The Charleston Battery take on FC Cincinnati in the first game of team’s historic 25th season Saturday night at MUSC Health Stadium.
The Battery defeated Cincinnati in the first ever game between two clubs on the opening weekend of the USL season in 2016. A 94th-minute Romario Williams strike lifted Charleston over the newcomers in their first match as a franchise last March.
All three of the matches between the Eastern Conference sides in 2016 were tightly contested. Charleston finished the year with a 2-1-0 record against FCC, knocking them out of the playoffs in the Conference Quarterfinals.
Both teams will feel that their seasons ended prematurely a year ago and have turned their attention toward the 2017 season with their sights set on advancing further in the USL playoffs. Although their ambitions align, the two head coaches don’t have much else in common.
Battery Head Coach Mike Anhaeuser is entering his 24th season, 13th as head coach, with the Club. Anhaeuser is the longest tenured coach in USL and has been a member of the Charleston Battery for all but one of its record setting 25-year history. The hall of fame coach has won four titles, one as a player, one as an assistant coach, and two as a head coach, during his time with the Battery and will be looking to add a fifth in November.
Anhaeuser retained much of the core of his roster that advanced to the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 2016. Key players Justin Portillo, Taylor Mueller, and Maikel Chang are all returning and will be expected to play big roles in 2017.
Williams also returns to Charleston on loan from Atlanta United for the entire season. The Battery’s 2016 Newcomer of the Year has will look to carry his preseason goal-scoring form over into the new campaign. The Jamaican center forward scored five goals and tallied three assists in six games in the lead up to Saturday’s opener.
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Alan Koch will rival Anhaeuser on the sidelines on Saturday night in his first match as FC Cincinnati head coach. Koch will have high expectations from those back in Ohio after replacing a coach who reached the Conference Quarterfinals in the Club’s first year in existence. The South African native was promoted from Director of Scouting and Analytics to head coach earlier this year, replacing John Harkes.
Koch will have a strong team at his disposal during his first year in Cincinnati, but will have to combat the loss of 2016 USL MVP Sean Okoli. The center forward moved on to MLS following his golden-boot winning performance a year ago, signing a contract with NYCFC.
Cincinnati added several attacking players in the offseason to make up for Okoli’s loss. Kadeem Dacres, Djiby Fall, and Andy Craven all signed on with FCC this past winter; however, Daryl Fordyce highlights the offseason attacking additions.
The forward is the top scorer in FC Edmonton’s history, tallying 28 goals in 96 appearances. Fordyce has scored goals at every stage of his career and will be looking to help fill Okoli’s shoes in Cincinnati.
With untested waters and tricky road games on the horizon, both teams will be looking to start the USL campaign on the front foot Saturday night. Many are expecting Charleston and Cincinnati to be amongst those battling for home field advantage in the playoffs, so the three points on the line in the season opener may be vastly important come October.
Venue: MUSC Health Stadium
Kickoff: 7:00pm (gates open at 5:30pm)
Current Charleston Battery Roster:
Goalkeepers - Alex Tambakis, Odisnel Cooper, Joe Kuzminsky
Defenders - Taylor Mueller, Forrest Lasso, O’brian Woodbine, Quinton Griffith, Skylar Thomas, Mikey Ambrose
Midfielders - Justin Portillo, Dante Marini, Maikel Chang, Ataulla Guerra, Neveal Hackshaw, Tah Brian Anunga, Nico Rittmeyer, Kotaro Higashi, Ryan Arambula
Forwards - Heviel Cordoves, Jeffrey Otoo, Romario Williams, Ricky Garbanzo, Robbie Robinson