Editor’s note: This one is going to be rushed, as I have appointments. With any luck I’ll be able to update this later in the afternoon. –dc
Orlando City, with its MLS aspirations and too-big-to-fail bankroll, probably remains the team to beat in USL PRO this season, but Charleston faces the other squad in that category when it kicks off against Harrisburg City at the Islanders’ Skyline Sports Complex at 7 p.m.
Here in the Lowcountry, the official live-stream watch-party is at Molly Darcy’s at 235 East Bay St. See you there.
Harrisburg, which affiliated with the Philadelphia Union in the offseason, are off to the best start in franchise history, winning twice on the road (including USL PRO’s first victory over an MLS reserve squad) before coming home to give the Rochester Rhinos a jaw-dropping 5-1 thrashing last week. They’re currently No. 3 in the Reckless Challenge USL PRO Power Rankings behind Orlando and Los Angeles.
While Coach Bill Becher has built Harrisburg into a perennial contender despite a high annual turnover rate most seasons, the club is certainly benefiting from its expanded relationship with Philadelphia. All four of the Union affiliation-loan players on the squad have either scored or assisted in the first three matches. Midfielders Jimmy McLaughlin (one goal), Greg Jordan (one goal) and Don Anding (one assist) are all starting or playing significant minutes and forward Cris Hernandez (one goal, two assists), a Philadelphia homegrown signing, scored and later assisted Jordan on the game winner in the Islanders’ milestone 2-1 win over Colorado.
But the big scoring threats for the Islanders come from the team’s pair of African forwards, Zimbabwean striker Lucky Mkosana (three goals), who is now in his second year with the club, and Sainey Touray (two goals), a Gambian who joined the club in 2010. Touray won USL PRO Player of the Week for his efforts, while Anding wound up on the Team of the Week.
The veteran perspective
Battery midfielder/striker Nicki Paterson started his U.S. professional career in Harrisburg in 2009, and has a pretty good idea of what to expect.
“Bill always picks guys that work extremely, extremely hard,” Paterson said. “He gets a lot of guys that fall down last minute from MLS, so it’s usually a quality team he puts together. They’ve made the playoffs every year for what? The last five, six years or so? They made the final two years ago, so you know they’re always going to be there come the end.
“I think we’ve actually lost of there two years in a row, so we know what to expect up there. It’s very much like Pittsburgh, but with a lot more quality on the end of it as well. So a good side.
“They’re 3-0 right now and the thing is they’ve got guys that can out-pace you up front. They’ve got Lucky Mkosana, who is pretty decent, and then to be honest with you, they’re one team that will lose 50 percent of their guys every season, but (Becher) continues to find diamonds in the rough that pick up the slack each year. I don’t know an awful lot about them individually, I just know what the team principle is going to be.”
The Battery left town with 19 players, but only 18 of those were certain to be available, as Bryce Alderson’s details remained to be resolved. The club’s announcement of his loan from Vancouver is a good sign that he’ll be available this week.
Several Battery personnel have indicated that the team may well stick to a conservative, defensive-minded approach on this road trip, as the defending USL PRO Champions try to learn from the lessons of their opening night road loss at Richmond.
The back line of Mark Wiltse, Colin Falvey, Cody Ellison and John Wilson hasn’t conceded a goal in two weeks, and former MLS defensive midfielder Amadou Sanyang is expected to get his first minutes of the season this week after returning from injury last week. Defender Taylor Mueller (CB/RB) could well play a significant role on this trip, as should versatile Michael Azira, who can play at several spots in the midfield and the back line.
The Battery left injured Jose Cuevas and Ben Fisk behind for this trip, so there goes a lot of offensive firepower. Look for strikers Paterson, Dane Kelly and Heviel Cordoves to shoulder the scoring load in their absence. Winger Quinton Griffith is a disruptive force, and he says he’s fully back from the hamstring injury that hobbled him last week in training.