This is one of those ridiculously active days in the Lowcountry soccer calendar, with the Battery unveiling its new jersey, the team in training camp, three Major League Soccer squads in Charleston, and the Carolina Challenge Cup set to kick off the 2013 season Saturday at 5 p.m.
The Battery played a spirited intrasquad game Wednesday morning, with captain Colin Falvey on the sidelines. Falvey, who tweaked his hamstring earlier in the week, ran drills at close to full speed Thursday and seemed to moving well, but he confirmed Friday that he wouldn’t be suiting up for Saturday’s match against Vancouver.
WILDMAN BLUES: Speaking of Vancouver, former Battery striker Tom Heinemann returned this week to Charleston for the second February in a row, this time with the Whitecaps. “It’s great,” he said of his fresh start in Canada after a knee injury blew up his 2012 season. “It’s a great club, from the medical staff to the coaching staff, everybody. I’m very excited about the upcoming season. I played 45 minutes on Monday and I’m hoping to continue that, to continue to progress this week.”Heinemann came to Charleston last year at the start of his second year in MLS with the Columbus Crew. After starting 12 matches and making 28 appearances in 2011, Heinemann’s minutes plunged from 1,360 to 5 in 2012, as he made only one appearance in an MLS match before tearing his ACL in a March friendly. The Crew released him at the end of the season.
The rest of the Heinemann connections: After failing to stick with the Columbus Crew coming out of college, “Wildman” made his professional debut for the Charleston Battery in 2009 against the then USL-1 Vancouver Whitecaps. His play in Charleston drew the attention of then-Carolina-Railhawks-coach Martin Rennie, who signed him away to Cary. His coach today? Rennie again, this time in Vancouver.
BERRY GOOD: The last time Austin Berry came to Charleston he was a rookie out of Louisville trying to earn a spot on the Chicago Fire roster. This year he returns for his second Carolina Challenge Cup as the reigning MLS Rookie of the Year. The big central defender introduced himself to the league by surrendering a penalty kick to Chivas USA, but redeemed himself later in the match by heading home his first professional goal. He wound up making the MLS Team of the Week for his debut performance, and went on to start 28 matches for the Fire, scoring three goals. Berry signed autographs for young fans after training in Blackbaud Stadium Friday.
One of the players Berry beat out for Rookie of the Year was also in the Three Lions Friday: Whitecaps Forward Darren Mattocks. Mattocks led the Whitecaps with seven goals despite a late start on the season, but conceded Rookie of the Year honors when his scoring form slumped down the stretch. The speedy striker recently announced that he thinks he can score 20 goals in MLS this season. He spent much of Friday’s event head-bobbing in earphones while tending to two iPhones/iPods.
DELAYED: Houston Coach Dominic Kinnear was expected to attend Friday’s media event, but his flight was apparently delayed. Houston is expected to arrive in Charleston Friday.
REUNION: One of the best scenes from today’s jersey launch was Vancouver defender and former U.S. International Jay DeMerit reuniting with Chicago Fire assistant coach Mike Matkovich. Matkovich was DeMerit’s coach on Chicago’s PDL side in 2001. You might remember him from Rise and Shine: The Jay DeMerit Story. Matkovich appears in the film, and if you haven’t seen it yet. it’s the reason why God invented Netflix.
THE BLUR THAT IS NICKI PATERSON: There’s a school of thought that says the “box-to-box midfielder” is actually a mythical creature, more common in fairy tales than actual soccer matches. But Nicki Paterson sure seemed to be everywhere on the practice field Friday morning, tracking back, pushing forward, running down plays from behind.
Coach Anhaeuser said that after last year’s performance, he rated his chances of getting Paterson back for 2013 at no better than 40 percent. If his progress through USL continues at this pace, however, it’s hard to imagine he’ll be around forever. Enjoy him while you can.