Cooper’s friend & Cuban replacement trains w/Battery

Cooper’s friend & Cuban replacement trains w/Battery

Andy Ramos Gomez, the man who replaced Odisnel Cooper in goal for the Cuban National Team in 2012, arrived in Charleston after the team’s recent open trials and is training with the club.

News of Ramos’ arrival came via Mario Lara, the expert on Cuban soccer who writes the indispensable El Blog de Futbol Cubano. The Battery’s most recent Cuban prospect was on display Friday morning as nine Battery players — Cooper, Colin Falvey, Shawn Ferguson, Taylor Mueller, Zach Prince, Mike Azira, John Wilson, Austin Savage — and visiting USL PRO veteran Gibson Bardsley of the Dayton Dutch Lions — scrimmaged on the team’s practice pitch under the gaze of Club President Andrew Bell, Coach and General Manager Mike Anhaeuser, and goalkeeping coach Dusty Hudock.

Lara said that Ramos and Cooper are friends who came up together through the Cuban youth international program (U-17, U-20, U-23) and graduated to the senior team. After Cooper defected to Canada along with fellow Battery players Heviel Cordoves and Maikel Chang, Ramos started in his place in the team’s final World Cup Qualifying match in October 2012. In his only international appearance, Ramos held Panama to a goal and the underdog Cubans earned a draw at home.

Ramos was able to leave Cuba legally for Canada, and originally looked sure to start his professional career with FC Edmunton of the NASL. But Cuban rules prevented him from continuing to represent his nation in international competition, and Lara said delays in getting his work-visa killed his chance of signing with Edmunton.Without a team, Ramos came to the United States and trained with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of NASL.

Eventually, Cooper convinced him to come to Charleston, stay with him and compete for the Battery backup job, Lara said. Cooper won the top job in Charleston last spring after a tight competition with California goalkeeper Kevin Klasila, who is no longer in the picture for the Battery and has said he will use this offseason to decide whether to continue his playing career.

The club brought in several keepers during their open trials, including Scott Angevine, a Coastal Carolina alumni and former draft pick at Sporting Kansas City who has spent time with several MLS clubs.

Ramos certainly looks the part, but it’s early in what is shaping up to be a complex and anxious Battery team-building season. Lara said Ramos hopes to use his time training in the Holy City this month to earn an invitation to the Battery’s February combine, which bookends the official start of the team’s training program on Feb. 16.

In other Cuban player notes, Lara recently named Cooper the No. 3 top Cuban player of 2013, and raved about the development of now-healthy Battery midfielder Maikel Chang in Wichita. “He is amazing,” Lara said.

TOP IMAGE: Andy Ramos dives to stop a Panama chance in Havana in October 2012.