By Scott Adamson
The Asheville City SC men got some on-the-job training with a friendly last Friday against the Myrtle Beach Mutiny. Tonight, the team officially clocks in to start the 2018 season.
The Blues face the Georgia Revolution (1-0) at 7 p.m. at Memorial Stadium, kicking off its second year in the National Premier Soccer League and first under coach Mick Giordano.
The Revolution, which was winless in NPSL play a year ago, opened its 2018 schedule with a 3-1 victory over Greenville FC last Friday.
E.J. Henry scored two goals in the match’s first six minutes to give Georgia a 2-0 lead, and the eventual winners built a 3-0 cushion by halftime.
Georgia is the early table-topper in the Southeast Conference of the NPSL’s South Region.
“I was fortunate enough to watch the game film of the Revs on Friday night after our game, and the staff has watched it recently,” Giordano said. “They are a good side with some athleticism amongst them, and a bit of bite which will present several tough challenges for us. They are coming off an emotional high with their first league win, so I would imagine the first 15-20 minutes will be a bit frantic with the game settling in after that.
“Hopefully we can play good football and ask several questions ourselves.”
ACSC fell to the Mutiny, a Premier Development League squad, 3-2 last Friday. Although an exhibition, it was a good preseason test for Giordano and company; Myrtle Beach finished 10-1-3 in 2017 and won the South Atlantic Division of the PDL.
Still, that match was more about settling in on a lineup than getting a result, and there were many positives.
Tom Deeley’s free kicks set up both Asheville goals, which were tallied by Brendan O’Dowd and Paul Egle.
O’Dowd and Egle are UNC-Asheville products.
“I think any time a player with local roots scores a goal, you’re happy for them, so it was great to see Egle and O’Dowd find the back of the net,” Giordano said. “I’m pleased for Deeley to pick up two assists on the night as well. Izaiah Vignali had a good flick on for the first goal that shouldn’t go unnoticed.
“I thought Lukas Joyner was our best player in the first half. He showed some leadership and an exceptional work rate.”
Giordano adds that his team – which has had limited practice time – was much more cohesive over the final 45 minutes.
“Our second half group really switched on,” he said. “We kept the football and were more dangerous. They brought another level to our tempo and energy which was exciting to see. Mac Gourlay, another local guy, and Jamie Smith were fantastic in the back. Dom Boland, Elliott Cutts, Elma N’for, Nathan Watts, KMC (Krisitan Moore-Cowell), all of them were great. We still have things to sort out, but considering some of the boys didn’t even know each other’s names because they had just arrived, I’d say it was a fair performance.”
Having 90 minutes of competition under their belts is a boost heading into the opener, of course, but Giordano says it’s the work outside the spotlight that ultimately makes the biggest difference.
“I think it’s always good to get a game in to see where we stand early on,” he said. “For me, the true team bonding has come off the field at our trainings and pool session where they can truly get to know one another. This also builds trust and confidence within the group, which is something that will be massive as we move on through the season.”
ACSC, a playoff team a year ago, will be a work in progress regardless of how today’s match turns out. Giordano said it will find its personality as the season wears on.
“Our formation will be based on our personnel and who’s available,” Giordano said. “We will get the boys in what we feel is a formation that helps them be most successful and confident on the field, as it’s a players’ game. It may evolve as we go or change in game depending on the demand of the game and challenges presented to us. We want the boys to be comfortable and have some freedom to just go out and play football.
“That being said, we have to be better on the defending side and will have a strong emphasis on that as we go.”
For ticket information, go to ashevillecitysc.com.