The first-ever black and yellow derby kickoff tonight in Albuquerque.
By Sombrero Man | Photo: DosPhoto
Coming off a thrilling 3-1 victory to Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC it is time for some Monday Night Futbol at The Lab. This is the first-ever franchise meeting between Charleston Battery and New Mexico United. The two clubs have a lot in common other than just colors. Current United head coach and technical director Troy Lesesne got his coaching start in Charleston. “I love that club, there’s no doubt about it. I played for that club as a youth player and with the senior team… and then I coached there so it’s a Special club special coach that we have a lot of respect for…The best way to welcome a club that you love so much is to give them a difficult match, and show them what we’ve been working on here…” stated Troy Lesesne in his post-match press conference Friday night. United assistant coach Zach Prince also played with the Battery. When asked this week about what Charleston means to him Zach Prince responded with, “ Charleston means so much more to me than just the Battery. That’s where I met my wife. It’s where I went to college, where Troy and I met. It’s where I have all my friends. And so being able to go back and be with those people in those times, the Battery always comes up because it was such a big part of my life and part of the community.”
The Battery had a very interesting last match. Before the match could begin the kickoff time was moved to 4:00 PM ET due to tropical storm Elsa. Out of caution, no fans were allowed in the stadium, “due to the highly unpredictable nature of the storm and out of an abundance of caution.” The match against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds ended in a 1-1 draw. Charleston was outplayed badly. Pittsburgh had 69% possession, 85% pass accuracy to Charleston’s 69%, and 7 corners to 2 for the Battery. What kept this game level was the goalkeeping of J.R. Kuzminsky who also got a yellow in that match.
Players to watch for Charleston will be leading goal scorer Zeiko Lewis, rookie Geobel Perez, and Kuzminsky. Zeiko Lewis, an attacking midfielder, leads Charleston with two goals but has not scored since June 18th against Miami FC. Without Sam Hamilton in the back expect him to make a good run or two. Perez notched his first pro goal last match and has been very quick on the ball. Again without Hamilton will the youngster be able to make a few good runs. Kuzminsky has been a good keeper this year but has allowed 6 total goals in two matches against Charlotte Independence. He kept the Battery in the match against RIverhounds. Now the big question for the entire 18 of Charleston will be the altitude. Charleston is only 19.69 feet above sea level. Compared to Albuquerque’s mile-high and some change (5,312 feet) the Battery will have a tough time without oxygen. Expect a lot of cramps and slow play which will help the United attack and defense.
Players to watch for United will be Kalen Ryden, Ilija Ilic, and the youngster Cristian Nava. Ryden did not have his best match Friday night. A fact that was visible on his face post-match. Ryden will need to come up big tonight and for the rest of the season as United defender, Sam Hamilton is out with a fibular fracture. Ilic notched his first black and yellow goal Friday night putting New Mexico up 3-1. With Brian Brown also out with a lower-body injury expect Ilic to pick up where he left off Friday. Finally, the 5’ 2” Cristian Nava, at 17 years old, made his first pro appearance on Friday. You could tell it was his first pro game just by his height but he handled it like a professional. A checky through the wickets backward pass through a Switchbacks defender’s legs showed that the future is here. With Harry Swart also out with a lower-body injury Nava will likely come off the bench and play Swartz’s role.
Sombrero’s Spin: The injury bug hit United hard this week with three injuries but the team chemistry is still one of fire. A 3-1 United win will put the black and yellow to one point out of first. The altitude as mentioned earlier will have a huge effect on the Battery players.
Final Thoughts: Good luck to Levi Anderson today as he is competing against professional chefs today in the first-ever Monday Night Futbol grill off. Bring it home Levi.