Like I wrote on Sunday, with two games worth of photos to process, a full report on the S.C. United Battery Academy’s generally successful weekend double-header series with IMG Academy from Bradenton, Fla., was going to take a little time. The local academy compiled a 2-1-1 record Saturday and Sunday, making the most of the visitors’ request to save money by playing on back-to-back days.
“We play every team in our division three times,” said Academy Coach Clark Brisson. “The distance down there is about eight or nine hours. We were supposed to play them (here on) Dec. 7, but they wanted to do a double-header. No problem.”
Sunday was notable for another milestone: Brisson said it was the team’s first time wearing the Battery’s red “away” jerseys. Which, for the record, looked great.
U18s: Battery 1, IMG 1
The Battery played well in the first half, yet surrendered a goal on a rapid counterattack after a turnover just beyond their defending third. The second half saw them really push the ball ahead, with the Bradenton boys fending them off successfully until their final attack of the morning. After passing the ball through the 18 out to the right wing, the Battery managed to get a cross back to the center, where Lexington County midfielder Rex Epps volleyed it home for the draw.
Brisson called the result extremely important.
“Because it shows character, No. 1. We came back. And a point is so much better than zero. It felt like a win getting that goal that late in stoppage time. We had the same thing happen to us yesterday. We were up, they scored a goal, referee called it offsides. So for our psyche, we got our first win yesterday, to come back and get a tie, it’s just good for those guys going forward.
“And I think it will help us in the standings. Those points later on add up as you try to make the playoffs. But in the 18s, it’s probably more about results, and the 16s it’s more about development. And that was really key to come back.”
Brisson believes the team is improving. “Our last three games, we got a win and two ties. We started off, two one-goal games we lost. So we’re doing well. We’re learning different things about guys on our teams. It’s still early. Where guys are playing, some guys started today who haven’t started, and played good. So we’re still learning what the pieces are made of. We haven’t scored a lot of goals, but we’re dangerous.”
That’s not to say the team didn’t frustrate Brisson at times in the first half.
“I think some of the guys have to understand that we have to be aggressive all the times in the box. Maybe to take the chance, if no one’s in there, to rip it low and hard across, to rip it over the goalkeeper’s left shoulder at that post. And that mentality of being ruthless. We’re playing pretty good. We’re getting ourselves in good positions. We’re not closing the deal. We’re not doing it inside the box. ”
U16s: Battery 4, IMG 0
Coming off Saturday’s loss, Brisson came into Saturday’s 11 a.m. game with a sense of how to break down Bradenton.
“Yesterday even though our 16 team lost the game, we probably played better than they did,” he said. “They got two goals, kinda against the run of play, and after that they played very good defense and it was hard for us to score. We put a new center forward in today, Marcelo (Malpardita), No. 27, because he checks off of center backs a lot, and Nick (Wright), the guy who got the fourth goal, he’s more of a post-up guy. So we felt if we could bring them out a little bit and not play to their strengths, it would open things up. And we got some nice goals today.”
Brisson’s account of each: “First goal: Conor Sloan, his fourth goal of the season, left winger, our leading goal scorer. Yesterday they were keying on him, double-teaming him. Second goal was Marcelo. Put him up center forward, came in with a nice left-footed shot. Third goal was Robbie (Robinson) on an assist from Sloan, came in on a cross ball and got one. And on the fourth goal, Nick (Wright) saw an opportunity and just hammered it (laughs). I mean, maybe, 25 (yards) at least, maybe 30. Nick normally plays our center forward, is a more rugged guy. He can play anywhere on the field, so it’s nice to have him on the field as a wing, because he harasses the other guys.”
Five games into a 33-game schedule, the U16s are in the upper half of the table. “I think this team will be competing toward the end for the playoffs, top three in the division. We have a lot of talent on this team, and the thing is, it’s a ’97 age group, and we probably started seven ’98. So seven of the kids who started today could be back next year. That’s pretty neat.”
The back-to-back games in 24 hours was something of a roster management challenge for Brisson, “because all the kids want to do is play, and if they don’t play, sometimes they don’t understand, because they’re so used to playing all the time. But Austin Tuggle got his first start today in the midfield. You know, Tank (goal keeper William Waldenmaier) had a bad game yesterday. We put him back in the goal and he didn’t have a lot to do. So build his confidence back up.
Even though it’s early in their season, this was the Academy’s final date at Blackbaud Stadium this fall. They play at home this weekend at Trident Academy in Mount Pleasant, then go on the road, and play a few of their home games in Columbia. Brisson hopes the team will be back in Blackbaud next spring.
TOP IMAGE: Conor Sloan notches his team-leading fourth goal of the season Sunday for the U16s to open the scoring against IMG. Dan Conover photos.BTW, I’m experimenting with gallery formats… and though I don’t like this one, I’m kinda committed to it for this post, just from a time standpoint.