Charleston Battery Coach Mike Anhaeuser sat down for an interview Friday between wrapping up the club’s second Open Tryout of 2014 and running the survivors through an afternoon training session with returning Battery players. The headlines:
KEEPERS: Not only did the Battery invite six goalkeepers back for Friday afternoon, the recent injury to starting keeper Odisnel Cooper (sprained thumb) could require the club to keep as many as three new keepers on the training camp roster headed into next Saturday’s match vs. Seattle.
WHITECAPS: The first Vancouver Whitecaps to arrive on loan this year are expected to be in Charleston for the start of training camp on Tuesday. And there could be far more Whitecaps in the mix than the minimum of four. Anhaueser mentioned the possibility that as many as eight could be coming our way.
FRIENDLIES: In a sense, all the Battery’s preseason matches are friendlies, and the details of some of the matches announced on Wednesday will be interesting to fans. But Anhaeuser also said the team is in discussions that could add two midseason friendlies against professional teams. Plus, the Battery may expand its emerging partnership with the state’s PDL team, which would add another road game and another home date to the calendar.
A LARGER ROSTER: In years past, the Battery’s roster has typically hovered around 22 players, a budget-saving move that left the club with little mid-season wiggle room for back-to-back league and U.S. Open Cup matches. But if this year’s roster includes something like half a dozen Whitecaps, that could give Anhaueser the luxury of filling a couple of the USL PRO roster spots he typically leaves vacant.
OPEN TRYOUT, DAY TWO
Friday was actually the first day for several would-be professionals who got caught in the winter storm that’s been battering the East Coast. Today’s action divided eight Battery players across four teams (Black, Red, White and Blue), and filled the other spots with hopefuls. The day ended before 2 p.m. for most of the players in the open tryout, but at least five hopefuls joined the 15 players who had already been invited to train with the team this weekend.
That number may or may not include the six goalkeepers the Battery invited back for Friday afternoon (Anhaeuser said he was “not really counting the keepers”), and apparently doesn’t include two or three players who missed Thursday’s matches because of travel delays. Anhaueser invited them to stay so they’d get a fair shot at showing what they can do.
But the bottom line is that — while it’s likely that at least a couple of players who made their case over the last two days will be wearing Battery stripes on Opening Day — trying to predict who that might be is just an academic exercise until the identity of the Vancouver contingent is revealed.
I spoke to a few players who spent an anxious 30 minutes waiting for the list to be posted, including some who made the cut. And there were different opinions around the stadium about who looked the best over the past two days. Ultimately, however, this is about nothing more than progressing to the next step — scrimmages on Saturday, followed by a 1 p.m. game against the College of Charleston on Sunday at Blackbaud. From that list, Anhaeuser will draw up a training camp roster of up to 28 names for Tuesday. Mid-week cuts after the Wednesday match against Coastal Carolina (5 p.m., Blackbaud) will shrink that contingent to about 24 heading into the Battery’s date with the Seattle Sounders next Saturday, Feb. 22.
One local player that I apparently didn’t spot on Thursday was C of C’s Connor Coons, a 6-3, 185 defender from Alpharetta, Ga. Coons spent much of his day playing in front of former Coastal Carolina goalkeeper Scott Angevine, who earned a contract with Sporting Kansas City as a free agent in 2012 and spent 2013 in the MLS goalkeeper pool, serving shifts in Columbus and Portland. The 6-1, 185-pound Angevine impressed at the Battery’s January tryout, and looked sharp again on Friday — making saves, barking commands at the back line, booting goal kicks past the midfield stripe and making accurate throws that traveled more than 30 yards on remarkably flat trajectories.
“We’ve done this every year, and we’ve had success actually signing two or three players every season,” Coach Anhaeuser said after the tryout. “The way it’s looking already this year, it could be the same. (These players) who are coming back this afternoon, if they prove their worth, we might be seeing them on the roster.”
The Battery and its prospects will be back in training Saturday morning at 11:30 at Blackbaud. They’ll be scrimmaging, and fans are welcome to come out and enjoy the show.
MIKE ANHAEUSER INTERVIEW
THIS YEAR’S ROSTER: “I think we might be able to carry a couple more (than the 22 on last season’s roster). Right now we’re looking at four to six, maybe eight, players from Vancouver. So I don’t think we want to stop bringing in a few of the young guys like we have, every single season. (First-year-players) have done well for us.
