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March to the Match: Charleston Battery

WHO: Charleston Battery, 9-5-9, 36 points, 3rd place Eastern conference

WHAT: Louisville City’s first ever match against the oldest professional soccer team in the country.

WHEN: Saturday, August 22, 2015, 7:30 p.m. EDT

WHERE: Louisville Slugger Field, 401 E Main St, Louisville, KY 40202, plaque or no plaque.

WATCH: At the stadium! With us! Or not! It doesn’t matter! Just be there! Bring a friend! Or a complete stranger! That person will be your friend by the time the match is over! But if you can’t make it because you’re busy returning your kids’ participation trophies, here’s the YouTube stream, which may or may not feature commentary by a certain wily Irish dramatist:

WHO, AGAIN? Charleston, at least for me, is a tough team to hate. They’ve got tons of history. Their black and yellow striped kits are pretty cool. Their stadium was the first privately-funded soccer specific stadium built in the U.S. since the old ASL from the 1920s and ’30s. Charleston is a neat city to visit. Their name is pretty cool. Their badge/crest/whatever is timeless. They’re a team that would fit in anywhere in the world, brand-wise.

Too bad we have to crush them.

I’d be lying if I said I knew a lot about the Battery’s style of play, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express watch them play St. Louis last night. Their style for most of the game was to sit back in two banks of four and absorb pressure, and then try to get out on the break and score on counterattacks. It worked for a while, as the Battery got a goal in the 6th minute using exactly that tactic, and then got a penalty kick just a few minutes later to go 0-2 up against St. LOLis. The Chupacabras found a way to eventually overcome all that thanks to a couple not-so-great penalty calls of their own, a set piece, and a broken play as time nearly expired to win, but Charleston’s tactics were pretty much the same throughout the game.

Can we expect the same strategy Saturday night? I don’t know. The Battery did a good job rotating all five subs in the game, so we can’t expect them to be totally gassed, but Louisville City, fortunately, is running on a week’s rest. Their back four is pretty sizeable and physical, led by Shaun Ferguson, though he didn’t play against St. Louis due to suspension. Attacking mid Maikel Chang and Heviel Cordoves led the Battery attack to some effect, and Cordoves in particular is a dangerous player who is quick and big enough to give our centerbacks a lot to do. Dane Kelly is another speedster at forward who fits Charleston’s counter-attacking style very well, and leads the team in scoring with 9 goals in 21 appearances. The Battery goalkeeper Kevin Corby is also very good. Finally, watch out for Ricky Garbanzo both because he’s an active midfielder and because his last name is Garbanzo.

SUPPORTERS: The Regiment, which is appropos given the team’s name. I give them a pass. They’re also supported by Queen Anne’s Revenge, which is not, as I previously though, a sexually transmitted disease. Good for them!

NON-SUPPORTER: Their former bookkeeper, who was recently accused of embezzling $100,000 from the club.

FEARLESS PREDICTIONS: This is a really important game. Win, and Louisville City has second place locked up like Fort Knox. Lose, and things get a little nervy with five games left to play, including a road trip back to Blackbaud Stadium.

Charleston’s got a pretty good defense and an okay offense. Frankly, I think they’ll have problems with a Royals side that likes to possess the ball and attack up the middle if they can. The Battery defend with good width, and like to attack that way, too, but I think they could be weak at the center, which makes me giddy at the idea of MAG RAM having a banner game. Another item to note is that the Battery have been on a pretty bad run of form for the last month, going winless with three losses in their last five games.

All that said, I think City, who I have to believe have been focusing on defense lately, keep a clean sheet in this game and win 2-0. If St. Louis can score 3 on these guys, surely we can get two.