Earlier this week I wrote about the remaining question marks in the Charleston Battery’s 2013 preseason roster, and the next day the front office answered three of those questions with a signing announcement. But there were still three or four guys with asterisks by their names on my list, so when I caught up with General Manager and Coach Mike Anhaeuser this afternoon, following a wet intrasquad scrimmage that featured seven South Carolina United Battery Academy players, I came equipped with a list of personnel questions.
Essentially the remaining questions on the Battery roster boil down to four players.
The newest arrival, Chris Thomas is a rookie trialist who came to Charleston following his release by the New England Revolution, which picked him in the 2013 MLS Supplemental Draft. He was a high-scoring forward in college at Elon, but he’s only been with the squad for about a week. The Battery are still evaluating him.
Dane Kelly played for the 2012 Battery on loan from Tivoli Gardens in Jamaica. He’s a big part of the Battery’s 2013 plans and scored four goals in preseason, but fans will remember that he disappeared from the squad in late summer when the Jamaican club called him home.
“Dane’s not on the roster,” Anhaeuser said.”Hopefully that gets sorted. We’re trying to sort that out now, if we’ll get a loan or transfer Dane, so I’ve just got to sort that out today. I’ve just spoken to (the Jamaicans) in the last two days.”
I have no clue whether that will be resolved via loan or Battery contract, but the Battery have worked hard to build relationships in Jamaica. And they clearly like Kelly, a good 2012 player who looks even better for 2013.
Michael Azira is a returning player whose name slipped off the Battery website sometime in the past month or so. He’s also the returning player that team captain Colin Falvey singled-out last month in a conversation about players who’ve shown improvement in the offseason.
The good news: He’s signed, according to Anhaeuser. The not-so-good news is that Azira, a Ugandan, is working on “a clearance issue.” I didn’t push to get specific about what the hold-up might be — I wouldn’t understand the technicalities of his immigration, national federation and work-permit statuses even if you gift-wrapped them for me. Anhaeuser said the club was working with Azira to resolve the issue, and mentioned working with the league, the federation and the immigration service to get things in order.
More Vancouver signs?
Finally, there’s Ben Fisk. Fisk is a talented young attacking midfielder from Canada who came down to Charleston late last month. Fisk has a contract with the Vancouver Whitecaps’ PDL team, and even though the Battery front office officially calls him a trialist, it’s no secret that he’s here on some kind of a loan.
Ever since he showed up in South Carolina, fans in Charleston and Vancouver have been reading signs, portents and Internet entrails to speculate about whether Fisk’s arrival heralds the dawning of one of those nifty new USL PRO/MLS club affiliation deals. So when I asked Anhaeuser who was paying Fisk’s salary, it was actually a more complicated question than it might seem on the surface.
Anhaeuser’s answer was, in part, that the Battery can’t pay him right now because as a Canadian, he doesn’t have a work permit yet (it’s in process). But the phrases in Anhaeuser’s answers are interesting enough to quote directly. How Fisk will be paid is “something that’s being worked out with our partnership… It’s a situation that we’re going to have to deal with that’s not completely done with our relationship.”
To my ears that sounds like there might be more on the table than just loans for Fisk and the other Canadians rumored to be in the pipeline to Charleston. But Anhaeuser said there was nothing new to announce in the negotiations with Vancouver.
“We’ve got the players, we’ve got maybe another player coming in, but right now, when you’re dealing with a situation like that, it takes a little more time than just announcing it,” he said. “Some of the other teams have had more time, and working their paperwork is the biggest thing. It’s just like doing a contract. It’s like visas and everything else, some things take longer than others. So hopefully we have everything solidified … and moving forward, but it’s not something you want to just sign off on and say, because it’s a pretty big thing when you have a relationship. You want to make sure it’s right. And I’m sure there’s going to be changes one way or another both ways. ”
For the record, four MLS teams have announced affiliation deals with USL PRO partner clubs since the new cooperative agreement between the leagues was announced in January (New England and Rochester, D.C. United and Richmond, Philadelphia and Harrisburg City, and Sporting Kansas City and Orlando). While terms are left to the clubs to negotiate individually, affiliation requires the upper club to loan at least four players to the USL PRO side as an alternative to including their MLS Reserve team in the USL PRO regular season schedule.
