(Note: Ross Almers’ gallery from the match is available here. Also, I made a mistake with the original version of this story and left out a late goal by Dean Kelly, due to be really, really confused. I fixed it pretty quickly — with a little help from my friends — but, you know, you hate being wrong like that regardless of how long it lasts. — dc)
Midfielder Jarad van Schaik banged in a chance during the opening minutes against the College of Charleston as the Charleston Battery ground its way to a 2-0 victory and its first win of the 2014 preseason.
Van Schaik, one of seven returning Battery players who started Sunday’s scrimmage, played in both the first and second of the afternoon’s three 30-minute increments. He worked primarily out a deep central midfield spot, but got forward early and put away a chance generated by trialist Luciano Delbono.
Delbono, a former Wake Forest star and a 2013 draft pick for Montreal Impact, has spent much of his time with the Battery over the past four days in central midfield roles, but on Sunday he appeared to be working wider and higher up the field. At several moments in Sunday’s match, the Battery’s formation looked quite a bit like a 4-2-4, with trialists Delbono and Dante Marini out wide in the attack.
Delbono and Marini were joined in the starting lineup by trialist centerback Nurdin Hrustic, a sturdy 6-3 Bosnian-American who spent a year at Jacksonville University before signing with a lower-league German club in 2009. Scott Angevine, a Coastal Carolina alumni who spent 2013 in the MLS keeper pool, started in goal.
The other Battery veterans in the starting lineup were defenders Colin Falvey, John Wilson and Taylor Mueller, defensive midfielder Amadou Sanyang, and attackers Zach Prince and Austin Savage. Second-year centerback Shawn Ferguson came on for the second and third stanzas, playing with a group composed mostly of trialists. Goalkeeper Odisnel Cooper — who is out with a sprained thumb — watched from the stands. So did Battery leading goal-scorer Dane Kelly, who left the field Saturday after knocking heads in an intrasquad scrimmage.
His twin, Jamaican forward Dean Kelly, came on for the Battery after 30 minutes, and put away a second goal in the late going.
Sunday also marked the debut of C of C transfer Nico Rittmeyer, a former S.C. United Battery Academy four-star prospect out of Savannah who spent a year with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Rittmeyer had an active game at the point of the Cougars’ attack, and drew post-match praise from C of C Coach Ralph Lundy Jr.
However, after the first 30 minutes, the game took on a back-and-forth rhythm, with neither side able to finish its chances. Savage and Kelly both generated chances, but trialist Miguel Teos created the best chance of the final hour when his swerving solo-attack into Cougars’ box ended with a takedown and a penalty kick. Former Cougar and fifth-year Battery man Prince stepped up to take it, but his calm attempt at fooling Cougars keeper Brian Kilgallon didn’t trick the sophomore, who saved easily.
“I think Jarad did well,” said Battery GM and Coach Mike Anhaeuser when asked which players had done the best job of stating their case. “He looks sharp.
“From the new guys, obviously, I think Dante (Marini) has done pretty well. He’s impressed us, all the coaches. (Drew Ruggles, a left back out of Georgia Southern who impressed at the Battery’s first open tryout in January) is an interesting one. I’ve still got to try him in a couple places, but out of the defenders? And Nurdin. I knew he was probably good enough. It’s just trying to get him in here… He works, so he’s a tricky one.
“I think Miguel (Teos, who played collegiate ball at Spartanburg Methodist and Wayland Baptist University) did well too, and Luciano, the kid from Wake Forest, did pretty well. He’s tired today, but he’s played a lot of minutes.
“And Justin Portillo. He wasn’t here until today. He started at Coastal Carolina. He was in the MLS Combine. And I’ve always liked him from Coastal.”
Anhaueser also praised the three goalkeepers who watched from the stands in street clothes alongside Cooper Sunday. They are former Cuban international goalkeeper Andy Ramos (a personal friend of Cooper’s) and U.S. keepers Eric Shannon (a University of California at Bakersfield alumni who played professionally in Guatamala last season) and Will Dietrich (a former Newberry keeper who rose from PDL’s Portland Phoenix to a spot on the roster with the Tampa Bay Rowdies in 2013). All three are expected to return for the official start of training camp on Tuesday.
There were four former S.C. Battery Academy products on the the field for the College of Charleston Sunday: Rittmeyer, plus rising sophomores Christian Jablonski, Erik Clark and Brock King. A fifth alumni of the program, senior Joey De Mare, missed the match with an injury.
Sunday’s informal match drew an encouraging crowd of close to 200 fans, with supporters of both programs represented. The next opportunity to watch the Battery will be Wednesday at 5 p.m. when the team takes on regional power Coastal Carolina at Blackbaud, followed by the Battery’s first match of the Carolina Challenge Cup against the Seattle Sounders at 7:15 on Saturday.
The Cougars will scrimmage against the Sounders at Patriots Point on Sunday, Feb. 23.
TOP IMAGE: Jarad van Schaik (far right edge of frame) puts the afternoon’s only scoring ball past Cougars’ keeper Brian Kilgallon after only about a minute or two of play Sunday. Dan Conover photos.