Charleston Battery at Rochester Rhinos Preview
CHARLESTON - The Battery left for its first two-game road trip of the season early Thursday morning. The team travels to Rochester to take on the reigning USL Champions in the Game of the Week on Friday, May 6th at 7:05 then continues on to Harrisburg to face the City Islanders on Monday, May 9th at 7:00.
Charleston (2-1-3) and Rochester (3-1-1) are separated by just one point in the table, with the Battery having played one more game. The match between the historic clubs comes in the middle of a four-game home stretch for the Rhinos. Much like the Battery, the Rhinos' success is dictated by the team's defensive ability and earning points at home. With much of its championship-winning roster still intact, Rochester has continued its impressive home record, winning both of its games at Sahlen's Stadium in 2016.
Friday's match is between the two of the top defensive teams in the league. Rochester and Charleston finished ranked one and two respectively in all defensive statistics last season. The Rhinos were almost perfect defensively in 2015, allowing only 16 goals in 28 games and losing only once on the road to the championship. Reigning USL Coach of the Year Bob Lilley and his team have Sahlen's Stadium into a fortress.
Charleston was shut out in its only visit to upstate New York last year, falling to 1-0 to the Rhinos after a ninth minute Steeven Dos Santos goal. The two teams split the points at MUSC Health Stadium in a 0-0 draw earlier in the season. Both matches were even in terms of shots and scoring chances, but the Battery dictated the play and out-possessed the Rhinos. Because of both teams' ability to defend a lead, Friday's result will likely come down to which team can score first.
SCOUTING THE RHINOS:
Rochester has had a respectable start to the 2016 season, winning three of its opening five games and losing only one. The Rhinos enter the game against the Battery on a two-game winning streak, with the wins coming over last place FC Montreal in week four and the Harrisburg City Islanders most recently. The team's only loss was on the road to Richmond in week two despite out-shooting the Kickers 6-1. Before dropping points to Richmond, the Rhinos won 1-0 on the road in Pittsburgh in the season opener. Rochester's opening five games look much like the Battery's: earning points despite struggling to find the back of the net at times.
Rochester has started to find its attacking rhythm, scoring four goals in its previous two games after scoring only once in its first three. Forward Christian Volesky has paced the Rhinos attack with three goals and an assist. The University of Denver graduate scored twice in the team's 2-1 victory over FC Montreal and assisted Kenardo Forbes' opening goal versus Harrisburg on 4/30.
Volesky and Steeven Dos Santos led Rochester in scoring last season with eight goals each, but Dos Santos has been somewhat MIA thus far in 2016. The 6-4 center forward only played in the Rhinos' game against NYRBII and picked up a red card in the 93rd minute. After serving his suspension, Dos Santos will be available for selection against the Battery on Friday night.
Forbes has stepped up in Dos Santos' absence and scored his first goal of the season on 4/30 against Harrisburg. The 27-year-old midfielder has played big minutes in every game this season and earned a spot on the USL Team of the Week for his performance against the City Islanders on Saturday.
Rochester's defense is anchored by 6-2 center back Vasileios Apostolopoulos. The veteran defender has played every minute thus far for the Rhinos and is the primary organizing force for the team defensively. In the game versus Harrisburg, Joseph Farrell was Apostopoloulos' center back partner and the two were flanked by Bradley Kamdem and Dominic Samuel at the outside back positions.
The back four played well and kept everything in front of them for the most part in the game versus the City Islanders. The Rhinos conceded a scrappy goal in the 86th minute after the result looked to be wrapped up. A long shot deflected off of Apostolopoulos' leg right into the path of a Harrisburg attacker who calmly rounded goalkeeper Adam Grinwis and tucked the ball away. With the Battery coming into town, Rochester will be focused defensively on Friday night and will be difficult to break down.
Charleston heads out on its first two-game road trip of the season on the back of what Coach Anhaeuser called the team's best overall performance of the year. The Battery battled back to earn a 1-1 draw on 4/30 against Pittsburgh, despite out-shooting the Riverhounds 18-3.
While some will look at that stat line and claim the team was wasteful, those with a more optimistic outlook will point to it and see that the previously struggling Battery attack finally sparked into life on Saturday night. The team looked dangerous throughout the entire 90 minutes and were unlucky to concede a counterattack goal on Pittsburgh's only real chance of the night.
