Thoughts on this year’s Carolina Challenge Cup compiled while Googling the lyrics to O Canada (seriously, check out the difference between the official English version and the English translation of the official French version)…
First off, here’s The Post and Courier’s game story, written by Greg Hutton. I like this quote from Mike Anhaeuser about game-winning scorer Austin Savage (who also spoke to me for my game post last night):
“Austin’s a funny one,” said Battery coach Mike Anhaeuser. “He’s got a nose to score goals. Just like in training, every day he seems to get there. He’s not the biggest guy, but he snuck on the far post and put a great header on target.”
The Battery have a talented roster, and Savage is fighting for a spot. But results like last night’s can go a long way toward influencing a coach’s decision. Corbin Ensminger from the Southern Soccer Blog (go there, follow him, and support this kind of independent local soccer media, please) recorded a short interview with Savage after the match, and wrote this excellent account of what he saw (video embedded). Corbin also got some additional info on last night’s Battery hero:
There was no questioning who the man of the match was. Goalkeeper Odisnel Cooper played the game of his life and was the main reason that Charleston was in a position to win the game. Cooper was absolutely ridiculous in the net for Charleston. He seemed to be everywhere. One of the highlights of the night was Cooper’s ridiculous diving, one-handed save on a penalty shot from Brad Davis.
“Cooper played amazing, and with a hurt knee,” Anheuser said. “He had that great penalty save that kept us in the game.”
Anheuser said … the only way (the sore knee) affected him was on goal kicks.
CHARLESTON, S.C. — It’s not exactly the way you want to close out the preseason just days from the start of an ambitious campaign.
But thanks to a blinder from Charleston Battery goalkeeper Odisnel Cooper, the MLS Cup runners-up Houston Dynamo were foiled 2-1 by the USL side in the final match of the Carolina Challenge Cup on Saturday night at Blackbaud Stadium.
So there’s your Battery coverage round up. Not too shabby.
FIRE EN FUEGO: To complete the spin around last night’s coverage, here’s the Fire’s account of its Cup-winning draw with Vancouver in the night’s opening match. Vancouver’s version has video highlights.
LET’S PLAY WORD ASSOCIATION: So I’ve been thinking about what I saw over the past week and describing some of it in private emails to friends who are MLS fans in other parts of the country. Here’s how I’d sum up each of the four teams in a single word: CHICAGO: Steady. HOUSTON: Searching. VANCOUVER: Explosive. CHARLESTON: Resilient. How about y’all?
GUYS I ADDED TO MY MLS FANTASY SOCCER MANAGER ROSTER AFTER WATCHING CCC13: Kekuta Manneh for Vancouver has to be a value as a $5.5 forward. Goalkeeper Sean Johnson ($5) of the Fire may not get many saves, but he’s going to earn some clean-sheet bonus points with that veteran defense in front of him (Fire defender Austin Berry is a value at $6, too). And I already had Will Bruin ($9) of Houston on my roster. I’m not too worried about Houston’s play in the tournament, and Bruin showed up OK when he was on the pitch here.
WEATHER, REVENUE AND IRONY: So this is our family’s second Carolina Challenge Cup. The 2012 edition was the beginning of our conversion from just MLS fans to MLS and USL PRO fans, and if anything, this year’s tournament was more entertaining than last. The drag on “the Lowcountry’s annual festival of soccer” was the weather, again. Yes, the Battery did a great job of selling the tournament this year, and that ticket revenue counts even if the purchasers don’t show up. But the club doesn’t get the cash those fans would have spent at the stadium. And we miss an opportunity to convert fans like we were last year.
And that’s too bad.
Here’s the irony: The fans who turned out yesterday afternoon for the weather-truncated third leg of the tournament actually wound up enjoying the week’s best weather conditions and the Battery’s best performance. Night 1 started wet and raw and then got colder — so cold, in fact, that probably only a few hundred fans witnessed the Battery’s valiant second-half comeback. Night 2 was dry and a bit less frigid, but it was a midweek game without a tailgate, so attendance expectations had to be muted. Night 3 looked touch-and-go until around 3 p.m., when the Battery announced plans to move up the opening kick 30 minutes and compress both matches into a shorter window. Which worked perfectly, BTW. The nightcap ended as the rain began to fall.
But that great night of soccer can’t have been a great night for the Battery financially. Anticipating that the weather would keep people home, the club cut back on game-day staff to keep its overhead low. The result was fine from my experience as a fan — the Pro Shop opened and there were no lines at the two West Stand concession windows (nothing opened on the East side) — but professional soccer has to pay its bills.
The bottom line for the club relates to our bottom line as fans. Every packed house equates to more resources to build a winning roster, this year and beyond. So we’ll be trying to expand the fan base for the Battery — and other local clubs — because we like it when they win. The best response to the CCC’s bad weather isn’t to curse it, but to talk up the sport to friends and coworkers. Like the folks at the Free Beer Movement say, the way to grow the sport in America is person to person, fan to future fan. That’s how I got hooked, anyway.
So spread the word.