In the 4th game of a 5-game homestand, Rochester hosts the Charleston Battery on Friday night. The Rhinos should be soaring after defeating the previously unbeaten and defending champions Orlando City last weekend. The Battery are also a team on the ascendancy after recovering from some embarrassing scorelines last month. Kickoff is at 7:35pm from Sahlen's Stadium.
Charleston was on the receiving end of some powerful salvos in the month of July. The Battery fell to a 4-1 barrage at the hands of the City Islanders in Harrisburg and crumbled under the assault of the Kickers in Richmond by a score of 4-0. After that loss on July 19, and after exhausting my cache of cannon-related puns, the boys from Blackbaud Stadium have grabbed 7 points from 9 games.
The Battery have taken 14 points from 9 games at home (1.56 ppg) and only 10 points from 11 games on the road (0.91 ppg), which isn't overwhelming evidence but points to trouble winning games away from home.
Charleston sits in 11th place in the USL Pro table but is in a tie on points with Harrisburg, the Charlotte Eagles, and Orange County Blues FC. A win in Rochester could allow the Battery to leapfrog those other teams and sneak into the playoff picture in a largely disappointing season for the black and yellow.
Charleston lost a number of important players from last year's squad. Central midfielder Nicki Patterson, a Scottish national who ran the attack for the Battery, moved on to greener pastures in the form of NASL's Ottawa Fury. Ugandan wide player Mike Azira was signed by Seattle Sounders just like former Battery players Lamar Neagle, Alex Caskey, and Osvaldo Alonso. The Battery also started the season without the services of attacker Jose "Chiva" Cuevas who could not reach an agreement over a contract extension with the club.
Staff at the Battery hoped that players sent on loan from Vancouver Whitecaps would alleviate the sting of losing three starters from 2013. Mamadou Diouf, Aminu Abdallah, and Andre Lewis all joined Charleston on loan from the MLS side on March 7. Former number 1 overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft, Omar Salgado joined the USL Pro squad two weeks later. Marlon Ramirez, a player with Vancouver's u-23 team and Jackson Farmer a promising talent with the club's u-18 team also joined the Battery on loan.
Farmer made four appearances for the Battery (three starts) as a right back before being recalled by Vancouver on May 1. Ramirez made one appearance for the Battery in midfield against Richmond before Vancouver also recalled him on May 1. Salgado was recalled on May 6 after scoring 2 goals and registering an assist over 5 appearances for the Battery. The Whitecaps waived Abdallah on June, 27, but the Battery signed the midfielder on a USL Pro contract for the remainder of the season.
Whitecaps 2014 SuperDraft picks Adam Mena and Michael Kafari are also in this Battery squad, which is similar to Rochester picking up New England draft pick Pierre Omanga.
Since coming back to the Battery on July 15, after impressing with Fresno Fuego in the PDL (less than an hour from his hometown in California), Cuevas has been on fire. The attacking midfielder scored the opening goal of a 1-1 draw against Richmond in just his second game back at the professional level.
The Battery have a few different attacking options to worry Rochester. Charleston's three Cuban players will be well-rested after sitting out the team's trip to Montreal on Monday (visa reasons) which means if speedy Jamaican forward Dane Kelly can't make a breakthrough in the first half you should expect to see Cuban power forward Heviel Cordovés off the bench in the second.
Rochester's starting goalkeeper John McCarthy has to happy about sitting atop the USL Pro goalkeepers in goals against and clean sheets. JC Banks faces a concussion test before he is cleared to play Friday night and Alex Dixon has a fitness test on a high ankle sprain that has sidelined him since July 11th. Expect Colin Rolfe to start after scoring a great goal to beat Orlando City last weekend.