Rocket City Report Card: The season so far

Huntsville City FC has had quite the turbulent opening six games of the season. Zero wins, a head coaching change, and most recently a trade of Alexis Cerritos to Lexington SC. However, I’m not just going to keep rehashing the same things I’ve said about the team as a whole in the past few Rocket City Recaps.

We’ve got enough tape to work with to make some conclusions on which players have performed well and which haven’t. Let’s dive in.

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The good

Let’s work from the back to the front. For how often they’re put under immense pressure, both goalkeepers, Ben Martino and Jake Grekowicz have largely done well. Neither has looked like a world beater, but every single Huntsville score could’ve been much worse if a worse keeper was in net. Both could work on distribution, but that seems to be a theme with the keepers in Nashville’s entire system.

As far as defenders, Scott Cheevers and Chris Applewhite stand out. The fact they’re the nailed in starting pairing when healthy, despite having a combined age equal to Nashville SC’s Brent Kallman, is pretty telling. They both seem to have a real future, be it in Nashville or elsewhere. I’ve been really, really impressed with both of them.

In spots, Kessy Coulibaly has also looked solid. There have been some back breaking mistakes, but part of that is likely unfamiliarity with the system and needing an adjustment period coming from France.

Izzy Johnston and Brennan Creek have been superb connecting the lines. They’re the reason Huntsville is second in MLS Next Pro in accurate long balls. They don’t offer as much defensive cover as their backline maybe needs, but you take that if they’re creating chances, which they are.

I could really list just about everyone they’ve put in the front four. Maximus Ekk, Adem Sipić, Jonathan Bolaños, Dom Wilson, Alejandro Velazquez-Lopez, Ollie Wright, all of them. They’re all consistently dangerous and getting in good spots. To take one last swing at the dead horse, it’s only finishing they lack. Once even just one or two of them start consistently putting chances away, Huntsville will shoot up the table. Trust me, I really had to try hard not to fit a NASA joke right there.

The not so good

The weakness of this team is clear. It’s at the fullback spots. Isaiah Jones and Fernando Cicéron just aren’t natural fullbacks, and they have struggled mightily. The last two games under interim head coach Christophe Berra they’ve looked better, but there’s still a ways to go.

There’s usually a mistake from both once or twice a half that leads directly to a chance for the opposition. Again, since they’re not natural fullbacks it’s difficult to be too hard on them, but bad is bad. Those mistakes are bad.

Also bad is the injury situation as a whole. Is that a fair thing to put here? Regardless, it’s bad so it’s going here. Joey Skinner, Forster Ajago, Woobens Pacius, Makel Rasheed, Julian Gaines, and now Scott Cheevers. That’s not only a long list, it contains a lot of important players. Huntsville had to switch from a 4-4-2 to a 4-2-3-1 when Ajago went down, which might help to explain some of Sipić’s struggles. Both of Huntsville’s two fullbacks, and their most dependable centerback are out, as well as Gaines, a player who looked very good on the wing when he was healthy.

There’s not only players on the injury list right now, there’s goals, and probably wins. It’s unfortunate to not be able to say anything definitive on how the team can improve beyond finishing more chances and getting healthy, but that’s probably the best anyone can do right now.

Author: Ronan Briscoeis a contributor for Broadway Sports, and a founding contributor at SoundwaveSoccer.com, where he covers Nashville SC, Huntsville City FC and Nashville's youth academy.

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