It’s a compressed preseason — at least compared to 2013 — at 1990 Daniel Island Road, and that means lots of minutes for everyone on a rapidly expanding Charleston Battery roster on Friday and Saturday.
On Friday at 1 p.m. the Battery take on a traveling team of graduating seniors from NAIA schools at Blackbaud Stadium in a match that serves two purposes for Battery Coach Mike Anhaeuser. He’ll be putting his developing 2014 squad through its paces — with a particular eye toward the newest arrivals from Vancouver Whitecaps — but he’ll also be looking for talent on the other side of the ball.
The NAIA team is formally called “Tourbeau’s Soccer Evolution Academy,” one of multiple projects managed by Tourbeau Sports Group, a local company run by Chase Neidig of Mount Pleasant. It’s meant to be a showcase for small-college talent, and the match on Friday begins an eight-game tour that ends on March 16 in Dayton, Ohio.
After the 1 p.m. match (free and open to the public), the Battery will prepare for a quick trip up to Cary, N.C., to play the Carolina Railhawks of NASL. The Battery/Railhawks match will take place at 2 p.m. on Saturday at WakeMed Park (free admission there, too).
With four Vancouver players joining the Battery since the middle of last week and a fifth arriving shortly (with a sixth supposedly due within days), the previously short-handed Battery roster is now overloaded. And since the Battery can’t cut loaned players, that means competition for the remaining slots is going to be particularly tight. So while Anhaeuser is interested to see what the NAIA players have to offer (Mike Azira — whose apparently successful trial with Seattle may have helped grease the skids for former Battery player Alex Caskey‘s trade to D.C. United this week — was an NAIA prospect), he has few places to stash new club signings.
Everyone on the roster will play a minimum of 90 combined minutes over the two-day stretch, but only some of the younger players will be asked to exceed that amount.
Anhaeuser said he might bring in a couple of local defenders to pitch-in on Friday — mostly to keep his small defensive staff from logging too many minutes. Though he named no names, two College of Charleston defenders were part of the Battery’s February tryouts. In addition to adding some local help, the Battery will also taper down their training tempo today “because I want them to have their legs for the games,” Anhaeuser said. “Because (against Houston on March 1) I paid for running them too much, and we couldn’t move too well.
“I don’t want to overdo it. I don’t want guys to play 130 minutes in two days. I don’t want (Colin Falvey) playing 90 and 45. Because I don’t want to risk it. So if Colin doesn’t play Friday, he’ll play 90 minutes on Saturday.”
Playing back-to-back matches with travel is part of the USL PRO experience, and the coach wants this to be a learning experience for the young club.
As the Battery head into next week’s Blackbaud friendly against Wilmington (Tuesday at 2 p.m., free admission), the club’s basic roster could be rounding into shape.
“This weekend, I’ll have to make some final decisions. Especially with these (Vancouver) guys coming in. These guys have done well, but in the end, unfortunately, I’ll have to make some decisions. Maybe one or two guys we’ll have to try to get somewhere else if I can’t keep them.”
NOTES: The Battery formally announced the re-signings of defenders Taylor Mueller and John Wilson on Thursday. For whatever reason, these formal announcements seem to trail the actual contract signings by a significant amount of lag time… As mentioned above, Seattle traded former Battery man Alex Caskey to D.C. for an international slot earlier this week… The assumption at Battery training is that Mike Azira, the Battery and the Seattle Sounders reached an agreement that will result in Azira’s transfer, but there’s been no announcement from Seattle. Seattle did, however, announce the signing of Mexican midfielder Gonzalo Pineda… Lost in all the comings and goings over the past week is the future of Emmanuel Adjetey, the international man of mystery who turned in a good body of work here while on loan in 2013. The Battery believed his arrival was so imminent before the start of the Carolina Challenge Cup that the office staff included his name in the team’s game-day program on Feb. 22. Anhaeuser said Adjetey’s non-arrival was a Whitecaps decision, even though Adjetey’s contract status with the Canadian club is unclear. Asked Wednesday if he will be returning to Charleston, Adjetey replied “I don’t think so, but they are still working on it.” … I got a pretty reliable tip about Cody Ellison signing with a USL PRO club out West back before the CCC, but Ellison said he couldn’t really comment on it. What we can confirm is that he’s played PDL ball in Fresno this offseason with longtime teammate Jose “Chiva” Cuevas. No word on Cuevas’ future yet, either, but he’s been assistant coaching at his old high school, and recently celebrated the Farmersville Aztec’s fifth Central Section championship… Conflicting reports out of Toronto, where former Battery star Ryan Richter is either being retrofitted as a centerback, or is in line to start at fullback, or figures only as a backup. Whatever his status, everyone seems to agree that the weakness in the revamped TFC lineup will be the back four… Still plenty of opportunities to play fantasy soccer with the rest of the local kids…
CHARLESTON PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
Projected early season starters in bold, new players in italics, Vancouver players marked with an asterisk. Last names in parentheses are potential backups at the position who figure primarily at other positions. I’m only projecting 10 starters, since the 11th starter in the Battery’s current configuration is largely dependent on the team’s formation and game plan.
GOALKEEPER: Odisnel Cooper (currently recovering from sprained thumb), Eric Shannon, Andy Ramos
RB: Taylor Mueller (Ferguson, Griffin)
LB: John Wilson, Drew Ruggles (Griffin)
CB: Colin Falvey, Shawn Ferguson, Jackson Farmer* (Mueller, Ruggles)
OUTSIDE M: Quinton Griffin, Zach Prince, Adam Mena*, Maikel Chang, Dante Marini
DEFENSIVE M: Amadou Sanyang, Michael Kafari* (van Schaik, Portillo)
CENTRAL M: Jarad van Schaik, Justin Portillo (Marini, Chang)
FORWARD: Dane Kelly, Heviel Cordoves, Austin Savage, Mamadou Diouf*, Marlon Ramirez*, Miguel Teos
TOP IMAGE: Zach Prince takes a shot on goal during training on Wednesday. Dan Conover photo/illustration.