The busiest month in the Charleston Battery schedule began May 1 at Harrisburg on City Island. It ends Saturday night on the marsh island surrounding Blackbaud Stadium, and once again, the opponent is Harrisburg.
There’s a nice little symmetry to that.
When the Battery pulled up to Skyline Stadium at City Island on May 1, they were 2-1, coming off a two-game home stand in which they’d outscored their opponents 6-0. A month later, the team is 8-2-1 across all competitions, trailing only Orlando in the league table and one of only two USL PRO teams to advance to the Fourth Round of the U.S. Open Cup. Yes, their scoring is way down, but their defense has been armor-plated, with seven clean sheets in 2013. So we have a pretty good idea what the Battery will be Friday night. A win would give them a remarkable 7-1-1 record for the month.
But what about Harrisburg?
The City Islanders currently trail Charleston by three points in the USL PRO standings, which is good enough for fifth place, but their May hasn’t been quite as rewarding as the Battery’s. Before their home date on May 1, the Islanders were 3-0. Since then they’ve compiled a pedestrian 2-3-1 record across league and cup play. Their two wins were against cellar-dwellers Antigua (4-0 at home) and Rochester (1-0 away).
Their high point? A 2-2 draw against high-flying Orlando on May 17. Their low point? A 0-1 loss in the second round of the U.S. Open Cup to PDL side Reading United on the 21st. But revenge against Charleston would vault them right back into contention in the league.
What to expect: Battery
The news from training today is that forward Dane Kelly — whose three goals on the season don’t begin to tell the story of his contributions — probably will not play. He picked up a knock while playing 90 minutes against San Jose on Tuesday, Battery Coach Mike Anhaeuser said, and with the minutes Kelly has logged lately, his coach isn’t likely to lean on him. Anhaeuser didn’t rule Kelly out, but said he had been planning to start center forward Heviel Cordoves against Harrisburg anyway.
“The only difference (in the way we’ll play) is Cordoves is a little different that Dane. He brings his pluses, too. Big guy. Actually has a lot of pace for a big man. His shot. He went in the Rochester game, had five shots in 25 minutes of action, and looked sharp… We know that we have to play Cordoves in to his feet. We can’t play the ball up over the top (to Cordoves, as the Battery have often done with Kelly) to expose their lack of pace. But he’s going to do well with that.”
Winger Quinton Griffith remains out with a groin injury for the sixth consecutive match, and given the way Anhaeuser has managed 35-year-old left back John Wilson this season, you’d expect him to rest after going 90 minutes against San Jose on Tuesday. There are no true opportunities for Anhaeuser to rest his small squad for fitness in a schedule this compressed, but with home-field advantage for the next three fixtures, the coach plans to work more players into the rotation. “You’re going to see our full roster in the next three games,” he said.
“We’ll get Ben (Fisk) in there. We’re going to have a few new guys, because we gotta rest a couple of guys. We’ll definitely be seeing some new players that haven’t been playing because a lot minutes have been adding up. But we also want to make sure we don’t change it too much. Even in the back, in the goal, it will be pretty much the same same, but you’ll see it, even from the subs. I definitely won’t wait around as long, especially if some of the guys are starting to look a little heavy.”
One of the players you can expect to see making his Blackbaud Stadium debut is 19-year-old Canadian midfielder Bryce Alderson, Alderson played the first half at Dayton but picked up an injury and hasn’t appeared since. Anhaeuser said he’ll probably use him as a substitute. “He’s done a great job (rehabbing and getting fit),” Anhaeuser said. “His injury, that’s gone. The only bad thing (for Alderson) is that we haven’t had a full week of training (with all the games in the past week).”
If Wilson rests, that usually means another appearance by Emmanuel Adjetey. The Ghanaian has made the most of his chances since arriving in late April, making eight appearances and five starts, going 90 minutes four times. He’s made the USL PRO Team of the Week once, and with another week as an honorable mention.
On the other side of the field, right back Mark Wiltse has gone full-90 eight times this season, and has taken a pounding. Two central defenders — Taylor Mueller and Shawn Ferguson — have worked in at right back in the past week, and both are likely candidates for additional time. So is forward Austin Savage, who scored in his first professional start at Portland and seems to have a knack for the back of the net. Anhaeuser likes to rest big Cody Ellison when he can, but Captain Colin Falvey has played every minute this season.
The location where the rotation could be most interesting is midfield, where Fisk, Alderson and Maikel Chang all scrimmaged Thursday afternoon. All three are young players with tremendous potential. Defensive midfielder Amadou Sanyang will miss this match with a suspension, but is expected to be available after that. Michael Azira and Jarad van Schaik have played in the spot. Nicki Paterson has started every match this season. Jose Cuevas calls himself 100 percent for the first time since mid-April. Zach Prince has evolved into an every-game player, though his role has been flexible.
What to expect: Harrisburg
Harrisburg has been slightly more of a scoring threat than Charleston, scoring 17 times in 8 games compared to Charleston’s 15 goals in nine league matches. But that advantage disappears when they travel. The Battery have put up 10 goals at home, the Islanders just five goals on the road.
“These are tough games because, No. 1, we beat them at their place,” Anhaeuser said. “So they want to come in here and get even. That’s what I told the guys.
“As far as playing, we’re not going to play any different other than maybe we have a few different players. That might give us a different look… (but) play-wise, we’re going to be the exact same. The biggest thing is mental. We need to be ready to play, because you’re going to see Harrisburg is a good team. They’re very offensive oriented. They will not sit back, and they’ve got five or six guys that can catch you. Can finish. And will work the whole time.
“You will probably see the same Northeastern mentality out of this team (as the 0-0 Rochester game, which was a physical battle) on the field. They’re not shy, and they will get into you, and you’d better be prepared for it. So that’s what we talked about. Because we cannot come in here thinking we did something (by beating San Jose 1-0 on Tuesday). The Cup’s over, and now we’re in league play, and sometimes league play can be more physical and difficult than Cup play.”
Like Charleston, the Islanders have been great at stopping goals in 2013. Goalkeeper Nick Noble has two shutouts and 37 saves on 65 shots for the club, compiling a 5-2-1 record while anchoring a defense that has allowed just nine goals in league play. To put that in context, while Battery keeper Odisnel Cooper has allowed only eight goals in 2013, he has faced just 56 shots, and been called upon to save matters just 15 times. Harrisburg defenders Coady Andrews and Greg Jordan check in as the Islanders other two iron men.
Meanwhile, offensive star Sainey Touray has five goals and three assists in seven appearances, and leads the team in shots with 19.
The game kicks off Friday night at 7:30 at Blackbaud Stadium. It will be broadcast on SportsRadio 1450 AM WQNT, livestreamed on USLNation.com, and tickets start at $10. To book yours, call (843) 971-GOAL (4625) or visit www.charlestonbattery.com.