CHS: Has Vancouver given you anything firm in terms of who to expect?
“Yeah. Dusty and I went out to Phoenix with them. We talked about it. We actually were with the coaches, and we know a few of the players. It looks like right now we might be seeing four or five coming in this week. And we’ll know all of them, and then we can kinda put them in where they’re going to fit in the picture.
“Hopefully it doesn’t move guys out. I think maybe we just try to make some extra room. Which actually just creates more competition.
“And here, we’ve got a couple of players that are really good soccer players that can play in a few positions, which is good. That really helps. We’ve got a couple of guys that are specific positions, and unfortuantely, yeah, that could affect things come Tuesday when the Vancouver players come in. So if they send me a left back, if I’ve got a left back here, unfortunately, I’ve got John (Wilson) and… hopefully they can pick up with another team.”
CHS: How many players will we see in camp on Tuesday?
“We want to keep two teams, so that’s about 22 to 24 players. By position. Because I don’t want to have players playing 90 minutes Sunday. I don’t want to have guys play 90 minutes on Wednesday. So probably 22 to 24, but if some guys do well, we might have a few more.
“These two scrimmages, especially before (the Cup), are trying to see who is going to be ready. And if guys can’t cut it in the games Sunday and Wednesday, they probably won’t be here come Saturday. So in the end, we’ll have 24 through the week, we’ll probably go in 24 for the first game of the Challenge Cup, and do two sets, like I always have, for that first game. Just to be safe. That’s a tough game.
“And we’ve got Seattle, too, so you’re talking guys that will want to play 90 minutes, but you’re putting a lot of pressure (on them). And I’ve already seen Seattle. The way they play? The way they pressure? I mean, it’s high-intensity, and it’s going to be an absolutely enjoyable game to watch. All three of them. They just play a very fast and aggressive style.
“I already have an idea (what this year’s team is going to be). I mean, with the guys we’ve had… I could probably put them on the field right now, and they’re ready to go. These next two games will be getting these new guys into that, (finding out) if we’re going to play one or two forwards. That will probably be the only difference. I know we’ll play a four in the back. When I have Amadou (Sanyang) and Jarad (van Schaik), if they’re in there, I can play the two in the middle, and I’m good.
“So I’m probably not going to do too many changes yet. With the players we have, when Cordoves gets back, we might… well, we’ll see.
“So I will use these (two preseason games before the Cup) to try a couple of things. You might see two forwards. And I’ll be honest, we might go two forwards in the Challenge Cup. Depending on the players we have here. I didn’t have six strikers really, though. It just seems like there’s not 10 strikers out there. We always seem to be missing one.
But if Vancouver sends us two strikers? You know? We might be seeing two strikers this year.
CHS: There are some Vancouver strikers I’d like to see.
“Well (laughs), I don’t know if we’ll see them.
RETURNING PLAYERS: Asked whether everything was in order with Quinton Griffith‘s visa to enter the U.S. from Antigua, Anhaeuser said, “No. Everything’s good. He just got his flight details. He’ll be in on Monday so he’ll be here for physicals.(Heviel Cordoves and Maikel Chang) have their last game (for the indoor Wichita B-52s) tomorrow, and they’ll be back on Monday or Tuesday. Depends on their travel schedule.
“So we’re actually looking pretty good with our returning guys. If we fill a few of those gaps, we could be looking at a pretty-close-to-tight-knit roster.”
GOALKEEPERS: “Yeah, (Cooper’s) got a ligament. They’ve got the cast on. He’ll hopefully get the cast off next week. Once he gets the cast off I think we’ll get another scan and I don’t think it will be as long as they projected. Hopefully four to five weeks. But he’s already been out a week and a half. You weren’t here for it. So once he gets the cast I off I think it will be a week before he starts doing strengthening and things, which could be next week before the Challenge Cup.
“The first prognosis was he could be out through the first game, but obviously you hope for the best, and he says it’s feeling good. So we’ll hope for the best.
“Obviously it does affect things, which is why we’re bringing six goalies back this afternoon.
CHS: So before Cooper’s injury you were mostly in the market for a backup keeper, a developmental guy. Now you’re going into CCC without your starter. Does that mean you’re looking at a different group of goalies than you might have otherwise looked at?
“Yeah. I’ve got guys that have been starters that we might bring in to play. We might bring in a goalkeeper to play him now, because now, yeah, he’s gonna play.
