Battery in Playoff Hunt on the Road against Atlanta
CHARLESTON, S.C. - The Battery are on the road this week for the first of two away matches, starting Wednesday night as the Black and Yellow kick off against Atlanta United 2 at 7:30 p.m. in Kennesaw, Georgia.
Sitting in fifth place, the Battery will look to collect points on the 2-game road trip visiting Atlanta United 2 Wednesday followed by a divisional matchup against the Miami FC on Saturday
Charleston face a former Group H foe from the condensed 2020 Season in Atlanta United 2 after going 3-0-1 agains the Georgia side last season
The Battery are preparing for a battle against a young Atlanta United 2 squad that's narrowly outside a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference's Central Division
Through a season that has seen multiple players on the injury report, the Battery are back to near-full strength with veteran Jarad van Schaik and rookie Joel Bunting back in the lineup
The meeting is the first and only this season between the 2020 Group H foes, where the Battery went 3-0-1 against the Georgia outfit. The last time Charleston visited Atlanta, Mauro Cichero provided the late-game heroics with an equalizer in the dying seconds of the match to earn a point for the Battery. That draw kicked off last summer's nine-game unbeaten run.
Looking at the Eastern Conference standings, Charleston are fifth in the Atlantic Division with a record of 8-8-4 (28 pts). Atlanta, meanwhile, are sixth in the Central Division with a record of 7-9-7 (28 pts). Both clubs are narrowly outside a playoff spot and will look to gain crucial points from the game.
Atlanta are coming off a 0-1 away victory over Indy Eleven more than a week ago on September 4. Aiden McFadden scored midway through the first half for the visitors and that was enough to sustain Atlanta's victory. McFadden's goal came from outside the box on the volley and was minutes after Indy nearly got the scoring started on the other side. Atlanta goalkeeper Ben Lundgaard turned in an admirable performance en route to a clean sheet, tallying four saves and one punch. The win snapped a two-game losing streak for Atlanta and they will look to build on that momentum while making a run for a playoff spot.
Charleston will look to bounce back Wednesday following a 0-1 home defeat against the Tampa Bay Rowdies. The Black and Yellow held firm against the division leaders through an hour of action, but a goal from Lewis Hilton in the 63rd minute proved to be the night's difference maker. Josh Penn provided some of the best looks for the Battery with three shots on the night. Both Penn and AJ Paterson came close to goal with strong shots from outside of the box that went narrowly wide of the post. Despite the result, Joe Kuzminsky had a solid evening with two saves, two high claims and one punch. Charleston will aim to get back to winning ways against a side they had success against a year ago.
DZ Harmon will be back available for Wednesday's contest after missing the match against the Rowdies due to a red card issued in the game prior.
With both clubs level in points on the season and in similarly-tight playoff races, the midweek match will be high stakes as three crucial points are on the line.
Ones to Watch This Week
Atlanta United 2 - Ben Lundgaard
Lundgaard turned in an exceptional performance against Indy Eleven while notching his second clean sheet in four appearances. Among the most important of his four saves came in the 22nd minute, a diving stop on a shot by Nicky Law that had a one-way ticket to the back of the net before being saved. For his efforts, Lundgaard was named Man of the Match by FotMob.com via a player rating of 8.2 (out of 10). The ex-Columbus Crew SC SuperDraft selection is 3-1-0 in games he's featured. Should Lundgaard be selected by Atlanta United 2 boss Jack Collison for Wednesday's fixture, expect him to play a key role in anchoring the hosts' defense throughout the evening.
Charleston Battery - Jarad van Schaik
Jarad van Schaik returned to the starting lineup against the Tampa Bay Rowdies for his first appearance since June 19 against The Miami FC. The veteran defender had himself a solid night of work with three duels won, two clearances, two recoveries and an eye-popping 93% pass success rate (51 of 55 completed), all in just 68 minutes of work. Last time he faced Atlanta in 2020, van Schaik tallied five duels won, one interception, one key pass and seven recoveries. As the Battery hit the home stretch of the season, expect the team to rely on their captain's leadership to guide them through the remaining matches.
The Battery returned to training Thursday following their match against Tampa Bay. The team will travel to Georgia on Tuesday for a training session in Kennesaw ahead of the Wednesday fixture.
With a little over a week between matches for the Battery, the emphasis during training has been to stay sharp and game-ready.
"Similar to last week, we scrimmaged on Saturday morning, 75 minutes for everybody, which was fantastic getting the guys up and playing," said Anhaeuser. "It was very productive, and then giving them a day off on Sunday is to let them relax and get into that zone of playing Wednesday and Saturday."
Although Atlanta were a familiar opponent in 2020, Coach Anhaeuser expects this year's squad to present a different playing style and challenge on Wednesday.
"[Atlanta] are a little different than they have been in the past, in the past they really played possession, tried to pass it in the back and work it around the field," said Anhaeuser. "[Now], they're a little more aggressive, they keep their three up high, they really send some midfielders and their outside backs [forward]. So, they play a little more direct now and try to get after you, which they've had success with.
"They're definitely a very dangerous team, and we know that."
Defender and captain Jarad van Schaik commended the squad for a productive week of practice to bounce back from the Tampa Bay result.
"We had a good week of training, we got a nice scrimmage over the weekend to keep our bodies ready," said van Schaik. "It's really about preparing for the next game, making sure we're well-rested, everyone's bodies are taken care of, healthy and good to go so we can compete."
The road trip is shaping up to be a big one for all clubs involved and the weight of both games this week is not missed on the team.
"We're in a playoff race right now so every game is huge for us," said van Schaik. "These are huge games for us really no matter who we play right now. So, we've got to go in extra focused, road games are tough, we've got to be locked in defensively and can't give away any easy chances."
Come Wednesday, van Schaik believes the defenses will be among the key difference makers that define the result.
"Defensively, let's lock them down, we need to start putting together shutouts if we want to go on a run here and put ourselves in position to make the playoffs," said van Schaik. "If we take care of everything on our end defensively, our shape, recovering, we should be in a good position."
As of posting, Temi Adesodun is questionable, and Romario Piggott, Logan Gdula, Nico Rittmeyer, and Mauro Cichero are out. Leland Archer is unavailable for Wednesday's contest due to a red card issued during the Tampa Bay match.
Atlanta United 2 vs. Charleston Battery
Wednesday, September 15 - 7:30 p.m. EST Kickoff - Fifth Third Bank Stadium
How to Watch: ESPN+
As the club is on the road, fans can catch the away match Wednesday at the official Watch Party hosted by Home Team Barbecue in downtown Charleston.
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