Battery play Cougars Sunday in first match of 2014

Battery play Cougars Sunday in first match of 2014
That's one-two-three-four-five-SIX goalkeepers.

That’s one-two-three-four-five-SIX goalkeepers.

So it won’t be like what you’ll see when you come out for the Feb. 22 match against Seattle. There’s no concessions, no stadium announcer, typically not even a visible clock or a scoreboard.

But come 1 p.m. Sunday at Blackbaud Stadium, the 2014 season begins simultaneously for the Lowcountry’s only men’s soccer program and the state’s only professional soccer club when the not-even-formally-training-yet Charleston Battery host the first match of the College of Charleston’s spring schedule.

The teams will face off again at Patriots Point on March 13 at 2:30. By that point, the Battery will be eight matches into an 11-match preseason and just 11 days shy of hosting league champion Orlando City Lions in their regular season opener. But a day ahead of Sunday’s friendly, the Battery consists of nine available veteran players and roughly 25 trialists.

Battery skipper Colin Falvey screens a blue-team attacker off the ball for his keeper to snuff out a threat.

Battery skipper Colin Falvey screens a blue-team attacker off the ball for his keeper to snuff out a threat.

So what we’ll see when the Battery play their second match of the preseason on Wednesday — with three additional Battery veterans in the mix, plus a group of players provided by Vancouver Whitecaps — will likely look quite different from the Sunday’s opener.

The veterans available to Coach Mike Anhaeuser are Colin Falvey, Shawn Ferguson, Taylor Mueller, John Wilson, Amadou Sanyang, Jarad van Schaik, Zach Prince, Austin Savage and Dane Kelly.

Odisnel Cooper shows his cast to a young fan.

Odisnel Cooper shows his cast to a young fan.

Kelly took a knock in Saturday’s 11-v-11 scrimmage and left early as a precaution. Goalkeeper Odisnel Cooper is out with a sprained thumb. Four players were absent — Mike Azira, who is training with Seattle, Heviel Cordoves and Maikel Chang, who are returning to Charleston on Monday, and Quinton Griffith, who is expected to arrive from Antigua soon.

Saturday’s scrimmage featured multiple, free substitutions, players changing teams, and new goalkeepers cycling through every few minutes. And at times, the men competing to win a spot on the Battery roster outdid the veterans. It certainly sets the stage for an interesting Sunday.

And if you’re a Battery fan — even a casual Battery fan — lemme give you my testimony. I started going to preseason games last winter, and I enjoyed the laid-back vibe — and the pretty damned good soccer — so much, there were times when I missed it during the regular season.

So come on out. It’s a free chance to watch the Battery play, and to set your bearings for the season ahead.

Six-foot-three-inch defender Connor Coons of the College of Charleston marks 5-3 attacking midfielder Dante Marini of Northeastern. Marini was an All-CAA star who logged six goals and five assists as a senior in 2013.

Six-foot-three-inch defender Connor Coons of the College of Charleston marks 5-3 attacking midfielder Dante Marini of Northeastern. Marini was an All-CAA star in 2013.

COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON: Injuries forced the Cougars to play most of 2013 without their star goalkeeper, and a wicked schedule kept them on the ropes through most of their first season in the Colonial Athletic Association. And that’s on top of what was already going to be a rebuilding year.

Now last year’s freshmen contributors are experienced sophomores. And there’s immediate help in the form of three transfers: Nico Rittmeyer from North Carolina, Trent Rieflin from South Carolina and Kye West from Villanova.

The Cougars have also scheduled spring matches against Seattle Sounders on Feb. 23, the Battery on March 13, at USC on March 22, and against Georgia Southern and Winthrop at Rock Hill on April 5.

Two Cougars who played for Ralph Lundy Jr.’s team last fall — defenders Tam McGowan and Connor Coons — are training with the Battery this weekend. A third former Cougar — forward Luke Hoggett — spent last fall working with the team as a assistant coach, as some obscure rule prevented the international student from competing in NCAA games.

Former Tampa Bay Rowdies goalkeeper Will Dieterich makes himself big to kill a shot from Taylor Mueller.

Former Tampa Bay Rowdies goalkeeper Will Dieterich makes himself big to kill a shot from Taylor Mueller.

UH-OH-ORLANDO: The 2013 Orlando City Lions were tough enough — playing in the league’s largest stadium in front of the league’s largest crowds in the country’s 19th largest market* certainly doesn’t hurt their cause — but as we’ve noted here before, a team in its final season before making the leap to MLS has some special advantages. So while the Battery hope for a good draw of players from Vancouver next week and comb the available pool of affordable prospects, the Lions are out there signing veterans looking to book their tickets to the top flight 12 months from now.

In the past week the USL PRO powerhouse has signed two MLS veterans with significant tread left on their tires: 23-year-old forward Corey Hertzog, a first-round pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft who has faced the Battery as a member of the Wilmington Hammerheads and Vancouver Whitecaps; and 27-year-old Brad Rusin, a 6-4 former Carolina Railhawks centerback who spent three seasons in Denmark before signing with Vancouver Whitecaps in 2013.

*That’s based on Orlando as a television market, which is often a better way to think about the size of an area than defining it by arbitrary municipal boundaries. To put that ranking in context, the Orlando market is bigger than St. Louis, but smaller than Denver. Charleston’s current ranking? No. 99.

John Wilson looking highly "TEDxy" in this portrait  for the TEDxCharleston website.

John Wilson looking highly “TEDxy” in this portrait for the TEDxCharleston website.

TEDxWILSON: In recent years, Battery legend John Wilson has worked part-time off the field for a company that prepares student athletes and their parents for the college recruitment process. The gig requires a lot of public speaking. Which is good training for his next appearance as a speaker at TEDxCharleston in April.

If you’re not familiar with TED Conferences (that’s Technology, Education and Design), then you don’t spend too much time on the Interwebz. Not only do they attract some fascinating speakers (and occasional controversies), they’ve also become a cultural phenomenon. And since there’s more demand for the TED brand than there are opportunities to host actual TED conferences, in recent years the organization started licensing independently organized local conferences under the brand “TEDx.”

The event website describes Wilson as “an advocate for the importance of fun, play, and passion in work and life.”

TOP IMAGE: Battery Coach Mike Anhaeuser instructs two trialists who earned invitations to train with the team on Saturday. Dan Conover photos.