The Charleston Battery make their way to Montclair, New Jersey Friday night to take on New York Red Bulls II at 7:30 PM. New York will look to snap a two-game losing streak while the Battery need to build on the momentum of last weekends win against North Carolina FC.
Jarad Stroud has played at an MVP level for Red Bulls II this season and leads the team in goals (14) and assists (9). Stroud has taken 70 shots this year, good for third-best in the USL Championship and is converting on 20% of his attempts. Behind strong performances from Stroud, Red Bulls II have scored the second-most goals in the league (69) and have the third-highest goal differential (+31). Christopher Lema has been a fantastic complement to Stroud's production and leads the team in chances created (84), ranking second-best in the Championship. Lema and Stroud have made a combined 57 starts in 60 appearances for Red Bulls II this season logging over 5,000 minutes.
Tah Brian Anunga scored on a brilliant effort to give the Battery a 1-0 lead against North Carolina FC and figures to play an important role in the narrative of Friday's match. Anunga was sent off in the 45th minute of the teams June meeting after a foul on Vincent Bezecourt. Ten-man Charleston would take the lead through Nicque Daley's second goal of the season before conceding in the 80th minute to Mathias Jorgensen. Anunga's last trip to New York saw the midfielder score two goals and was the lone bright spot in an otherwise underwhelming performance. Anunga has been a rock for the Battery in midfield leading the team in passes per ninety (51.1) and tackles won (43).
Nico Rittmeyer scored his second goal of the season and now has goals in back to back matches. Rittmeyer's late winner against North Carolina FC clinched the Southern Derby Cup and kept Charleston within striking distance of the 10th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Rittmeyer played 27 minutes in a substitute appearance and was incredibly efficient with the ball at his feet. He finished with three shots, two of which were on target, and completed all nine of his passes in just 17 total touches. Rittmeyer played just forty-five minutes against New York in June, coming off following Anunga's red card.
Playoff Watch - Five Eastern Conference teams have clinched playoff spots with Red Bulls II leading the charge...for now. Indy, Tampa Bay, Nashville, and Pittsburgh are all within a point of the top spot and the Eleven and Riverhounds have a game in hand. Since clinching a spot in the postseason, New York have dropped two straight matches while conceding seven goals in the process. Those losses came on the road against Saint Louis and Louisville and a quick return home against the Battery is followed by a three-game road stretch to close out the regular season. The Red Bulls have been very good at home this year winning eleven of sixteen matches at MSU Soccer Park but have struggled to find that same consistency on the road. They hold a 6-5-3 record away from home and have conceded 25 of 39 goals on the road this season.
Not much has changed for the Battery who need wins to secure a playoff spot in the East. Charleston have matched Birmingham's results over the last three games (1-2-0) and are only one point back of the Legion for the final spot. A win on Friday night would see the Battery jump Birmingham before the Legion's match with Swope Park Rangers on Monday night while a draw would see the teams go level on points. It all sets up what could be Charleston's most important match of the season, as the Battery travel to Birmingham on October 5th to face the Legion at BBVA Field. Saint Louis have kept themselves in the danger zone after being shutout by Memphis 901 FC last Saturday and, like Charleston and Birmingham, need wins to guarantee themselves a spot in the playoffs.
The Battery wrap up their season with three straight home matches against Loudoun United (Oct 13), Memphis 901 FC (Oct 16), and Bethlehem Steel FC (Oct 19) with tickets on sale online or by calling (843) 971-GOAL!
New York Red Bulls II: USL Championship Record, 17-8-5
Goals: Stroud (14)
Assits: Stroud (9)
Chances Created: Lema (84)
Saves: Louro (66)
Clean Sheets: Louro (5)
Charleston Battery: USL Championship Record, 9-9-11
Goals: Lewis (6)
Assists: Higashi (4)
Chances Created: Lewis (32)
Saves: Kuzminsky (75)
Clean Sheets: Kuzminsky (6)