The Charleston Battery host New Mexico United in the second edition of the “Black and Yellow Derby” on Saturday, May 14. Kickoff at Patriots Point is slated for 7 p.m. ET.
Charleston and New Mexico met for the first time last season, a 2-1 result in favor of New Mexico at Isotopes Park in Albuquerque. Claudio Repetto netted an equalizer before halftime for the Battery, but a second-half goal from Devon Sandoval won the match for the hosts.
Since that first meeting, the two clubs have seen changes in the dugout. Both are led by first-year head coaches, Conor Casey for the Battery and Zach Prince for New Mexico. Fans will recall Prince from his seven-year spell with Charleston that included winning league titles in 2010 and 2012 after playing collegiately at the College of Charleston.
New Mexico are coming off their second-consecutive draw when they tallied a dramatic equalizer at the death against San Diego Loyal SC, a 1-1 home result. Harry Swartz did the honors to find the back of the net in the 94th minute, his third of the season. In addition to helping New Mexico steal a point, Swartz’s goal snapped his side’s three-game scoreless streak. To date, Saturday’s match will be the first outside of the Western Conference for New Mexico this season.
The Battery remain home after succumbing to Memphis 901 FC on Friday, a 0-2 result. Memphis were held in check for much of the first half by the Charleston defense but managed to find the back of the net on two plays in transition. Goalkeeper Hugo Fauroux tallied five saves in his first start in front of the home crowd. The Battery pressed to get back in the game after an array of halftime adjustments – led by substitutes Geobel Perez and EJ Johnson – but were unable to find the goal-scoring combination.
In addition to connection on the touchline, the ties between Charleston and New Mexico extend to the pitch itself in midfielders Justin Portillo and Michael Azira, and goalkeeper Alex Tambakis – all former Battery players now with New Mexico.
Both Charleston and New Mexico will look for turnarounds in their early seasons as both sides have been held without a win since mid-March.
Battery defender Matt Sheldon is nearing the century mark in career regular-season USL Championship appearances and currently sits at 97 heading into Saturday.
ONES TO WATCH
Portillo has been the driving force of New Mexico’s offense in 2022. The midfielder has amassed 29 chances created through eight games, nearly triple the amount of the next teammate below him (Sam Hamilton, 11), and the most in the league. New Mexico, however, have only converted on two of his key passes so far. Nevertheless, Portillo remains a dangerous fixture in the New Mexico midfield and is a player Charleston will want to do a strong job containing in order to secure three points on Saturday.
Ettienne has continued to grow with the Battery since arriving in the offseason when he signed his first professional contract. After not featuring in the first three games of the season, Ettienne has started in four of his last five appearances. The Grenadian international led Charleston with six clearances last match, despite only playing in the first half. A stout figure on the right side of the back line, expect Ettienne to show more progress come Saturday.
FROM THE TRAINING GROUND
The Battery returned to training Monday after a period of recovery following the Friday night match.
The squad has been hard at work at Patriots Point with a whole week of preparations ahead of the interconference clash. Battery Head Coach Conor Casey believes in the team’s ability to bounce back from the Memphis defeat.
“My message to the team, in terms of turning some of the bad results into positive ones, is focusing on what they can control, and that’s their effort and mentality,” said Coach Casey. “In the last game that was something we lacked and we’re going to get right this weekend.”
Looking ahead to New Mexico, the Battery tactician sees a strong test for the home side.
“New Mexico press well, they’re good at putting pressure on teams and they’ve gotten a lot of their goals from wide areas and in transition moments,” said Coach Casey. “We have to be tuned in and make more plays [in order to win on Saturday].”
Battery forward Mauro Cichero said the team has been putting in the effort during the week to rebound on Saturday.
“We’ve been working on [adjustments] all week,” said Cichero. “It’s been a good week of training and I see a good environment coming into this game.”
On adapting to the new playing style, Cichero believes the squad has been proceeding positively.
“Coming into this year with a new staff and new culture, I think it takes time to adjust to that,” said Cichero. “I think we’ve been progressing pretty well and, even though the results haven’t been there, I think we’re getting closer to those [good] results.”
The Battery will play in the second of three-straight home matches and Cichero expressed gratitude for the overwhelming support each game at Patriots Point.
“We have to give a lot of credit to the fans,” said Cichero. “It means a lot that they stick with us, I think that’s the difference between this club and others. In this city, it’s one big family and we really appreciate that.”
As of posting, Patrick Hogan and Dominic Oduro are questionable, and Enock Kwakwa, Kyle Holcomb, Matteo Ritaccio, and AJ Paterson are out. Preston Kilwien and DZ Harmon return and will be available for selection again. Additionally this week, Paterson was back to participating in training again for the first time of the season while working his way back to match fitness.
Charleston Battery vs. New Mexico United
Saturday, May 14 – 7:00 p.m. ET Kickoff
HOW TO WATCH:
Tickets are available for Saturday’s match, but sections are starting to sell out. Buy tickets for the game via SeatGeek here.
All Battery matches will also stream on ESPN+ domestically and through the league’s YouTube channel for free internationally.