Battery Continue Playoff Run, Face Rowdies in Conference Semifinals
CHARLESTON, S.C. - The Battery are in St. Petersburg, Fla., Saturday night to take on the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the Eastern Conference Semifinals at 7:30 p.m. In a USL Championship season like none other, it will be the fifth time the two teams have met in 2020. The Battery are coming off a 2-1 extra-time win against the Charlotte Independence in the conference quarterfinal while the Rowdies enter the semifinal Saturday after a 4-2 first-round win over Birmingham Legion FC. It's win or go home for both sides in a Saturday night matchup between two very familiar teams that is sure to be battle.
In their thirteenth consecutive postseason run, the Battery return to the Eastern Conference Semifinals for the first time since 2016. With a win over Tampa Bay Saturday night, Charleston would advance to the Conference Finals for the first time since 2013.
Charleston currently have a 3-1-0 record against Tampa Bay this season, being the only team in the USL Championship to defeat Tampa Bay in 2020. That record included a 2-1 win over the Rowdies at Al Lang Stadium to close out the regular season on October 3.
The Battery sit 6 points behind Tampa Bay Rowdies in the Group H standings with 2 games in hand. A win Sunday keeps them on track to unseat Tampa Bay's hold on first place.
In the scenario of a Charleston win as well as a St. Louis win over Louisville Saturday night, the Battery would secure the right to host the Conference Finals back at Patriots Point next week.
Both teams know what to expect from the other at this point in the season as they develop their gameplans for Saturday's matchup. The Black and Yellow will continue to focus on the defensive unit's cohesion that's seen success against Rowdies. Tampa Bay hasn't scored more than once against Charleston since July 31. The Rowdies, however, found their firepower last week, putting in four goals against Birmingham in their quarterfinal.
The Charleston front will have to attack the Rowdies back line early as their success against Tampa Bay this season has come when scoring first. But sustaining that pressure for the full 90 minutes will be key. Charleston gave up a few chances to Charlotte that they can't afford against a talented Rowdies side. Neil Collins' has shown efficient use of his bench and is able to make key substitutions that pay dividends, as seen against Birmingham with Leo Fernandes and Lucky Mkosana both subbing in and contributing goals. The Battery will have to come out strong in the second half and be ready to adjust to any Rowdies reinforcements.
Ones to Watch This Week
Tampa Bay - Lewis Hilton
The Rowdies midfield is stacked with all sorts of playmakers this season. As one of those playmakers, Hilton leads his side with 28 chances created so far this season. With an impressive 86.3% pass completion rating, Hilton knows where to put the ball to create a threat. The Rowdies will look to Hilton Saturday if Tampa Bay is going to finally break open the Charleston back line.
Charleston - Mauro Cichero
Mauro Cichero has filled a spot that Charleston had been missing for some time. Cichero thrives in the attacking third as he's able to create something out of nothing nearly every time he touches the ball. He has 2 goals, 2 assists, 12 shots on target, and has created 13 chances for the Black and Yellow so far this season. The Battery will continue to use Cichero's strengths to their benefit to keep their sights set on the Conference Finals.
Coach & Training Notes
"The biggest thing for us in the playoffs on the road is getting that first goal," Coach Mike Anhaeuser commented on the first-round win. "The guys reacted really well. And that's huge, especially having to go to a tough place like Tampa Bay this week."
Looking at Neil Collins' roster, he added, "They've made a couple of adjustments. They changed a couple players and went back to a two up top. That's just something we'll have to be aware of. We know everything about them, they know everything about us. Sometimes it comes down to all those little details and that's what we've been stressing into this week."
"I think it's going to be just like Charlotte, they're going to come out hot, push everybody up and be more aggressive. It's going to be a great matchup. We're excited to be able to go down there and have an opportunity to move on."
As of posting, Kierron Mason and Romario Piggot are listed as unavailable for Sunday's match.
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United Soccer League Championship Stories from October 17, 2020
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- Battery Continue Playoff Run, Face Rowdies in Conference Semifinals - Charleston Battery
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