It was a chilly February afternoon at Legacy Early Field on Saturday, but man it felt great to be back! The Triumph kicked off their preseason slate, filled with USL Championship sides, by welcoming the oldest continually operating professional soccer team in America to the upstate for the second-ever Palmetto Derby. But unlike last season’s US Open Cup meeting, this time the Triumph prevailed in a gritty 1–0 performance.
Let’s jump in and survey the good and bad from the match.
What Looked Good:
- The push into the attacking third — Last season, the Triumph lived by their defense. One of the biggest weaknesses for that team was their offensive firepower and scoring. If anything is to be taken from this friendly, it is that the Triumph seem to be focused on pushing the ball into the final third to create more offensive opportunities. Sure, there were times when the team wanted to possess the ball, a hallmark of last year’s team, but there did seem to be a new intensity towards driving the ball forward.
- Newcomers and trialists — While I more than expected newcomers Brandon Fricke and Alex Morrell to be impressive, both of them surpassed my expectations against USL Championship competition. As good as Kevin Politz was last season, Fricke seems to have slotted into his position without issue. In many ways, he showed some strengths that Politz lacked, particularly his vocal leadership of the back line.
- Strong core of returning chemistry —While not all of the returners from last year’s team were healthy (Polak, Keegan, and Hemmings did not dress out), and those who were did not all play together at the same time, it was still undeniable that this team enters year two with a major leg up from the team chemistry standpoint. What is even more incredible is that the existing chemistry between players made the integration of the new players that much more seemless.
What Needs Improvement:
- Too many touches in the final third — While the effort to push the ball into the final third and create scoring chances was much improved over last year, this new offensive mindset was not without its hiccups. Several times during the match, one of the attacking Triumph players would take one touch too many and be dispossessed by the Battery defense.
- Stamina — Even with widespread substitutions throughout the second half, it was obvious that this team is at the front end of the preseason. They looked gassed. I am not overly concerned about this as this was week one for the team, but it is something to keep an eye on throughout the preseason.
- PRO Referees — The officiating in USL League One last season was… real bad. So much so that coaches were even fined and suspended for saying as much. I try not to be “blame the refs” guy, but last season was frustrating at times. And not just for Greenville fans. It seemed to be a common refrain across the league. On Saturday, I witnessed one of the poorest officiated matches I have seen. Not just “against” Greenville. It was all around bad. Here’s to hoping we don’t see a step backwards this season and this truly is just preseason for the officials too.
CASHINHO’s Man of the Match:
The man of the match from the defeat of the Battery was unquestionably Aaron Walker. Aaron had a command of the midfield, did a great job of directing traffic for many of the trialists, and was a very questionable officiating call away from a brace in the match. Aaron really looked like the captain out there (a designation he shared with Tyler Polak last season) and I would not be surprised to see him wearing that armband a lot this year.
The Triumph travel to Charleston for a closed-door friendly on Wednesday against the Battery. The team will be back in the upstate to face the Charlotte Independence next Saturday, February 22, at 7:00pm at Alumni Stadium on the campus of Bob Jones University. That match is free to the public.
Greenville Triumph SC — 1
Charleston Battery — 0
Greenville Triumph SC — Aaron Walker— 16′