With more Battery players returning to the field Thursday, the first session of the Battery’s second two-day open tryout at Blackbaud Stadium featured reunions and good spirits.
It also featured some actual news about a player who wasn’t on the field: Odisnel Cooper.
Battery athletic trainer Bobby Weisenberger confirmed Thursday that Cooper — the Battery’s starting goalkeeper in 2013 and the team’s anticipated opening-day starter against Orlando on March 22 — has sprained his thumb in training and is expected to miss several weeks of action. Weisenberger said Cooper could be ready in time for the start of the USL PRO season. If the prognosis holds true, the team will be down a key player during the Carolina Challenge Cup, which runs from Feb. 22 to March 1.
The first news of Cooper’s injury was posted here in a comment by local soccer fan/player Tommy Lesesne on Wednesday evening.
Cooper is the only goalkeeper currently under contract to the team.
PRESEASON SCHEDULE RELEASED
The Battery released its 2014 preseason schedule Wednesday, and it’s a bit different from last season. It’s shorter, starts earlier, and requires less travel.
Last season the club played 12 preseason matches, beginning with the Carolina Challenge Cup. This year the team will start its 11-game preseason with two Blackbaud scrimmages against local college teams before the CCC — College of Charleston on Sunday at 1 p.m., and Coastal Carolina at 5 p.m. on Wednesday. The Battery play their first Cup match on Saturday, Feb. 22, against the Seattle Sounders.
After the Cup concludes, the Battery will play a six-game schedule that requires only one road-trip — to Cary, N.C., on Saturday, March 8.
All told, the club will play three games against MLS teams (Seattle, D.C. United, Houston), two matches against lower-tier professional clubs (Carolina Railhawks, Wilmington Hammerheads), five against college teams (College of Charleston home and away, plus Coastal Carolina, Clemson and Georgia Southern), and one match against the NAIA All-Stars.
We’ll be adding the dates to the site soon. Complete list is over at the Battery website. All the home dates except for Cup matches will be free admission this year.
The Battery start league play earlier this season (they didn’t play their first USL PRO match until April in 2013), and with two of the matches before the Cup opener — and Sunday’s match occurring before the official start of training camp — the early action will likely be pretty experimental.
THE BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN
Returning players on the field Thursday included recent arrivals Amadou Sanyang, Jarad van Schaik and Dane Kelly. Veterans Colin Falvey, Taylor Mueller, Zach Prince, Austin Savage and Shawn Ferguson have been in Charleston training for more than a month. John Wilson was also on the field, but once again serving as a coach for the trialists.
With Mike Azira pushing for a job in Seattle and Heviel Cordoves and Maikel Chang still scoring indoor goals for Wichita, that makes Quinton Griffith the only returning player who is yet to arrive. Kelly, who just got in from New York, said Giffith — his roommate along with Sanyang — is still working out a travel visa and should arrive soon.
Assuming Azira earns a roster spot with the Sounders and no other players move up, that means the Battery are likely to return 13 players. With four players expected on loan from Vancouver before the start of the season, that means Coach Mike Anhaeuser could be looking for anywhere from five to six new players to fill out this year’s roster. At least one of those will have to be a goalkeeper — unless Vancouver includes one in its consignment.
IN THE MIX
This second open tryout of 2014 opened with fewer hopefuls than the first round in January, and a few familiar faces from last month. Club officials suggested earlier this week that some of the players scrimmaging at Blackbaud today and tomorrow are actually players who have been invited to this weekend’s invitational combine.
Two of the players looking for their first professional break were instantly recognizable to College of Charleston fans: Cougars’ defender Tam McGowan and striker Luke Huggett. Both earned coveted invitations to the 2014 USL PRO Combine last month, and are products of the United Kingdom. McGowan hails from Glasgow, Scotland, Huggett from Brighton, England.
The barrel-chested, tattooed Huggett recorded a calm finish from inside the six for the Red team during the early afternoon session on Thursday afternoon.
Also on the field Thursday was a player who bore a resemblance to Battery leading scorer Dane Kelly.
That would be his twin, Dean Kelly.
Dean and Dane are not identical twins, and Dean isn’t part of the Tivoli Gardens club that produced Dane as a product. But he did play forward on Thursday, and showed some ability to get upfield and make plays.
Speaking of Dane, the USL PRO star said he only spent a few days with the Philadelphia Union of MLS and the New York Cosmos of NASL this offseason, and played a few games with Tivoli in Jamaica last month.
The final session of the open tryout will begin Friday morning at 10 a.m. Come on out and watch.
With the Battery making their only road trip of the preseason up to former rival Carolina Railhawks, Janet and I are making tentative plans to drive up for the game on Saturday, March 8. If you’re interested in carpooling or forming a convoy, lemme know.
TOP IMAGE: Returning players Amadou Sanyang, Austin Savage and Colin Falvey dropped right back into the whole teammate thing on Sanyang’s first day back with the club for the 2014 campaign. Sanyang’s return to the lineup in late summer after an injury helped the Battery finish 2013 in excellent form, and his dramatic goal in Orlando pushed the Battery back into contention during the final half-hour of the USL PRO semifinal. Dan Conover photos.