PATRIOTS POINT — After two weeks of relatively low-output offense, the newly reinforced Charleston Battery attack carved up the College of Charleston 4-1 on Thursday afternoon at Patriots Point.
Three of the goals came from new players, with the first two coming off the foot and head of former Notre Dame outside midfielder Adam Mena, who was making his second appearance since flying in from Vancouver last week. Rookie Dante Marini, another winger, picked up his first goal of the preseason in the second half. And Quinton Griffin, a second-year Battery man who has been getting more time at fullback than midfield this month, hammered home for the 4-0 lead.
The Cougars got on the board when Charleston center back Shawn Ferguson, a CofC alumni, couldn’t get his left hand out of the way of a point-blank pass at the near post. Nico Rittmeyer, the Cougars’ star transfer addition this semester, stepped up and put the resulting penalty beyond the reach of a diving Odisnel Cooper, who returned to the Battery lineup for his first action since spraining his thumb before the start of camp.
The Battery basically played two squads for 45 minutes each, sending in a team of usual starters after the break.
“Overall, we really controlled the game,” Battery Coach Mike Anhaeuser said. “I did play a second team, which I think (the Cougars) struggled with the second half, because I had some fresh legs go in there. So it was kinda like when D.C. United put 11 guys on (for the final half hour of the Battery’s 1-1 draw during the Carolina Challenge Cup).”
Cougars Coach Ralph Lundy Jr. saw pretty much the same thing. “I’m very impressed, actually,” he said afterward. “I see a lot of talent and a lot of depth. I think Coach Auggie’s got a lot of choices there.”
Cooper wasn’t the only Battery keeper making news today. After the match, Battery Coach Mike Anhaeuser confirmed that Eric Shannon — who started in goal at Patriots Point — had earned the backup job after an extended competition that began with six goalkeepers in early February and came down to Shannon and former Cuban international Andy Ramos.
“We thought maybe (Ramos) might stay as a third, but he’s got some other opportunities,” Anhaeuser said. “So we’ll see. We’ve got to make a few other decisions here, probably in the next couple of days.”
Anhaeuser started the afternoon with an XI made up mostly of recent arrivals. Goalkeeper: Eric Shannon. Right back: Taylor Mueller. Left back: Drew Ruggles (rookie). Center backs: Colin Falvey and Jackson Farmer (Whitecaps Residency). Defensive midfielder: Aminu Abdallah (Whitecaps MLS). Central midfielder: Justin Portillo (rookie). Right midfield: Adam Mena (unsigned Whitecaps 2013 draft pick). Left midfield: Andre Lewis (Whitecaps 2014 first-round draft pick). Forwards: Mamadou Diouf (Whitecaps second-round pick) and Marlon Ramirez (Whitecaps PDL).
Diouf strained a muscle in his right thigh in the early going and gave way to forward Heviel Cordoves, who played well into the second half. Head athletic trainer Bobby Weisenberger said the team held Diouf out of the action as a precaution.
In the second half the Battery subbed in 10 new starters — only one of whom lacks USL PRO experience. Goalkeeper: Odisnel Cooper. Right back: Quinton Griffin. Left back: Zach Prince. Center backs: Colin Falvey and Shawn Ferguson. Defensive midfielder: Amadou Sanyang. Central midfielder: Jarad van Schaik. Right midfielder: Maikel Chang. Left midfielder: Dante Marini (rookie). Forwards: Heviel Cordoves and Austin Savage.
Forward Dane Kelly (hamstring) and defensive midfielder Michael Kafari (unsigned Whitecaps 2014 draft pick, knee) stayed on the sidelines. Battery left back John Wilson had on his coach’s gear and spent the day organizing things on the sidelines.
The College of Charleston opened with a unit that Coach Ralph Lundy Jr. described as “a lineup we put together in light of many factors.” Goalkeeper: Brian Kilgallon. Right back: Daan Brinkman. Left back: Adam Purvis. Center backs: Brock King and Trent Rieflin (transfer, USC, first appearance). Central midfielders: Troy Peterson and Erik Clark. Outside midfielders: Ike Crook and Kye West (transfer, Villanova, first appearance). Forwards: Tanner Clay and Nico Rittmeyer (transfer, UNC). Substitutes included usual starters Xavier Rajpaul (F/MF) and forward Adan Noel, plus midfielder Christian Jablonski and goalkeeper Hunter Greer, one of several Wando alumni on the squad.
THE RUN OF PLAY
Again, it’s hard to write about preseason games with these kinds of lineups strictly in light of the final score. The Battery dictated the flow of the match from roughly the fourth or fifth minute, and though the Cougars did a good job of staying organized and methodical on defense, the Battery’s raw young talent was clearly too much for the college team to match.
HEVIEL CORDOVES CAUSED PROBLEMS: To be fair, so did starter Mamadou Diouf before he left the field, but Cordo’s day at the office was remarkably disruptive. The big Cuban kept finding space in Zone 14 — that central area of the field just above the penalty box — and repeatedly came roaring downfield with a big head of steam and the ball at his feet.
