USL First Kick – Week 2

The first week of the USL season saw six teams kickoff their respective seasons. By the end of Week 2, every team will have participated in at least one game. This second week provides a heavy slate of rivalry matches for your viewing pleasure. Let’s take a look into our Game of the Week before briefly delving into what’s going on around the league. In the game of the week, the Charlotte Independence will welcome the Charleston Battery to Transamerica Field on Friday, March 27 at 7:30 pm.

Scouting Charlotte Independence

Charlotte takes the field for the first time as a club when they take on Southern Derby-rival Charleston Battery. Former United States international Mike Jeffries will direct the team from the sideline in their inaugural match. Jeffries most recently steered the Des Moines Menace to the Premier Development League regular season title a year ago, going 18-7-3 on the season and earning the PDL Coach of the Year award for his efforts.

No stranger to Charlotte after being a long-time Eagles standout, Jorge Herrera should lead the attack in this match. The Colombian No. 10 has 29 league goals to his credit and will look to form a partnership with Rock Hill, S.C.-native Enzo Martinez. The team’s projected midfield is loaded with potential goals, which should come as a relief to Independence supporters as the 16-man roster still needs to get their recently acquired forwards Jack Thompson, Daniel Jackson and Ryan Finley integrated into the squad.

Defensively, the Independence will look to veteran USL defenders Patrick Slogic and Andrew Ribeiro to stabilize the back line. The team also recently brought in Chris Etheridge, Raphael Cox and Mamadou Kansaye, but like the three recently acquired attacking options, will need time to acclimate themselves with their new surroundings. In goal, Diego Restrepo will look to recapture his 2013 form that saw him named to the NASL Team of the Week seven times while producing four clean sheets.

Scouting Charleston Battery

Charleston already have a game under their belt entering this derby tilt after dispatching Toronto FC II 3-2 on a last gasp winner by Taylor Mueller off a corner. The team already boasts three different goal scorers with Dane Kelly and Shawn Ferguson opening their 2015 accounts alongside Mueller’s game-winning goal.

The four-man backline of Mueller, Ferguson, O’Brian Woodbine and Quinton Griffith went the full 90 and held steady after two early goals. Griffith was particularly active down the right flank, taking four shots and constantly putting balls in the mixer. He assisted on Kelly’s goal with a great cross. Mueller and Ferguson, when given the chance on corners, proved to be opportunistic scores. Goalkeeper Odisnel Cooper probably had nightmares about his slip that led to the second goal, but picked up four saves later on.

Offensively, Kelly used a great header to score Charleston’s first goal of the season and spark the comeback bid. He now has 32 career goals and is tied for second all-time in the league. Overall, the Battery peppered the TFC II goal for 18 shots in their first game, putting seven on frame. Heviel Cordoves was unlucky not to get on the board, as his low header was saved by the Reds’ Alex Bono.

Referee Assignment

The Professional Referee Organization has assigned Aleksandar Zhelyazkov to be the center official for the match. Clive Edwards and Kevin Roberts will be the assistant referees, while Khadime Sabara will serve as the fourth official.

Southern Derby

The Southern Derby dates back to 2000 and was most recently contested between Wilmington, Charleston and the Charlotte Eagles. With the Eagles moving down to the PDL, the Independence has stepped in to take their place. In the three-way competition, whoever collects the most points against the other two challengers captures the cup.

The Wilmington Hammerheads claimed the Old Southern Derby Cup last season with 10 points. Charlotte narrowly missed out on the Cup, scoring nine points. However, the Eagles boasted a negative goal differential. With Herrera in the lineup, the Independence will know what’s at stake when they take the pitch, especially with the inclusion of local boys Enzo and his brother Alex Martinez.

Around the League

– A new rivalry is officially christened as St. Louis takes the field against Louisville City at Slugger Field at 3 pm ET on Saturday. After a prolonged build up for this match, both teams are ready to go and ready to spoil each other’s USL debuts.

– Not to be forgotten is the birth of the in-state rivalry between Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Both teams enjoyed a good preseason, though Tulsa’s final game was a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to St. Louis. The Turnpike Derby kicks off on Saturday night at 8 pm ET at ONEOK Field, with the second-year club Energy looking to ruin the Roughnecks’ first official game.

– Sunday’s fixtures see the return of the Cascadia Cup to the third division as the Seattle Sounders 2 take on the Vancouver Whitecaps 2 at Starfire Sports Stadium. The Sounders are coming off a 4-2 demolition of an injury-riddled Sacramento Republic, while the Whitecaps will be taking the field for the first time this season. First kick is slated for 7 pm ET.

Numbers Game

– To start off, take all these with a grain of salt since only six teams have seen action. I will probably harp a constant refrain of “small sample size” until at least halfway through the season.

– Charleston lead the league in shots with 18 to their credit. That is most likely the byproduct of desperately working to both get back in the game and then steal the win at home against Toronto.

– After recording four goals and three assists against Sacramento, the Sounders lead the league with 11 points. For the uninitiated, two points are awarded for a goal and one point for an assist. Newly minted USL Player of the Week Pablo Rossi leads the individual category with three points after opening his account for Seattle and assisting on Sam Garza’s goal.

– Both Clement Diop and Lalo Fernandez picked up clean sheets in the 0-0 affair between LA Galaxy II and Real Monarchs. Fernandez is currently tied with Charleston’s Cooper for the most saves in the league at four.

(image courtesy of Vin Duffy)

About Jordan Beech

You can follow Jordan at @JBeech13 or @TotalUSL