“I usually rotate in the Challenge Cup anyway, but now, if somebody comes in, instead of playing Cooper and one other, I’m gonna be playing two new players. They’re going to be competiting against each other, which is great. I might even have three and rotate them, just because I’m looking at them.
“If somebody steps up to the plate, that’s an opportunity for a goalkeeper. And that’s why we’re going to keep one or two extra. And I might bring in a guy who might have a pretty good resume on the back end.
“It gives an opportunity to some of these goalkeepers, and again, I have two or three more that agents have called and everything else. (Laughs) It’s a position where they know. Goalies know. Agents know. Because they call me and ask “Hey, are you out?” “Yeah, I don’t have a goalkeeper for Challenge Cup.” So when you lose one, you’ve got to go get one. And that doesn’t mean you’ve got to go find him.”
MLS SHOPPING: In response to a question about whether Mike Azira (in camp with Seattle) is the only returning player currently drawing interest from the top flight, Anhaeuser replied, “There’s a few that are getting interest still that could go in.
“Right now what we’ll see (with the CCC, is that MLS teams) know we’re going to play three games (and) they’ll all be on MLS Live. So they’re going to get a look at (our veteran) players. We have had a few that have gotten interest who could pick up and leave for a trial, just because, you know, we let them do that.
“I think (MLS clubs are) at their first cuts now. And the guys we have, they’re not inexperienced players. They’re guys who could probably go and step in and play. So it’s a matter of what they need by position.
“(Colin Falvey) was supposed to go into camp. He’s one that (still) might go into camp. (Quinton Griffith) has been mentioned. Dane (Kelly). They’re the ones that might get in camp.
“And to be honest, MLS teams are going to be watching. Because… that’s the thing about the Challenge Cup. If (our players) do well there, they get noticed. And is there a possibility that they get picked up? It’s always a possibility. It’s just like if we get a player from Vancouver and he’s a young kid and comes in here and does well, they might bring him back.
“So I think the good thing is that they’re watching a lot more. They actually know. Everybody knows about Dane. Everybody knows about Colin. It’s not, “Oh, who’s this guy?” They’re coming in and watching them.
“And that’s not good for me. It’s not good for the club.
“It’s like you might see Mike Azira playing for Seattle. Hopefully not. (But) if he’s here (on Feb. 22), though, he’s going to be playing for us. I mean, he’s our player.”
2014 SCHEDULE: After last year’s success hosting an international rugby match in place of a friendly with a professional team from a foreign country, which is more likely this year?
“Well, I think we have actually two foreign friendlies are being discussed right now. So it could be a Mexican game, which would be great, and a possible English game, which would be fantastic. I think the rugby’s off the table, unfortunately. But you never know with that. I think there was one that was supposed to be in May.
“So those were the two. And I even heard about them. So when I hear about something, that means there’s interest and it could be possible. So let’s hope we get it. Because it has been two years since we’ve had one. If we could get a Mexican team, that would be great for the guys, the community, everything. We get the MLS games, but it would be great to get those (foreign teams), because it just brings a little extra level of excitement.
CHS: What can you tell me about the NAIA All-Stars (i1 p.m., March 7, Blackbaud Stadium)?
“They used to do a combine, just like this, of like 40, 45 NAIA guys, that were invited in. (Now they’re) doing an All-Star team of like 20. And NAIA are schools (where)… you can find some players. These are all prospects. Obviously we might see some of our young (S.C. United Battery Academy) players in that game, because we play the next day (2 p.m., March 8, at Carolina Railhawks of NASL, in Cary, NC). But I’ll tell you, it’s a good opportunity to see some of their guys. You never know. One might stand out.
CHS: It’s not on the schedule that came out Wednesday, but are you going to continue doing a thing with the Palmetto FC Bantums of PDL?
“Yeah. We talked about playing up in (Greenwood). We’re looking at doing another game here. And we’re trying to work our partnership a little more. Obviously our academy players have been getting in there, but … we might try to interject them into the team up there. To try to keep a better eye on them.
TOP IMAGE: Amadou Sanyang challenges trialist midfielder Luciano Delbono for the ball on Friday. Delbono starred at Wake Forest and was selected by Montreal Impact in the third round of the 2013 supplemental draft. He came to Charleston for the January tryout and got invited back for this weekend’s training. Dan Conover photos.