The Louisville Lockdown
Louisville City FC entered MUSC Health Stadium as a high octane, offensive juggernaut led by USL single season record goal scorer Matt Fondy. They left with zero goals after the Charleston defense showed up in a major way Saturday night. Fondy, who also leads the USL in shots, was held without a single shot Saturday as Shawn Ferguson and the rest of the Battery defense seemed like they were out to send a message to a Louisville City and any other potential playoff opponent: the Charleston backline is as good as any in the USL. Both Charleston goals in the 2-0 victory came via set pieces in the second half. The first free kick, awarded after a foul and solid theatrics by Dane Kelly, was taken by Justin Portillo. After standing over the ball next to Maikel Chang, Portillo struck a good ball that ricocheted off a defender past a diving Louisville goalkeeper for the 1-0 lead. The second came late in the match as Jarad van Schaik sent a free kick towards the far post where it was met by the high rising head of Cool Runnings Kelly to put Charleston up 2-0 and punch their ticket to the playoffs.
The Good Guys: Charleston Battery (11-6-10)
It takes a heck of a performance for a defender to be named USL Player of the Week. That was exactly the type of game Shawn Ferguson turned in for Charleston on Saturday. Ferguson drew the main marking assignment for the seemingly unstoppable Matt Fondy. He didn't score Saturday. He didn't even get a shot off Saturday. Ferguson and the rest of his physical backline smothered the usually potent Louisville City FC attack. Midfielder Justin Portillo made the USL Team of the Week as a reserve. Portillo has established himself as the set piece ace, and he netted his first free kick goal of the season as he blasted a ball off a defender into the net for the eventual game winner. Kelly finally broke through his goalless streak and he, as well as all Battery supporters, is hoping this opens the floodgates for many more goals to come. Heading into their regular season finale hosting Charlotte, a win for Charleston will secure the 3rd playoff position and a home field opening match in the playoffs.
The Bad Guys: Charlotte Independence (10-7-10)
The Independence currently sits in the 5th playoff spot. They, like Charleston, need points to secure a positive position. With only two of their 10 wins coming on the road, they will need a great performance to defeat the Battery at MUSC Health Stadium Saturday. They have fared evenly against Charleston this year with a 1-1-1 record in the previous 3 matchups. The Independence have a balance of scoring at the top of the club. Ryan Finley, Enzo Martinez, and Jorge Herrera have 17, 15 and 15 points to lead Charlotte. I would expect an aggressive attack from Charlotte as they are truly fighting for their season to continue.
The Dirty Details
At MUSC Health Stadium
Watch it live HERE.
The Hired Gun
Memo Rodriguez appeared as a late sub for Charleston this week and helped prevent a last ditch comeback by Louisville City. Memo hadn't appeared in the past two games so it was important for him to get some time on the pitch as the season has gone on and playoffs approach. For those Houston Dynamo fans wondering, Memo has subbed primarily as a playmaking forward paired with a striker, usually Dane Kelly or Heviel Cordoves, often replacing Ricky Garbanzo who starts in that role. Memo currently boasts 1 goal and 1 assist on the season.