CHARLESTON, SC August 14, 2014 – Charleston Battery shifted quickly from celebration to game preparation Thursday morning, setting aside Wednesday’s big win to make ready for Friday’s dramatic showdown with an always tough Rochester Rhinos side (7:30 p.m., Blackbaud Stadium).
The Battery (7-8-8, 29 points on 23 games, tie 7th place) – who were tied for last place as recently as July 21 – earned at least a temporary share of 7th place Wednesday night as they passed visiting Orange County Blues in the USL PRO table with a 3-2 win. Charleston is riding a six-game undefeated streak, its longest of 2014.
Visiting Rochester (8-8-7, 31 points on 23 games, 6th place) travels to South Carolina Thursday for the first leg of a 2/24 road trip, with matches at Charleston on Friday and Charlotte on Saturday. The Rhinos have been through a yo-yo stretch since the start of July, going 2-3-1 in a calendar that included a morale-boosting win over Orlando City, followed by a home draw to Charleston and a home loss to Orange County.
The team is also coming off a five-match home stand that produced a disappointing seven points for a squad that was in contention to host a home playoff game.
A win by Charleston could at least temporarily elevate the Battery into a share of sixth place, supplanting Rochester. The Rhinos would retain the spot with a draw, and could overtake Harrisburg (5th place, 33 points) with a win at Blackbaud.
Friday’s match will be the third and final regular season meeting of the two old foes, with Rochester owning the series so far with a win and a draw, both coming in New York.
The Rhinos’ success this season has been built around a defense-first philosophy that has produced two statistical superlatives: Rochester has the league’s lowest goals-allowed average – and the league’s lowest goals-produced average.
On the other side of the card, Charleston struggled to generate an effective attack for much of the season, and went into its current undefeated streak averaging less than a goal a game. During its current run of form the Battery are averaging a solid 1.5 goals per match – with its only scoreless outing coming at Rochester on Aug. 1.
Much of the credit for that change accrues to attacking midfielder Jose Cuevas, whose return to his old team on July 15 has helped spark the turnaround. He was particularly sharp on Wednesday, earning Man of the Match with a goal and two assists.
But the revival of the Battery’s fortunes can also be traced to a series of tactical and lineup changes put in place by Coach Mike Anhaeuser. Along with Cuevas, Anhaeuser has expanded the roles of midfielders Adam Mena, Maikel Chang and Justin Portillo, moved the team back to a 4-5-1 look, and installed Dane Kelly as the lone forward. The Jamaican has responded with a dramatic improvement in form and production.
The counter-attacking Rhinos boast the league’s hottest goalkeeper in John McCarthy, a string of veteran defenders, and a six-goal scorer in forward Jimmy Banks.
Tickets to Friday night’s match-up are $10-$18 and can be purchased over the phone at (843) 971-GOAL (4625) or online at www.charlestonbattery.com. Gates to the park open at 6 p.m., with Friday night’s kickoff set for 7:35 p.m.