The largest player and the smallest player on the Blackbaud Stadium pitch were the last men standing when the Battery completed its Tuesday morning fitness tests to open the first official day of the team’s 2014 training camp.
Second-year man Shawn Ferguson continued his preseason push for an expanded role in Coach Mike Anhaeuser‘s plans with an eye-opening performance in the Manchester United Conditioning Test. The 6-4 centerback was the only player to reach Level 21 in the exhausting drill, which requires participants to run the length of the field 10 times — each time within 25 seconds — and then gives them just 35 seconds to get back to the starting line to begin the next one. Then, beginning with Level 11, the number of seconds allowed for that first length-of-the-field sprint drops by a second every round.
For professionals, making it to Level 15 is considered an acceptable performance. Someone who fails around Level 17 or 18 is considered to be in excellent condition.
But for a big man like Ferguson to win it speaks to a remarkable level of fitness for a player just starting camp. Midfielders typically get the best marks in Manchester Tests, Anhaeuser said, often because they’re the players who best understand how to pace themselves. But Ferguson spent much of his time during the test running at the front of the pack, often finishing with one or two seconds to spare as the sprints got increasingly difficult.
Most of the returning Battery players survived Level 15, and quite a few made it past Level 17. But only a handful — including Jarad van Schaik, Quinton Griffith, Zach Prince and rookie Dante Marini made it past Level 18. The 5-3 Marini had the best performance of the participants in the second group, which was comprised of younger players trying to make the Battery roster for the first time. He pulled up a halfway through the sprint on Level 19.
The team also did a pushup test.
The Battery were joined Tuesday by new trialist Chris Banner, a former Jamaican youth international who has apparently spent time with the PDL’s Ottawa Fury during the 2012 season. Anhaeuser mentioned earlier this month that he’d spotted an interesting prospect during his trip to Jamaica this winter and hoped to be bringing him to Charleston for a look, and it looks like Banner could be that player. The Battery are evaluating him as a left back or left midfielder.
Other new players still in the contention for spots on the Battery roster on the first day of camp were goalkeepers Andy Ramos of Cuba and U.S. keepers Eric Shannon (Guatemalan professional league) and Will Dieterich (Tampa Bay Rowdies), defender Drew Ruggles (Georgia Southern), and midfielders Dante Marini (Northeastern), Justin Portillo (Coastal Carolina), Luciano Delbono (Wake Forest) and Miguel Teos (Wayland). Anhaeuser has indicated that he has a continuing interest in centerback Nurdin Hrustic of Jacksonville, Fla., but didn’t expect him to be available for the start of camp.
The Battery were also joined Tuesday by a fourth goalkeeper, former University of Portland and Timbers U-23 keeper Justin Baarts. The 6-2 Baarts apparently knocked out more pushups than anyone else on the field.
Battery forward Dane Kelly‘s twin, Dean Kelly, had the most productive goal-scoring weekend of any of the new players, and could return to training with the Battery later this week.
VANCOUVER PLAYERS DELAYED
Anhaeuser had previously indicated that the first loaned players from the Battery’s new MLS affiliate, Vancouver Whitecaps, could be arriving as early as today. On Tuesday he said the date for their arrival has been pushed back until Thursday. That probably means the loanees won’t be available to train with the Battery until Friday, the day before the opening round of the Carolina Challenge Cup.
The Battery had hoped to get a look at their new Vancouver talent in Wednesday’s match against Coastal Carolina (5 p.m., Blackbaud).
The Whitecaps played a friendly against a nearby university on Sunday, and have an intrasquad scrimmage scheduled for Wednesday.
During the 2013 season, prior to their official affiliation, the Whitecaps loaned Charleston three players — only one of whom (midfielder Bryce Alderson) came from the club’s MLS roster (midfield striker Ben Fisk and defender Emmanuel Adjetey were signed to Vancouver’s PDL squad). This season both Alderson and Fisk are competing for first team roles, and Adjetey’s status is unknown. People who do what I do in Vancouver say Adjetey has been MIA with the Whitecaps so far this winter.
Under formal affiliation, the Whitecaps have to loan us a minimum of four players off the first-team roster. And while the leagues say the intent of such agreement is to encourage season-long loans, the reality form 2013 indicates that loan agreements are typically as free-form as ever.
So who could they be?
The current Whitecaps players who have been mentioned most often as possible loan candidates this week boil down to five field players and one goalkeeper.
Vancouver picked two forwards in the 2014 Superdraft — second-rounder Mamadou Diouf from the University of Connecticut (No. 30 overall), and fourth-rounder Mackenzie Pridham from California Polytechnical (58th). With at least five veteran strikers on the roster ahead of them, a shift down South could be a good outcome for either or both. Charleston currently has only Kelly plus second-year players Heviel Cordoves and Austin Savage in the mix at forward, although Zach Prince can play the position.
And while the Battery roster is currently heavy with midfielders, so too is the Whitecaps camp. The team also drafted midfielders Michael Kafari and Michael Calderone in the third and fourth rounds, respectively, and 2013 midfield selection Adam Mena is also in camp. Twenty-year-old Ghana midfielder Aminu Abdallah joined the club as a trialist in 2013, but played only as a reserve (editor’s note: Calderone is not listed on the Whitecaps roster, and hasn’t been suggested by Vancouver fans as a likely loaned player).
And while the Battery probably offered only limited opportunities for Whitecaps keepers before starter Odisnel Cooper sprained his thumb, his injury opens up at least a short-term opportunity through the Challenge Cup. Vancouver observers have mentioned 23-year-old Simon Thomas as a possibility.
Keep in mind, these are the names spoken about by team observers, not team officials. And with young but raw talents like Omar Salgado and Eric Hurtado enjoying excellent camps, what really matters right now is whether Vancouver Coach Carl Robinson thinks his emerging stars will be better served by fighting for minutes at BC Place, or joining the rotation at Blackbaud Stadium.
It kinda flew under the radar around here last week, but the one goal scored for the Fresno Fuego in the PDL club’s 2-1 loss to the LA Galaxy II came from former Battery centerback Cody Ellison. Both Ellison and former Battery striker Jose Cuevas are playing for the Fuego and looking for professional teams for 2014.
Tuesday was also 2013 winger Quinton Griffith’s first day back in the fold. Q looked to be in great shape in the Manchester test. The speed merchant out of Antigua battled hamstring issues several times last season, so seeing him start camp looking strong is good news.
If you’re curious about the schedules for the MLS participants in the Carolina Challenge Cup, look for D.C. United and Seattle to arrive in Charleston around Wednesday or Thursday, with Houston arriving too late on Friday to participate in the event’s media lunch on Friday afternoon. DCU will be training at The Citadel, Seattle will be at the College of Charleston facility at Patriots Point, and the Dynamo and the Battery will be sharing facilities at Blackbaud.
One tricky aspect of this year’s cup is that the Battery no longer have access to the training field just down the road on Daniel Island. It’s been consumed by a massive new construction project. Coach Anhaeuser said the loss of the training field will put more pressure on the turf at Blackbaud, as well as the one training field behind the stadium.
TOP IMAGE: Battery players run the return leg on a level of their Manchester United Conditioning Test on Tuesday. The test replaced the traditional “beep test” at the start of this year’s camp. Dan Conover photos.