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Why two midfield standouts hold the key when the Battery, LouCity clash on CBS Sports Network

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 04/08/24, 6:40PM EDT


2023 Championship All-League First Teams selections Molloy, Davila in the spotlight for clash of undefeateds

The Charleston Battery's Aaron Molloy (left) and Louisville City FC's Taylor Davila have both been major influences for their new clubs after being voted to the 2023 USL Championship All-League First Team last fall.

The Charleston Battery and Louisville City FC will meet on Tuesday night at Patriots Point in a rematch of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2023 USL Championship Playoffs in the first game to air this season on CBS Sports Network.

With both sides currently undefeated this season – and LouCity sporting a perfect 4-0-0 record – it’s an early-season tilt between two sides that expect to be contending for silverware at the end of the campaign.

Here are three storylines to know going into this highly-anticipated clash.


Through the first month of the season, unsurprisingly, there has been no player on the ball for his side more than the Charleston Battery’s Aaron Molloy. The two-time Championship All-League First Team selection leads the Championship in touches (486) and passes completed (317 of 364) while notching 10 chances created and an 87.1 percent passing accuracy rate.

That’s about what we expected when the Battery signed Molloy this offseason to reunite with Head Coach Ben Pirmann, but he’s got a counterpart at Louisville City FC that is proving equally as important an arrival. Taylor Davila was alongside Molloy on the Championship All-League First Team last year while competing for Rio Grande Valley FC and has put up impressive numbers of his own with one goal, one assist, 11 chances created and an 86.6 percent passing accuracy rate on 149 completed passes.

Both players will have company in the center of midfield with Charleston having rotated Emilio Ycaza and Chris Allan alongside Molloy this season and 21-year-old Academy product Elijah Wynder starting all four games for Louisville. The balance of the game is likely to tilt toward Charleston on home turf thanks to Molloy, but Davila’s all-around game is well worth watching and should also be key.


Louisville City FC's Wilson Harris will put his four-game scoring streak on the line against the Charleston Battery's league-best defense on Tuesday night. | Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville City FC

Louisville City FC’s Wilson Harris has been one of the stories of the season so far with seven goals in his first four games, including his first hat trick in the USL Championship on Saturday against Indy Eleven. While Louisville Head Coach Danny Cruz said following his side’s 5-3 victory against Indy Eleven to expect some lineup rotation, it’s almost impossible to think that Harris won’t be looking to add to his scoring streak in Charleston.

That could challenge the Battery’s midfield and back line, but so far this season Charleston has used its control of possession to limit chance creation for opponents, resulting in the league's best defensive record so far. The Battery have conceded a league-fewest two goals in five games while also leading the league with a 2.52 Expected Goals Against Mark and average possession percentage of 60.7 percent – this past Saturday it bottled up 2023 Player of the Year Albert Dikwa, holding him to one shot and one touch in the penalty area for Rhode Island FC.

As a whole, Louisville’s attacking unit is going to pose the biggest threat the Battery have seen so far. 21-year-old winger Ray Serrano also sits on two goals and three assists coming in, and the visitors enter having bagged five goals in consecutive games for the first time in club history. The question will be whether LouCity can can capitalize on the possession it gets to put the Battery’s back line under pressure.


As previously mentioned, Aaron Molloy has been the centerpiece to the Battery’s lineup this midfield. When it comes to difference-makers, though, he’s been edged out so far by attacking midfielder Nick Markanich, who might have seen his three-game scoring streak come to an end in Rhode Island but still made his presence felt in another strong all-around performance.

The 24-year-old feels as though – like Wilson Harris – he’s found another level to his game to start this season. Against Rhode Island he came agonizingly close to his fourth goal of the season, hitting the woodwork with one of his four shots. He also provided the assist on the Battery’s last chance to grab victory in stoppage time with a precise cross from the right that picked out MD Myers for a flicked header that RIFC’s Jackson Lee managed to deny.

Markanich’s versatility as a creator and finisher makes him one of the most dangerous players in the league. He currently sits in the Top 10 in American Soccer Analysis’ Goals Added metric at a +1.57 over five games, the highest among the Battery’s players, and has delivered in big moments before such as last year’s USL Championship Final. With the national spotlight on, this is a moment for Markanich to shine.

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