The End of an Era...Sort of.
RGVFC. The announcement of the addition to the USL for the Houston Dynamo's hybrid affiliate officially confirms this is a one and done partnership with the Charleston Battery. This was by no means a surprise as the deal between the Dynamo and Battery was reached with both parties being aware of the end goal for Houston of starting their own club for 2016. Rio Grande Valley FC is owned by Alonzo Cantu, who also owns the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the NBA's D-League, the hybrid affiliate of the Houston Rockets. In short, the hybrid model means RGVFC will operate the business aspects and community relations, while the Dynamo will be in charge of all soccer operations. So next year, I will be packing my figurative bags and figuratively heading to Rio Grande Valley to cover the new club. If I'm lucky, I'll be joined on the transition by Memo Rodriguez, as his stint in Charleston will be over, possibly loaning to RGVFC. I have had an absolute blast covering the Battery and am excited to continue covering the rest of the 2015 season and playoffs.
The Week That Was
The Battery had an exciting back to back this past week as they hosted historic Premier League club West Bromwich Albion on Friday, followed by a USL match against Wilmington on Saturday. The match against West Brom was an exciting match for the Battery, getting to compare skills with a club of the highest level. Coach Anhaeuser used a high number of substitutes in the match to keep his key players fresh for the Wilmington match, as well as give some young players and reserves a chance to compete with EPL players. West Brom scored a goal before the half, only to be equalized by a Navion Boyd goal around the 60' mark. Nigerian striker Brown Ideye scored the winner off a header in the 83rd minute. From all accounts the English side could not have been more friendly and compassionate, allowing Charleston fans to enjoy this rare EPL visit to the fullest.
It was back to USL business on Saturday as the Battery hosted Wilmington in a Southern Derby Cup match. The game was scoreless until Dane Kelly's astounding bending goal (Watch it HERE) put Charleston up 1-0. The Man of the Match may be awarded however to "El Gato" Odisnel Cooper. Cooper returned from injury to turn in a masterful performance, saving 5 shots, some in dramatic fashion, en route to a clean sheet.
The Good Guys: Charleston Battery (9-2-7)
Charleston was well represented on the USL Team of the Week, as Cooper and Jarad van Schaik made the list with Dane Kelly making the Team of the Week reserves. The Battery welcomed back Heviel Cordoves from injury in the match against West Brom. Speaking of Cordoves, similar to the trip to FC Montreal, none of the Cuban players (Cooper, Cordoves, Maikel Chang) will be able to travel north of the border for Friday's match with Toronto FC II, nor will Jamaican Navion Boyd. That leaves Coach Anhaeuser with a 16 man rotation, with no help coming from MLS affiliate Houston. All those players are however expected to join the club for their matchup in Rochester. Without Cooper, Kevin Corby will look to continue his stellar play in net against Toronto. The Battery only trail the Rhinos by 6 points with 2 matches this weekend, one with Rochester.
The Bad Guys: Toronto FC II (3-9-3) Rochester Rhinos (11-0-7)
Toronto FC II has struggled with an always changing roster this season. Struggled might even be an understatement as they have not scored in their past 4 games and only once in their past 8. The light at the end of the tunnel may be the return and additions of some key players. TFC2 has been without 6 players at the Pan American games, including Captain Chris Mannella. The big addition may be rookie Sal Bernal, a rookie from UNLV, one of the top forwards in the draft of 2015. His immigration status delayed his debut, but he's expected to suit up for the first time on Friday night. Toronto's best chance is a combination of the lack of the international players of Charleston's side, combined with the excitement of having a more complete squad than they've had lately.
As usual when playing Rochester, don't expect a high scoring affair. With one of the most historic defenses in the USL, the Rhinos do not play an open game. Not by any means. They attempt to pack their defensive zone and take away as many chances as they can. They've been clinical in doing so, allowing a mind boggling SIX GOALS in 18 games! They play a tiny bit more open at home, but still don't expect much attacking from them on Sunday. Only leading Charleston by 6 points, I would expect them to strongly just play for the draw.
The Dirty Details
At Toronto FC II 6pm Friday.
Watch it live HERE
At Rochester 4:05pm Sunday
Watch it live HERE
The Hired Gun
Memo Rodriguez appeared in both matches last week. He also received exciting news as he was named to MLS Homegrown Team for the MLS All Star festivities. Memo has been a great addition to the Battery club and will be exciting to watch in the Homegrown match against the Club America U-20 club July 28th 9pm EST on MLSSoccer.com