When John Wilson was informed earlier in the week that he’d be moving from left back to center back for tonight’s match with the Wilmington Hammerheads, the Charleston Battery defender simply shrugged and went about his business.
After more than a decade in the game, very little fazes the veteran defender.
Wilson and the Battery take on the Hammerheads in a crucial USL Pro Division matchup tonight at Blackbaud Stadium at 7:30 p.m.
“John played center back for us all last season, so this shouldn’t be a big deal for him,” said Charleston Battery head coach Mike Anhaeuser. “He’s been around enough, he has enough experience to make a seamless transition.”
Wilson has spent almost the entire season at left back where he has more freedom to jump into the attack with his trademark runs. However, with team captain Colin Falvey and Kyle Hoffer both out of the game because of red cards, Wilson, who turns 35 in October, will shift to the middle of the defense. Cody Ellison, who has started four games, will replace Hoffer in the middle, while Taylor Mueller and Michael Azira will start at outside backs.
The return of holding midfielder Amadou Sanyang, who missed the last three weeks with a lower body injury, should help solidify the defense.
“It’ll mean less running for me,” Wilson said with a chuckle after Thursday’s practice. “I don’t see it being an issue. We’ve had all week to work together, so I don’t think it’s going to be a big deal. I’ll have to be more physical and we’re going to have to do a good job of communicating with each other.”
Falvey and Hoffer were each ejected from last Friday night’s 4-0 loss to Orlando City. Falvey was sent off in the 59th minute after getting into a scuffle with Orlando’s James O’Conner after a hard challenge. Both players were issued red cards. Five minutes later, Hoffer was ejected after receiving a second yellow card for grabbing the shirt of Orlando striker Dennis Chin.
It was a humiliating defeat for the Battery, especially on the heels of their collapse against Orlando at home on July 18 when the Lions scored two goals in the final five minutes to rally for a 2-1 victory.
“I think the loss to Orlando at home took something out of us,” Wilson said. “We went down to their place last week and kind of lost our composure a little bit. I think we learned a valuable lesson. We have to have a full 90-minute effort to beat the elite teams in this league.”
Tonight’s match against Wilmington is the first of four matches for the Battery over the next nine days, including back-to-back games with the Hammerheads. The Battery will travel to Wilmington, N.C., Saturday night for the final match of their three-game season series. Falvey and Hoffer will be eligible to return to the lineup for Saturday’s game.
The weekend will also have huge playoff implications for both teams. The top six teams in the USL Pro Division will advance to the playoffs, while the top two teams will get a bye in the opening round and are assured of hosting a home game in the postseason during Labor Day weekend.
The Battery trails Rochester by five points for second place, but has two games in hand on the Rhinos. Wilmington (30 points), Harrisburg City (30) and Richmond (29) are all within striking distance of the Battery with less than a month left in the regular season.
The Charleston Battery defeated the Wilmington, 3-1, at Blackbaud Stadium in their only game this season. Navion Boyd, Dane Kelly and Nicki Paterson all scored for the Battery.