Kim Morgan Gregory photo.
The Charleston Battery (11-4-12) hosts the Tampa Bay Rowdies (8-11-7) Saturday night at MUSC Health Stadium in the final of three meetings between the two sides this season. The Battery has beaten the Rowdies both times they’ve visited Charleston since joining the USL in 2017.
The Battery took a 1-0 victory over the Rowdies when they met at MUSC Health Stadium on April 28. Ataulla Guerra scored the game’s only goal in stoppage time of the first half to seal the win for Charleston.
The Battery will be without Guerra and midfielder Vincenzo Candela Saturday night due to suspension. Guerra will serve the first game of a three game suspension handed out by the league on Wednesday. Candela will miss the match against the Rowdies due to yellow card accumulation. Neveal Hackshaw will also likely miss Saturday’s match as he and Guerra return from an international friendly in Spain on Friday, September 7.
With three key players likely missing, Tah Brian Anunga’s return from suspension will give Head Coach Mike Anhaeuser’s side a boost Saturday night. Anunga was suspended for the Battery’s match against Louisville City FC last week, but will be available for the clash with the Rowdies. O’Brian Woodbine and Victor Mansaray are also back in training this week after missing the previous two matches.
Guerra was instrumental in the Battery’s 2-2 draw with Louisville last Friday night at Slugger Field. The Trinidadian forward provided two assists as Patrick Okonkwo and Nico Rittmeyer each found the back of the net in the first half. Guerra now leads the Battery in goals with 14 and assists with four.
Okonkwo has found his scoring form at a crucial point in the season. The 19-year old forward has scored three goals in his last two games, earning back-to-back starts for the first time in his professional career against New York Red Bulls II and Louisville City. Expect him to play a role in Saturday’s match.
Ian Svantesson or Gordon Wild will likely step into the starting XI in Guerra’s absence on Saturday night. Svantesson scored in his last start, converting a penalty against Atlanta United 2 after returning from a long stint on the sidelines due to injury on August 11. Wild is second on the team in scoring with six goals this season.
The Battery will face a tough test in the Rowdies on Saturday night. Riding the momentum of a 3-0 win at North Carolina FC last week, Tampa brings a wealth of experience into MUSC Health Stadium. The Rowdies currently sit in thirteenth place in the USL Eastern Conference, seven points off eighth place Nashville SC for the final playoff spot. With eight games left in the regular season, the Rowdies will be playing for their playoff lives in all remaining matches.
Despite winning just once in the previous six matches, the Battery is still in good position to earn a top four finish and home playoff game. Charleston is currently in fifth place, tied on points with fourth place Indy Eleven with a game in hand. The Battery is a point back of third place Pittsburgh Riverhounds and two points behind second place Louisville City.
Three points on Saturday night would be crucial to either side. Expect to see a full strength Rowdies squad pushing hard for three points and a Battery side ready for the challenge despite the shuffling in the lineup.