After reading over Anhaeuser’s answer, I asked Battery President Andrew Bell whether the club could confirm that the topics being negotiated with Vancouver included affiliation. His reply: “Just working on loans right now. But we cannot comment on those until all the paperwork is complete. Hope to announce something next week (midweek).”
I’m quoting him exactly just because the precise words and grammar used in complex situations like this can be significant.
Which mean now you know what I know. And that makes the middle of next week look pretty interesting, doesn’t it?
RECOVERING: Midfielder Nicki Paterson, who basically missed March with a strained groin, sat out this training this week with an unrelated strained hamstring injury he picked up against the Carolina Railhawks on Saturday. Anhaeuser called it precautionary… Defensive midfielder Amadou Sanyang suffered a concussion against the Railhawks, but is expected to be back in training on Monday. “The main thing is the swelling is down and he didn’t have any … concussion symptoms,” Anhaeuser said.
PLAYING: Right back Mark Wiltse and striker Heviel Cordoves (the foward formerly known as “Evier Cordovez”) both went 90 minutes today in the rain during the scrimmage at Blackbaud Stadium. Anhaeuser praised both players’ performances… Dazzling but fragile Cuban midfielder Maikel Chang played 20 minutes today, and the club is taking a more cautious approach to his training. “He has the ability,” Anhaeuser said. “You can see it. But… when he’s had to compete against guys that are going 100 percent and physically very capable, he’s broken down. So the big thing for him is we want to take him along slowly now because we don’t want him to lose confidence.”
OUCH: Striker/midfielder Jose Cuevas came out of today’s match after his hamstring tightened up.
Academy players chip in
Seven teenage players from the South Carolina United Battery Academy suited up to play in today’s scrimmage under the scrutiny of their coach, Clark Brisson. Joining the professionals were five academy players from Wando High School –rising USC freshman Hamilton Carlin, Waldo Cepeda, Andrew Eskinazi, College of Charleston signee Brock King, and Hunter Danna — plus Joe Terry of Bishop England and Matthew Aurednik, a homeschooler from Columbia who has signed with Wofford. So what did Brisson see from his guys?
“A little bit of nerves, and then dealing with the speed of play,” Brisson said. “It’s not just so much quicker, it’s more advanced. It’s deception and disguise and everything. And (Anhaeuser’s) players are much more physical than ours, too, strength and everything.”
Does that kind of mismatch always help the younger players who are competing up the pyramid?
“It’s interesting,” Brisson said. “I think if they walk off the field thinking it’s a learning experience, good, but you can’t beat them up for it. My message back to them was ‘I thought you did a good job today,’ but I thought some of them personally could have done better. That’s going to take some time. I don’t think we were particularly sharp, but it’s just time and space issues, a lot of it.”
USL PRO rules allow clubs to use some academy players on game day, and several of Brisson’s players appeared for the club in February against MLS opponents.
The Battery Academy U16 and U18 squads play Sunday in Greensboro against the Carolina Fusion. They’ll get another matchday on April 28th, and then their schedule fills up in May and June.
If you’re running or walking the bridge with your 40,000-or-so closest friends on Saturday morning, be on the lookout of some very young, very fit young men. The Battery will be participating in the Cooper River Bridge Run again, so wave at them as they go by… Ryan Richter is an MLS player with Toronto now, but if you watch this video from his new club, there’s actually a nice little shout-out to Chucktown.
College of Charleston at home on Saturday against Davidson
I’ll be advancing the Cougars’ spring match against Davidson College tomorrow, but put that on your to-do list as we head toward the weekend. BTW, Cougars Assistant Coach (and former Battery player) Troy Lesesne passed on an interesting bit of news today: TopDrawerSoccer.com just named incoming C of C freshman Erik Clark of Wando High School as its NSCAA Male Player of the Week. According to the article, “Clark registered a season-high four assists in a 5-1 victory over Summerville High School. The senior midfielder continued to pick defenses apart as he registered two more assists in a 4-1 victory over Hoover High School.” And Lesesne said Clark just scored two goals with an assist against Dobyns Bennett plus a goal and an assist against Cardinal Newman in wins in the 2013 Nike Palmetto Cup in Columbia.
TOP PHOTO: Ugandan midfielder Michael Azira defends against the Carolina Railhawks. Dan Conover photo.