He didn’t pick up a goal, but his burst up the middle left Rieflin with little choice but to tug Cordoves from behind. The Cuban went down easy, but it was a tactical foul regardless, earning Rieflin a yellow card and Charleston a free kick from just beyond the penalty area, from a spot and angle that is sometimes considered just a bit too close. Mena stepped up to take it and delivered a clever ball that got up and over the Cougar wall before homing in on the upper lefthand corner of the goal
ANDRE LEWIS CAN DELIVER: The Jamaican attacking midfielder followed his eye-opening performance on Tuesday with another quality outing Thursday. He transitioned the ball rapidly into the attack, didn’t take too many touches, broke down defenders with skill and passing, and generally looked like he was playing patiently and well within his abilities.
His assist came a few minutes after Mena’s free kick goal, when he lifted a bending cross from a narrow position on the left. It wound up finding Mena on the other side of the box, where the Notre Damer managed to make himself tall enough to put his head into the pass and loop to the far post, stranding Kilgallon, a 5-8 rising sophomore, in an untenable position.
“Andre, what a great ball he played in to the far post for the second goal,” Anhaeuser said. “He’s showing he’s got a bit of quality out there, which is good to see, because we’re still trying to figure out who is going to be where. But guys are starting to cement their positions a little bit.”
MENA LOOKS SMOOTH: He isn’t the Whitecaps prospect with the biggest resume, but in his two appearances for Charleston he’s made an impression as a smooth and competent wing man good control and remarkable leaping ability. And that free kick to open the scoring was the real deal.
THE BATTERY SIXES AND DEFENDERS KEPT THEIR KEEPERS CLEAN: Neither Shannon nor Cooper had busy afternoons, and that was largely thanks to defensive midfielders (a.k.a., No. 6s) Abdallah and Sanyang keeping things well connected. The Battery’s defensive shape stayed solid, but even Captain Colin Falvey — who probably played longer than anyone — didn’t have much to do. It was simply hard for the Cougars to get through the Battery midfield.
Fullbacks Taylor Mueller and Drew Ruggles got upfield with ease during the first half, and though it was kinda strange seeing Quinton Griffin and Zach Prince deployed as fullbacks, it worked.
It’s worth noting that Griffin’s goal came not from the wing on a classic overlap, but while cutting across the middle of the formation to blast one through chaotic clutter.
MAIKEL CHANG IS MAKING PROGRESS: Yes, he missed a great opportunity from close range Thursday, but Anhaeuser had praise for his talented but enigmatic Cuban midfielder.
4-4-2, SO FAR, SO GOOD: Thursday was another look at the Battery in a two-forward concept, and it’s quite a change from the 4-5-1/4-3-3 of the past couple years. Anhaeuser, who professed an interest in a formation shift last summer but lacked the personnel to execute it, sounds cautiously optimistic about this month’s experiment with strike partners.
“So far so good,” he said. “Defensively I’m kinda watching what they’re doing, and they’re doing a good job. Now we’ve got to probably start trying to take advantage of it offensively.But I think they’ve done a good job.
“Today we were getting it into the gap, which was nice, and we had the second forward who was picking it up.
“It just gives you that little extra punch. Where last year we were coming out of the midfield, which you have to be a little sneakier. But I had guys — Nicki Paterson — guys who could run out of there.
“So, so far so good. We haven’t talked much offensively. But right now I’m pretty happy with the two forwards and how we’re set up.”
The Battery play Saturday at 1 p.m. against Clemson University at Blackbaud Stadium. It’s free soccer with no concessions, so bring your stuff and hang out with the rest of the soccer
College of Charleston is now finished with its home schedule for this spring, and travels next to USC for a friendly.
It also looks like the last big decisions that will shape the 2014 Battery roster could be complete by Monday or Tuesday. Ramos’ departure actually takes the number of players in camp with the team down to 24 — a number that Anhaeuser mentioned earlier this preseason as a likely count for this year’s squad — but that doesn’t mean that he’s settled on all the players currently with the team.
“We’ve got to look at it,” Anhaeuser said. “I think I’ve got to make one or two more decisions. Probably not for the better, but for the worse. But at the same time, though, the guys have done so well, usually they land on their feet and maybe find some place else if they can.
“Right now I kinda have a nice nucleus for the whole roster. Positions and everything.
“And some guys we’re negotiating with. If they don’t accept the contract, then it opens a door for somebody else. So you don’t want to let somebody go, because if you do they maybe jump on somewhere else. So you’ve got to be cautious, but you do have to make those decisions, because it’s two ways. You do want to give them a fair chance too, if they can get something else.”
TOP IMAGE: Odisnel Cooper cleans up a through-ball that went too far for CofC transfer Kye West. Dan Conover photos.