last year, when the Eagles went 2-1-0 against the Battery, splitting their home games but taking three points at Blackbaud Stadium.

Which brings us to the Southern Derby Cup, which alert fans might have noticed on display in a truck bed during The Regiment’s tailgate on Saturday. Charlotte didn’t make the USL PRO playoffs in 2012, but their 10 points in matches against Charleston and Wilmington were enough to win the supporter-based cup, which Charleston had claimed for two years in a row.

Only Eagles fans never bothered to come down to Charleston to pick it up.

Which is why The Regiment still has it.

I am told that Eagles fans have asked The Regiment to deliver the cup to them on this road trip. Whether that actually happens is one of the storylines we’ll be following.

Because, you know, that cup looked pretty damned good at our tailgate.

Taylor Mueller started the season opener and again at Dayton, but has been used mostly in a reserve role.

Taylor Mueller started the season opener and again at Dayton, but has been used mostly in a reserve role.

As for the Battery, we know we’ll be without Cody Ellison tonight while he serves a Red Card suspension from Saturday, so expect to see Taylor Mueller lining up next to Colin Falvey in central defense. Otherwise it will be interesting to see how Coach Mike Anhaeuser manages his lineup.

The team doesn’t play again until Sunday, but that’s a fly-away game to Houston to face the Dynamo Reserves, and when the Battery get back they’ll either be tuning up for a home U.S. Open Cup match against the Sacramento Gold of the NPSL or flying out to Portland to face the Timbers U-23s of the PDL. Whomever they play a week from today, they’ll be playing again at home on the 25th against Rochester.

Ever since their loss to Richmond, Anhaeuser has deployed his team on the road in a tough, conservative mindset that emphasizes defense.

Colin Falvey, photo by Kim Morgan Gregory.

Colin Falvey, photo by Kim Morgan Gregory.

Which means the guy we’ll be watching most closely is Falvey, who has played every single minute of the regular season for the Battery this season. He likes winning, but he seems to almost as much pleasure in a clean sheet, regardless of whether it brings one point or three.

Match time is 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on Sports Radio 1450 AM with Battery President Andrew Bell making the call, and will also be available via a live video stream at USLnation.com. Molly Darcy’s provides that stream on three flat screen televisions set up in a special viewing area for Battery fans, and as soon as Happy Hour ends there are drink specials just for our tribe.

Be there.

Aloha.

P.S.: The biggest game tonight from a Battery perspective might not even be the one against Charlotte. The Sacramento Gold travel to JELD-WEN Field in Portland to take on the Timbers u-23s in a first-round U.S. Open Cup match that will determine whether the Battery travel or stay home a week from today. So we’ll be following two outcomes tonight… dc

TOP IMAGE: See that Cup on top of that truck? That’s our cup. Dan Conover photos.