Midfielder Maikel Chang stood out as the Battery's primary playmaker against the Riverhounds. Chang repeatedly attacked defenders 1v1 and got himself in good crossing areas. Anhaeuser set outside backs O'bi Woodbine and Quinton Griffith loose in the attack as well, and both created quality chances for forwards throughout the match.
Despite bossing the game and dictating the run of play, the Battery's goal came from a set piece. First-year midfielder Neveal Hackshaw earned a penalty when he was shoved over in the box while challenging for a corner kick swung in by Justin Portillo. Portillo sent goalkeeper Hunter Gilstrap the wrong way and converted the penalty easily. The goal was Portillo's second of the year, making him and center forward Romario Williams the only Battery players with multiple goals on the season.
Charleston will look to build on the positive performance against the Riverhounds. With two road games in four days, Anhaeuser said he might be a little more cautious throwing bodies forward on Friday night, but look for the Battery to continue to attack with numbers and push for six points on the tough road trip.
LOOKING AHEAD TO FRIDAY:
Coach Anhaeuser played the same starting XI in back-to-back games for the first time this season versus Bethlehem and Pittsburgh. Despite two positive results, that streak will most likely not make it to three games after Ataulla Guerra went down with a knee injury in the first half of the Battery's game on 4/30.
It's likely that Ricky Garbanzo will replace Guerra in the starting lineup. Garbanzo has been battling injury problems of his own early on this season, but looked as close to fully-fit as one can look in his 45-minute cameo appearance against Pittsburgh. If Garbanzo does earn the start, it will be his first since week two against Orlando City B.
Veteran midfielder Zach Prince is available for selection for the first time in three weeks after serving his two game suspension for a red card picked up in the team's match against Charlotte on 4/16. Dante Marini has started in the spot vacated by Prince and has put in two solid performances in his absence.
Goalkeeper Odisnel Cooper earned his second start of the year in the game versus Pittsburgh after serving as Alex Tambakis' back-up for the first four matches. Much like the game in Bethlehem, Cooper had little to do against the Riverhounds. Pittsburgh's goal came off of a long ball out of the back that goal-scorer Romeo Parkes latched on to and powerfully finished into the bottom corner of Cooper's goal. The ball was well-stuck leaving the Cuban goalkeeper without much of a chance of reaching it.
KEY MATCH-UP: Romario Williams vs. Himself
Romario Williams did almost everything right against Pittsburgh; his movement was excellent and his work rate was high, he just left his finishing boots in the locker room. The Jamaican center forward got himself in great scoring positions on Saturday, but failed to find the back of the net. A player of his caliber will eventually put those quality chances away. Look for him to bounce back in front of goal against Rochester and get his name back on the scoresheet.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Maikel Chang
After missing the game in Charlotte with a foot injury and playing at less than 100% against Bethlehem, Chang looked to be back to his best versus Pittsburgh on 4/30. Charleston's best chances of the night were the result of Chang's vision and ability to deliver a quality final ball in the attackingthird.
In addition flourishing in the playmaking role on Saturday night, the Cuban midfielder's work rate was outstanding. Chang covered a ton of ground up and down the right flank, which allowed outside back Quinton Griffith to stream forward. Griffith's attacking runs forced the Riverhounds forwards to track him, keeping the pressure off of the Battery back four for the majority of the 90 minutes.
Chang certainly has the ability to unlock the Rhinos' stingy defense and if the Battery are going to steal three points on the road in Rochester, he will likely be in the middle of any attacking threat Charleston creates.
Friday night's game will be broadcast live on ESPN3 with kickoff set for 7:05 PM. The game broadcast is part of a new partnership between USL and ESPN that will bring a new level of coverage to the league throughout the current season, and see the 2016 USL Championship air on an over-the-air ESPN network.
Award-winning soccer announcer Michael Watts and Juan Arango will work the booth for the 2016 USL Games of the Week on ESPN3. Watts, who will serve as play-by-play announcer, has appeared on ESPN3, Fox Sports Go, YES Network, the NWSL, and beIN Sports, as well as several college sports networks.
The Charleston Battery will remain on the road after the Rochester match with a rare Monday evening fixture on tap versus the Harrisburg City Islanders; kick off is set for 7:00 PM at the Skyline Sports Complex.
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