The Charleston Battery sit in second place in the Eastern Conference, six points behind Rochester as of Friday morning. On Friday night, the Battery travel up to Ontario to face Toronto FC II before stopping in Western New York on Sunday afternoon.
Rochester will look to exploit any tired legs in the Battery players who face a rejuvenated Toronto squad that has players returning from both the Gold Cup and the Pan-American Games. As Carson details below, however, Charleston has a deep squad of effective players from which Mike Anhaeuser can choose.
You can read Carson's Battery perspective on this weekend's games here.
The Bent Musket (TBM): What, and specifically who, has been responsible for the Battery's success in USL this season?
Dynamo Theory (DT): Charleston is an incredibly well rounded team. The defense has been effective, the midfield has been strong, and the attackers usually do their part. Even the club's top players have been complimented well by their own reserves.
Star goalkeeper Odisnel Cooper has been his consistently strong self in the net, but during injury absences rookie Kevin Corby has stepped in at a high level, as well. Dane Kelly, the club's overly talented forward, has been on a mission as of late, but early in the season it was his reserve, Heviel Cordoves, added some scoring punch.
An unexpected duo truthfully may be the biggest key to their success: midfielder Maikel Chang and forward Ricky Garbanzo. The rookie Garbanzo mercilessly hounds the opposition and has a non-stop motor. He creates chances with his effort and has found the net due to his determination, usually a point-blank goal off a deflected shot. The Cuban midfielder Chang is still tops at the club in assists and has a natural ability to find the perfect alleys for long through balls to Kelly or the other forwards. They may be unheralded, but their impact on the team cannot be underestimated.
TBM: Charleston has a 3-2-3 record on the road but the team has scored 3 or more goals five times this season, what chances do you give the Battery to derail Rochester's undefeated season on Sunday?
DT: I would love to say they have a good chance, not just because the numbers, but because of the talent. However, nobody goes undefeated this long by chance. As you know, the Rhinos defense is historic. Living in Vegas, I compare their play style to Floyd Mayweather Jr. (Simply his style, nothing else!)
While the casual fan may be bored and crave more aggression and action, the Rhinos, as well as Money May, rely on their defensive prowess to stifle their opponents attack. The occasional counter to keep the opponent on their toes, but primarily a defensive shell.
If for some reason, the Rhinos attempt to trade runs with Charleston instead, the streak may end here. But I assume Rochester will stick to their defensive mindset and attempt to prevent goals more often than score them. In that scenario, the Battery's best chance lies with one of those long through balls or lobs down the field to Kelly, who often finds the twine. I'll go ahead and throw caution to the wind and say Battery end the streak with a 1-0 win, a flash counter attack goal from "Cool Runnings" Dane Kelly.
TBM: These two teams played to a scoreless draw just three weeks ago, what has changed for the Battery since that game?
DT: Nothing too drastic. Odisnel Cooper will likely be back in net after missing their last match due to injury. Cuban players: Cooper, Cordoves and Chang, as well as Navion Boyd will be well rested after having to sit the match against Toronto FC II due to travel restrictions.
Other than those small things, the only change may be an even more aggressive Battery attack. With Louisville pushing Charleston's 2nd position, these 2 games this week are incredible key to the Battery so you may see them try to take 3 points rather than settle for 1.
The match kicks off from Sahlen's Stadium at 4:05PM on Sunday. As with all USL games this season, you can watch the action from the team's youtube channel.