There’s only six points separating 2nd place from 11th place in the USL Eastern Conference. Right in the middle of that logjam, on 21 points, is the Charleston Battery. They have talent and scoring, with 18 goals in their 14 games, but their free-flowing creativity and aggressive formation leaves them with some exploitable gaps.
Tactics and Formation
On the road last week against Southern Derby rivals Charlotte Independence, the Battery rolled out a 3-4-3 formation that had a pretty large degree of flux and fluidity. Sometimes left wing Jarad Van Schaik (#14) drifted centrally to be a second attacking central midfielder. Sometimes defensive midfielder Brian Tah Anunga (#22) carried the ball all the way into the final third; sometimes he played between the defensive line and the midfield as a connector; and sometimes he dropped back to play as a center back in a four-man backline. At times the formation looked like a 3-4-3, or a 5-3-2, or a 4-4-2. Amongst USL teams I’ve watched this year, Charleston is the most flexible and most fluid in off-the-ball movement- they like to move, switch and fill quite often.
Their attack, once it gets into the midfield, is a 3-4-3 that takes advantage of four creative players making weaving movement and touch passing. Gordon Wild (#15), Ataullah Guerra (#10), Kotaro Higashi (#25) and Van Schaik can drop and flow and one-touch around with comfort if they are given space in 3 v 3 or 4 v 4 situations, and being on the road didn’t seemed to change their game plan much. Charleston scored first in this game, and tightened up with the lead, dropping deeper and ceding possession to Charlotte. But that’s how almost any road team would play with a lead.
Left center back Neveal George (#8) will stand out. He’s built like a beer barrel with a giant merkin on-top. He’s an absolute truck when he gets near the ball – you will not be bumping him off of it to win possession. He also has sneaky-good acceleration for a big man. George is 22 years, and has played for the Trinidad and Tobago national team, and to my mind he has the best hair in USL.
Gordon Wild, is a recent University of Maryland grad from Germany. Originally he had a lot of MLS hype in his junior season but was less productive as a senior and slipped to the 37th pick in the 2018 MLS Superdraft. He was picked by Atlanta United, who curiously decided to loan him to Charleston rather than their own Atlanta United 2 team. Wild has a lot to prove, and perhaps that serves to motivate him this season.
Ataullah Guerra is the man to watch, though. The 30-year-old Trinidadian has 7 goals and 22 chances created for Charleston, which far outpaces the contributions of any of his teammates. For the Hounds, the match probably comes down to denying Guerra the entry pass and closing him down immediately at every opportunity.
Charleston are 0-2-3 in their last five matches, and they sport only one road victory away from MUSC Health Stadium in South Carolina.