The Charleston Battery travel to BBVA Field Saturday night to take on the Birmingham Legion at 8 PM (EST). It's an all-important match in the race for the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference with both teams looking to take an advantage into the last few weeks of the regular season.
The Legion are coming off a tough 3-1 road loss to Swope Park Rangers on Monday night. Birmingham will be without attacking option Brian Wright after the forward picked up a straight red card against the Rangers in the 76th minute. Birmingham's leading goalscorer, J.J. Williams, will likely lead the Legion attack as he sets his sights on the double-digit scoring mark. Since joining the Legion on a season-long loan from Columbus Crew, Williams has made fifteen starts in seventeen appearances scoring seven goals in the process.
A.J. Paterson rescued a point for the Battery against New York Red Bulls II last Friday night, bringing the Black and Yellow level in the final seconds of stoppage time. It proved to be an important point that brought Charleston level with Birmingham on points. The first-year Battery defender scored his first goal of the season in a 3-1 win against the Legion earlier this season. Paterson now has two goals on the year, both of which have come in second-half stoppage time. The Grenada international has made fifteen appearances in his first season with the club and has proved to be a valuable attacking option off the bench.
Romario Piggott and Arthur Bosua were also on the scoresheet for the Battery against the Legion in June. The Battery outshot the Legion fifteen to nine and peppered Matt van Oekel with nine shots on target. Bosua led the Battery on the night taking three shots and creating three scoring chances including his match-winning penalty in the 75th minute. Tah Brian Anunga pulled the strings in midfield completing 51 of his 52 pass attempts (98.1%) and winning possession a team-high nine times. Mikey Lopez scored for Birmingham to send the teams into halftime tied at 1-1.
Success Against the New Guys - Charleston have been perfect this season against the four Eastern Conference expansions sides (Birmingham, Hartford, Loudoun, and Memphis), playing to a 5-0-0 record and scoring eleven goals across those matches. Following Saturday nights match with Birmingham, the Battery will host Loudoun and Memphis in two of the team's final three matches. Dante Marini, who's scored four goals on the season, has scored against every expansions side this year, except for Birmingham. Appearing in 26 of Charleston's 30 matches this season, Marini will likely have a chance to grab his fifth of the season and check Birmingham off the list.
Playoff Watch - Perhaps the biggest match of each team's season, Birmingham and Charleston have their eyes set on three points, and for good reason. The teams enter Saturday's match level on points (39) and only three points off 9th place Saint Louis FC (42). A win for Birmingham would see them move past Saint Louis FC into 9th place IF Saint Louis lose to Louisville City.
A Battery win would see the Black and Yellow move above the playoff line and, coupled with a Saint Louis loss, would be level on points with the Missouri based club. Split points between Birmingham and Charleston would keep the teams where they are in the table, regardless of other results around the league. The Battery are still at a slight disadvantage when it comes to the league's first tiebreaker, league wins, trailing Birmingham and Saint Louis FC by two wins.
Memphis are still in the playoff conversation, sitting on 34 points, but will need a near-perfect finish to the season and other league results, to go their way to get in. 901 FC's next match is against Indy Eleven at Lucas Oil on Saturday night.
Birmingham Legion: USL Championship Record, 11-13-6
Goals: Williams (7)
Assists: Asiedu (5)
Chances Created: Kasim (47)
Saves: van Oekel (70)
Clean Sheets: van Oekel (10)
Charleston Battery: USL Championship Record, 9-9-12
Goals: Lewis (6)
Assists: Higashi (4)
Chances Created: Lewis (34)
Saves: Kuzminsky (80)
Clean Sheets: Kuzminsky (6)