FC Cincinnati opens their third USL season on the road at the Charleston Battery once again in 2018. Having never beaten the Battery in five matches played (3 losses, 2 ties), FCC looks to start the season, and their difficult early-season schedule, with three points.
Both teams are hoping to bounce back from disappointing exits from the 2017 USL Playoffs. FCC was the #6 seed and lost 0-3 at Tampa Bay, and the Battery were a #2 seed and lost 0-4 at home versus the 2016 USL Champion New York Red Bulls II.
Although the Battery have incurred a bit of a roster overhaul themselves, the old guard is still in place. Led by Head Coach and General Manager Mike Anhaeuser (joined “CB93” in 1994 as a player, since 1999 as a coach), the Battery’s core players return, including: keeper Odsinel Cooper (sixth CB93 season); defenders Taylor Mueller (seventh CB93 season and 2017 USL All-League Second Team), Skylar Thomas and Quinton Griffith (sixth CB93 season); and fellow Trinidad & Tobago nationals/midfielders Ataulla Guerra and Neveal Hackshaw. Guerra is the Battery’s playmaker and will sit in the #10 position within Coach Anhaeuser’s preferred 4-4-1-1 formation.
Forrest Lasso, a North Carolina native, is now wearing Orange & Blue instead of Charleston Battery colors. After stifling many FCC attacks and scoring twice against FCC last season while with CB93, the latter when he literally and physically silenced the Nippert crowd, it’s wonderful to have Lasso on the good guys’ side this time.
The home side is expecting “good conditions and a near capacity crowd” versus the Orange and Blue on Saturday, per Sarah Cardamone, Director of Marketing & Public Relations for Charleston Battery.
Here are five fast facts to serve as a primer for Saturday’s opener.
- At 2pm on Thursday, FC Cincinnati announced that center back Dekel Keinan will be the captain for the 2018 season.
- In FC Cincinnati’s last two matches in Charleston, the score has been tied after the 70th minute and late Battery goals have sent the Orange & Blue away with an opening day loss.
- Most of FC Cincinnati’s roster should be available for selection on Saturday. Jimmy McLaughlin picked up a shoulder injury last weekend and will be evaluated for fitness on gameday. The rest of the team was in training and looked healthy today (Thursday). Despite training, Danni König and Emery Welshman are still listed as day-to-day. Tyler Gibson is, of course, sidelined with a long-term leg injury.
- The Battery hosted the 14th Carolina Cup Challenge (CCC) in February and fared well, going 1-1-1 versus MLS competition (1-0 win vs. Minnesota United; 0-0 tie versus dynamic Atlanta United; and a 1-2 loss to CCC winner Columbus Crew). That’s surely a confidence builder going into the 2018 USL season.
- A tale of two skyscrapers – the Battery picked up former Tulsa Roughneck 6’6” forward Ian Svantesson (11 goals in 30 games for Tulsa in 2017) in the off-season. Lasso, at 6’5+”, will likely match-up with him on set pieces, that’s 13 feet of bodies and limbs fighting for aerial dominance. Although Sarah Cardamone voiced that Ian is deceivingly athletic for his size, my bet is on Forrest, at 210 pounds versus 181 for Ian.
Is FCC ready to right their Charleston past? Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press for more coverage leading up to Saturday’s contest.