The Charleston Battery departed for Wilmington, North Carolina on Friday afternoon in preparation for its third match of the Southern Derby Cup versus the Hammerheads Saturday night. Charleston are 1-1-0 in the Cup this season while Wilmington is 0-1-1. The Battery beat Wilmington 2-1 in the teams’ first match-up and fell to Charlotte on the road 3-2 on April 16th. The Hammerheads and the Independence tied 1-1 on May 10th.
Both Wilmington and Charleston are coming off midweek wins in the U.S. Open Cup, but the roads to those results could not have been more different. The Hammerheads coasted to a 6-0 win over NPSL side Miami Fusion at Legion Stadium on Wednesday night. Casey Townsend registered two assists and Austin Martz scored two goals and chipped in with an assist as Wilmington cruised in to the third round of the Open Cup.
Charleston’s path to the third round was a little bumpier to say the least. The Battery were beaten in penalties by The Villages SC, a Player Development League team located in central Florida, on the back of a stand-out performance by goalkeeper Paulo Pita. It looked as if Charleston’s Cup run had come to an abrupt and unexpected end, but the team advanced after The Villages were disqualified for fielding an ineligible player.
Now that the drama of the Open Cup has settled, the Carolina rivals will turn their attention back to the league. Coming off two straight wins, the Battery is in the middle of a good run of form in the league, while the Hammerheads are winless in their last four USL games. The matches between Charleston and Wilmington are always tightly contested and with three big points on the line, Saturday will likely follow suit.
The Hammerheads haven’t won a USL game in over a month. Wilmington’s last win was on April 17th versus last place FC Montreal. Despite the negative results, all of the Hammerheads’ games have been close, with all but one, its win over Montreal, being decided by one goal.
Following the draw at home against Charlotte on May 10th, head coach Mark Briggs expressed his displeasure with the now normal trend of his side creating scoring chances but coming up empty in terms of goals and points. The Hammerheads will be looking to carry the momentum from the offensive outbreak in the Open Cup on Wednesday into the match against the Battery.
Mael Corboz is vital to Wilmington’s offense clicking. The midfielder leads the team in assists with three, which is good enough to tie the league-high. Corboz delivers a great ball from set pieces and assisted Wilmington’s only goal in the game against the Battery on April 9th.
Bruno Caldini Perone is more often than not the player who gets on the end of Corboz’s service from free kicks. Perone is a 6-4 center back, but leads the team in USL goals with three. All three of Perone’s goals have come from dead ball situations. His 6-4 frame make him a threat on every attacking free kick as demonstrated by the goal he scored at MUSC Health Stadium on April 9th.
The Hammerheads have added three players to its roster since its last match versus the Battery. Most notable is forward Casey Townsend who most recently played for Oklahoma City Energy. The former first-round MLS draft pick made 26 appearances in the league before being loaned the the USL. While on loan with the Richmond Kickers from D.C. United, Townsend Kickers tallied two goals in a win over the Battery on April 13, 2013.
The first team All-American has only been with Wilmington for a short time and made his first appearance on Wednesday versus Miami Fusion. If he features against the Battery, he’ll add a threat to score in the run of play.
Charleston has scored nine goals in its previous four games and will be looking to continue its offensive production at Legion Stadium on Saturday. Romario Williams has scored in three straight games and will be hoping to add to his goal total. The Jamaican center forward is currently fourth in the league in scoring with six goals.
Along with Williams, Maikel Chang has been instrumental in the Battery’s offensive consistency over the last few gams. The Cuban midfielder has been the primary creative force for Charleston, routinely putting his teammates in good positions to score. Chang earned a spot on the USL Team of the Week after scoring a goal and proving an assist against Toronto FC II on May 14th.
Forward Heviel Cordoves appeared on the bench versus The Villages on Wednesday night for the first time since April 9th after suffering a neck injury in training leading up to Charleston’s game versus Charlotte. Cordoves did not appear in the match, but his presence on the bench was be a welcomed addition for Coach Anhaeuser.
Chris Tsonis scored his first goal in a Battery jersey versus The Village in the Open Cup. Tsonis scored an equalizer on a corner kick swung in by Chang in the second half of Wednesday’s match. Outside midfielder Dante Marini also scored his first goal of the season in the match versus The Villages.
Nine different players have scored goals for Charleston this season, proving that the Battery attack is multidimensional. While the team will rely on Williams to continue to score goals, Charleston has demonstrated that it can hurt teams in different ways. The Battery continues to be dangerous from free kicks, scoring about half of its goals from dead ball situations in 2016.
During the offensive outbreak, Coach Anhaeuser has emphasized getting the ball wide and swinging crosses into the penalty area. Along with outside midfielders Chang and Zach Prince, outside backs O’Brian Woodbine, Quinton Griffith, and Emmanuel Adjetey have been vital in Charleston’s attacking presence. All five players have run the flanks well and served dangerous balls into Battery forwards in front of goal. Look for more of the same versus Wilmington on the sketchy surface at Legion Stadium.
Kickoff is at 7:00pm, fans can watch the live stream here: http://www.uslsoccer.com/game/show/13218402
Top Image: Zach Prince and Mael Corboz battle for the ball during Wilmington’s visit to MUSC Health Stadium on 4.9.2016. Vin Duffy photo.