It’s no secret that the 2019 season has been somewhat of a struggle for the Charleston Battery, both on and off the field. A promising start has been marred by injuries, inconsistency, and even weather delays.
With that in mind, the season just past its half way point, and the Battery set to begin an extremely tough run of games, we take a look at how exactly 2019 has shaped up, and how these next few weeks could be what makes or breaks the Battery’s bid for a 12th consecutive USL Playoff berth.
To build on a solid base, which included captain Taylor Mueller, his center back partner Leland Archer, winger Dante Marini and midfielder Tah Brian Anunga as returning players from 2018, the season began with high hopes. New signings Zeiko Lewis and Romario Piggott were brought in to serve as new attacking options, to hopefully alleviate the pressure on the backline that was a huge part of the Black and Yellow’s 2018 issues, and brought depth up front that the Battery had lacked for a number of seasons.
Ian Svantesson started the season in a rich vein of form that helped him eclipse his 2018 goalscoring tally within the first few games of the season, and helped soften the blow of the absence of Attaula Guerra due to visa problems.
Zeiko Lewis also started life in the lowcountry on a high note, as an attacker who could create as well as score. The winger has provided six goals and three assists so far this year, and was called up to the Bermudan national side for the Gold Cup in June, where he played all three group games.
This allowed for the emergence of Nicque Daley, who took his chance well, making up for Lewis’s absence and supplying a much needed shot in the arm with a direct style of play, and this season has appeared 12 times, with two goals and one assist.
Unfortunately, the injury bug hit the squad early on in the season, notably center back Leland Archer, full backs Jay Bolt and Obi Woodbine, and midfielder Kierron Mason all going down within the first few weeks of the year. As such, the team had to adapt, and the depth that the Battery had going into the season was tested, to varying success.
Following that solid start, the Battery remained unbeaten at home through July, but the month was rocked with postponements due to weather and a traffic accident involving the Battery team busses on the way to a clash with Swope Park Rangers, before a simple lack of match fitness meant the Battery were caught cold by a then-Eastern Conference leading Tampa Bay Rowdies at the beginning of August in a painful 5-0 loss.
On the flip side of that coin, however, the Battery have only won three games away from home in 2019, with a further two victories coming in the US Open Cup against the Greenville Triumph and Nashville SC, though both were hard work, with a brace from Svantesson sending the Black and Yellow through to face Nashville in the second round, where Phil Breno‘s debut heroics after penalties would set up a meeting with Atlanta United, before the Battery were eliminated.
The Battery’s struggles on their travels have shown something that their home form does not, with many games lacking the calmness in defense that the Black and Yellow have been known for throughout the years, and even otherwise, the team has been surprisingly error prone. Above all, though, have been the amount of draws. in 23 matches, the Black and Yellow are 7-7-9, with six of those draws coming at home, and three away.
If the Battery aim to hold on to, or even improve their current 9th placed position in the eastern conference, they must find consistency. They have to find a way to win away from home, something that they seemed to have put together in recent trips to St. Louis and Loudon United, but need to improve and build on as we go forward. The draws also need to be cut to a minimum as we enter the business end of the season, where every game is a must win.
The majority of those come in the way of rearranged fixtures, as the Battery will have to wade through a packed September and October stretch with three games a week for the entirety of September following a stop-start July.
This stretch starts this coming Friday, August 30th, against rivals Charlotte Independence. Kick off is at 7PM and the game will be streamed on ESPN+.
FEATURED IMAGE COURTESY OF ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY