FC Cincinnati concludes a six-game home stretch on Saturday when they host the Charleston Battery at Nippert Stadium. FCC is 1-3-2 all time versus the Battery and have never beaten them at home.
Saturday’s showdown is arguably one of the marquee matches of the entire 2018 Eastern Conference schedule. Conference leaders FC Cincinnati enter the game on a 12-match unbeaten run, tops in franchise history. The Battery, sitting five points behind in third, bring their own 11-game unbeaten streak into the contest. Between the two sides, neither team has lost in over two months. Moreover, Charleston plays tough on the road, having drawn seven of their twelve away matches (3-2-7).
Adding fuel to the fire, Charleston is still stinging from the season opening 0-1 loss to FCC in March. There’s no controversy in saying the Battery out-played FC Cincinnati that day. Thanks to Evan Newton’s remarkable game in goal, he kept the home side off the score sheet. Blake Smith’s goal that evening allowed FCC to beat the Battery for the first time ever.
Likewise, FCC have their own axe to grind. It was CB93 that dealt the Orange & Blue the disappointing home playoff loss that cut their inaugural 2016 season short. Even though the club has turned the roster over quite a bit since then, the significance of Saturday’s match is firmly on both team’s minds. This match has been circled on Charleston’s calendar since March.
Although unbeaten in twelve, the Orange & Blue enter Saturday’s tilt in far from their best form. The new player signees and arrivals have added intrigue and promise for the USL Cup run and MLS future. However, the play on the field has not reciprocated of late. FCC will have their hands full with the front three for the Battery, led by Trinidad & Tobago international Ataulla Guerra. Guerra comes into the match with 12 goals, sitting two behind the current league Golden Boot leader. Expect a heavy dose of high pressure applied to the FCC back line.
Not to be outdone by their attack, the Battery’s strength this season has been their defense. They enter Saturday’s match with five straight clean sheets and have conceded only 19 goals all year (third best in the league). Their defense is led by captain Taylor Mueller and Neveal Hackshaw, each logging over 2,000 minutes played this season.
Alan Koch may elect to change the formation once again and return to a 4-2-3-1 line-up utilizing the team’s depth at central defensive midfield. This should provide cover for the defensive unit and help control possession through the midfield. Koch has stated that everyone minus Richie Ryan (leg injury) should be available for selection. Could this be the match we witness Fanendo Adi’s first start in an Orange & Blue kit?
Here are five fast facts to get you ready for Saturday’s 7:30pm kickoff.
- With his game-winning goal Sunday, Emmanuel Ledesma is the first USL player to reach 10 goals and 10 assists this season. Ledesma is only the second USL player ever to record a double-double in a single season. Manu has his eye on breaking the single season USL assist record of 12.
- Defensive stalwarts – both teams enter the match with double digit clean sheets. The Battery have recorded 12 in total (second best in the USL), FCC enters the match with 10 (tied for fifth best). Battery goalkeeper Joe Kuzminsky has conceded only 10 goals with an 81.1% save rate (best in the USL). For the Orange & Blue, Evan Newton has allowed 14 goals with a 76.3% save percentage (fourth best). Both keepers have 17 starts this season.
- Charleston has two players in the USL top 12 for total passes, Tah Anunga (1,202) and Neveal Hackshaw (1,194). Corben Bone is the only FCC player who has registered over 1,000 passes this season (1,045). All three players currently eclipse the 50 passes per 90 minutes plateau.
- Battery coach Mike Anhaeuser will be going for his 200th career USL win. “Augie” has been with the club as a player, assistant coach, and head coach for 25 years. Let’s plan on holding off on this career achievement one more week.
- Danni König’s ten goals this season ties him for the team lead and ninth overall in the league. Of note, Danni leads all double-digit scorers with a 40% conversion rate (goals divided by total shots excluding blocks). In addition, he’s third best among this group in frequency of goals, scoring one in every 128 minutes played.
Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati versus Charleston Battery.