2:30 UPDATE: Battery news via the club’s Twitter account: The staff has moved up the start of the Chicago/Vancouver match to 4:30, and will play the Charleston/Houston match immediately afterward, weather permitting. See y’all at the match!
1:15 UPDATE: The Battery’s most recent Tweet (30 minutes ago) says tonight’s games are still a go, with the next update scheduled for 3 p.m. — dc
There’s a lot we could be talking about this morning, but the big thing here in Charleston on the final day of the 2013 Carolina Challenge Cup is the weather. Not that today’s weather in any way dramatic or even particularly unseasonal, but simply because the Charleston Battery are advising everyone with tickets to tonight’s matches to stay tuned for updates.
The good news is that this morning downpour is expected to end before 1 p.m. The not-so-good news is that the chance of rain this evening is expected to yo-yo between 50 and 70 percent probability between the start of the first match and the end of the second. You can play football in weather like that, but it does tend to dampen attendance, while also putting stress on the health of your waterlogged pitch. And then there’s worries about the preseason injury factor.
Hate that our @chas_battery office worked so hard for this tournament only to have weather kill our expected great attendance!
— Whitney Woods (@WhitneyTWoods) February 23, 2013
We remember the rainout of last year’s final night of the tournament, so we’ll be checking the Battery’s Twitter feed just like everyone else today, and hoping for the best.
Tonight’s matches are still on as scheduled, please keep a check here for hourly updates!
— Charleston Battery (@Chas_Battery) February 23, 2013
5 P.M.: CHICAGO FIRE v. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS
The math for this tournament is actually quite simple going into tonight’s matches. If undefeated Chicago wins or draws, the Fire earns the Carolina Challenge Cup. Full stop. On the other hand, if Vancouver wins the night’s first match, the only team not in contention is winless Charleston, which has just missed out on points two nights in a row. For Houston or Vancouver to have a shot at tournament hardware, each would have to win by enough to erase Chicago’s +2 goal differential. Barring that, it gets tricky, and… well, the folks in the Chicago Fire’s media department have done a good job of breaking down the scenarios.
Chicago has proven itself the most veteran, poised team so far, beating Houston 3-2 in the opener and clawing back a late winner against Charleston, 2-1. Coach Frank Klopas has given his core players plenty of minutes, so far, but you have to wonder whether that will be the case tonight. It’s the team’s last preseason match, and the last chance to evaluate players fighting for roster spots. Here’s their team preview.
Vancouver began the tournament with a lineup that came close to representing its best eleven (not including injuries) and pushed Charleston to the brink in the opening minutes with a high-speed attack. The talented Whitecaps looked far more pedestrian against Houston, leaving several of its best attackers on the bench. They play a final preseason tune-up tomorrow against coach Martin Rennie’s former Carolina Railhawks team in Cary, N.C., which will likely lead to some interesting roster management. The word from the team’s website: “With the 2013 MLS regular season only a week away, this will be the last preseason match for some players and will act as a last chance to improve match fitness prior to First Kick on March 2 against Canadian rivals Toronto FC.”
BTW, Vancouver Captain Jay DeMerit’s next appearance in a CCC game will be his first. He’s been battling a heel issue.
7:15 P.M.: CHARLESTON BATTERY v. HOUSTON DYNAMO
Houston made it to the MLS Championship game the past two seasons with teams that look quite a bit like the one Coach Dominic Kinnear brought to Charleston this winter. But of the three visiting teams, the Dynamo seems to have taken the MLS side that has taken the most relaxed approach to the competitive aspect of the tournament. The team has yet to don its regular game jerseys, playing matches in training kit instead, and with unlimited substitutions at his disposal, Kinnear has cycled through much of his roster. Here’s the team’s preview of the match.
Charleston had been in camp for less than a week when it faced Vancouver in the opener, and looked vastly improved against Chicago. Unlike its MLS brethren, the USL PRO side has a much smaller pool of available players, several of whom are still working their way up to true match fitness. So while two previously injured players saw the pitch on Wednesday and the club got back a significant contributor in Ryan Richter late this week, Coach Mike Anhaeuser’s thoughts on health management could certainly influence tonight’s lineup and rotation. Here’s the Battery’s pre-game write-up.
There’s one other angle to tonight’s match that might be interesting down the road. The MLS-USL PRO mutual affection deal unveiled last month (“We like you!” … “No, we like YOU!”) included a tweak to the schedule that will see the Houston Dynamo Reserve team play the Battery twice this season, with both matches counting in the official standings. My bet would be that both teams have more important preseason issues to address tonight, but will there be any gamesmanship in advance of the two matches that will count toward something official later this year?
BLACKBAUD STADIUM GETS A LITTLE WELL-EARNED LOVE: It’s easy to overlook the good thing in your back yard, but when professional North American soccer people come to town and feel compelled to make a video valentine to your stadium, that ought to remind us that we’re pretty damned fortunate here in Charleston. Thank you, Peter Schaad, of the Vancouver Whitecaps, for this little multimedia artifact. And by the way, I believe that’s our friend Joey Benton with his kids just outside the West gate…