Match: Penn FC at Charleston Battery
Date: Saturday, March 24th
Time: 7 p.m. Eastern, 6 p.m. Central, 4 p.m. Pacific, 11 p.m. UTC
Venue: MUSC Health Stadium (Charleston, SC)
Refs: REF: Marcos DeOliveira AR1: Dallas Rosier AR2: James Boswell 4TH: Wayne Pavlischek
How to Watch:
How Charleston will look: Charleston actually got to play in week one, but they lost a tough 1-0 match against FC Cincinnati. This was the third year in a row that Charleston opened the season hosting Cincy, but it’s the first time they’ve lost. But you can’t blame the Battery for losing a step. Their roster was seriously carved up at the end of last season, with several key pieces either moving on to other clubs or having to go back to Atlanta United.
Expect to see a few lineup changes for Charleston after last week. Midfielder Neveal Hackshaw won’t be available as he’s with Trinidad and Tobago on international duty. Defender Quinton Griffith is also out on international duty with Antigua and Barbuda. However, he wouldn’t have been able to play anyway because he picked up a red card last week.
How Penn FC will look: This will be everybody’s first chance to really look at Penn FC, and there’s a lot that’s still up in the air. To paraphrase Sting (the wrestler), “the only thing that’s for sure about Penn FC is nothing’s for sure.”
Most of what I went over in my season preview still holds up, but there’s already been a few changes just since last Friday. First, the team announced that Richard Menjivar, formerly of the New York Cosmos, would be joining the Penn FC midfield for 2018. They followed that up by announcing the return of former City Islander Lucky Mkosana who last played for Harrisburg in 2013. He immediately jumps to the top of the Penn FC attacking depth chart, and he could get the start at striker on Saturday.
What to expect: Charleston may have lost their opener to FC Cincinnati, but they were dangerous throughout the match. They significantly outshot their opponents, and the Cincy defense was sorely tested to keep a clean sheet. Will Penn FC be able to do the same? They struggled to keep the ball out of the net last season, but they went out and picked up some veteran defenders from the NASL including Marco Franco and Pedro Galvao. Expect them to be tested on Saturday along with new goalkeeper Romuald Peiser.
Along with Penn FC’s defensive struggles last season, they also had significant scoring difficulties as well. They’ll need new signees like Aaron Dennis and Jorge Rivera to make an impact early in order to help cut through some of the opening day nerves for Penn FC. Getting a lead on the Battery in Charleston would take a lot of pressure off.
Expect Penn FC to look a little rusty as they find their rhythm in the first half. There was a significant amount of turnover for the team last year, so this’ll be the first time that most of these men have taken the field together outside of the preseason. And Penn FC will probably be starting a fair proportion of former NASL players. There shouldn’t be much difference for them between playing in the NASL and playing in the USL, but you never know.
Charleston has already played, so they don’t have to worry about finding their rhythm. They’ll be looking to attack early and often to try and score for the first time in 2018 after being held scoreless last week. If they can put two across, then it’ll be a long day for Penn FC. Last year, the City Islanders never overcame a deficit of more than one goal.
PREDICTION: Penn FC is looking for a fresh start in 2018, but they’ve got a lot working against them. The team usually struggles early in the season and also when they’re on the road. Consequently, they haven’t won their season opener since 2013. Against a good team like Charleston and in a hostile location like MUSC Health Stadium, it’s hard to see Penn FC getting the win. I predict Penn FC puts up a tough match, but Charleston gets the victory 2-1.