The First Place Feeling
Unstoppable. Undeniable. Undefeated. Okay, maybe that's a bit much, however the latter is true. The Charleston Battery enter Night 2 in first place in their own tournament with a 1-0 win over their MLS affiliate Houston Dynamo. Was it the most exciting soccer match I've ever seen? Absolutely not. But it was a strong win for the host Battery. While the possession battle heavily favored Houston, the back line of Charleston relented very few legitimate chances. Having never won the tournament and coming in as a widely considered fourth best team, having a lead heading into Night 2 is an accomplishment that should boost team confidence and morale.
The Hero Of Night 1
You wake up Sunday morning and I tell you that the Dynamo-Battery match ended 1-0. Who do you think scored the only goal? Giles Barnes? One of the USMNT veterans Damarcus Beasley or Brad Davis? The Dancing Bear perhaps? Oh, it was the Battery who scored. Charleston's consistent scoring Jamaican born Dane Kelly or even former MLS 3rd round pick Jarad vanSchaik? None of the above. The lone goal scorer on a crisp Saturday night at Blackbaud Stadium was Austin Savage. No, not the actor who played Cory Matthews on Boy Meets World, that's Ben Savage. (No relation that we know of) But Austin is no slouch in a big role either. He scored a school record 113 goals at Stratford High School in South Carolina, and also was a member of Charleston's USSF Development Academy club, Bridge FA. He attended Clemson University as well. I had him as one of my 10 Players to Watch in the CCC after hearing rave reviews from early training sessions in Charleston. Savage took full advantage during Saturday night's opening match when the ball found its way to his foot after bouncing around off of a solid free kick from Justin Portillo in the 68th minute. Savage fired a low rolling shot from just outside the box past Dynamo goalkeeper Joe Willis and immediately joined the faithful Battery supporters nearby to celebrate. Does Austin Savage scoring the winning goal sound familiar? He did the same thing just last week against the Jacksonville Armada, giving Charleston a 1-0 victory in that contest as well. You can follow Austin on Twitter @YoungSavy and keep track of his progress in becoming a key contributor for the Battery this campaign.
The Clean Slate
The Battery have done one thing exceptionally well this preseason: defend. How well you ask? Zero goals well. A combination of a strong back line, good midfield commitment to defending, and of course, solid goalkeeping from Osdinel Cooper, also known as El Gato and Kevin Corby, has led them to the zero goals allowed mark thus far. Obviously, a goal will be allowed at some point, but the strong defensive effort and efficiency is a beautiful thing to see this early in a campaign.
The Second Night
As we look forward to tonight's game, Charleston matches up with old USL foe Orlando City SC. But this isn't your daddy's Orlando City. Featuring players like Kaka and Brek Shea, they posses not only star power, but exceptional play on the pitch. The defense will need to continue its defensive intensity and the offense will need to continue to be optimistic with the good chances it creates. You can tune in to see the Dynamo and New York City FC at 5 PM and the Battery and Orlando City SC at 7:30 PM, both via the Battery's Youtube channel, with both being broadcast in beautiful high definition.
The Night 2 Poll
Below, make sure to make your game prediction for tonight's match. And to the 50+% of you that selected the Dynamo to win the CCC in last week's poll, you better cross your fingers for a 2 game winning streak or that may be difficult!
Make sure to check out next week's edition of my Charleston Charge where I will recap the CCC in full and look forward to the beginning of the upcoming season.