Nineteen players, one coach, an athletic trainer and the club president/broadcaster boarded the Charleston Battery’s charter bus for Pennsylvania Tuesday morning on the team’s first extended road trip of the 2013 USL PRO season.
That means the obvious big news for Battery fans is who isn’t on the bus. Injured midfielder/forward Jose Cuevas (hamstring) didn’t make the list. Twenty-year-old Canadian winger Ben Fisk (unspecified soreness) came out for the 7:45 a.m. load-up — and even went on board the bus with his teammates — but I’m told he won’t be making the trip, either.
The other missing man is centerback Shawn Ferguson, who will remain in Charleston due to “college commitments.” Ferguson, who signed his first professional contract about a month ago, made the roster despite being able to train only part-time while he finished up his degree in biology from the College of Charleston. Final exams at the College started last week and run through Friday.
Meet Bryce Alderson
With just 21 signed players on the Battery roster, those absences should have dropped the traveling squad to the minimum 18. But there was a new face by the curb at Blackbaud Stadium this morning.
Loyal readers of this site might recognize him from this March 21 analysis of Charleston’s possible MLS affiliation partners, because I made 19-year-old Canadian midfielder Bryce Alderson from the Vancouver Whitecaps the cover shot. Of all the players being rumored to Charleston from British Columbia in March, Alderson seemed to be the one who attracted the most interest from Canadian media.
Unlike the first two Whitecaps to arrive on loan in Charleston, Alderson is actually signed to the club’s MLS roster rather than its PDL team.
Here’s MLSsoccer.com’s description:
“A talented and hardworking central midfielder that captained Canada at the 2011 FIFA U-17 World Cup, Bryce Alderson joined Whitecaps FC’s Major League Soccer roster after signing a ‘Generation adidas’ contract as a Home Grown player on Nov. 17, 2011. Named Canadian U-17 Player of the Year in 2010 and 2011, the native of Kitchener, Ontario, first joined the club’s Residency program on Sept. 7, 2010… Alderson started three of his six (MLS Reserve League) appearances and scored his first MLS Reserve League goal during Whitecaps FC reserves’ 3-1 home defeat to LA Galaxy reserves on June 12. 2011: Alderson made two substitute appearances for Whitecaps FC reserves that season. His MLS Reserve League debut came as a substitute during a 1-0 home defeat to Portland Timbers reserves at Swangard Stadium on Oct. 3. The midfielder again appeared as a substitute in their final match of the Reserve League season, as Whitecaps FC reserves fell 1-0 at Chivas USA reserves on Oct. 18.”
Quick impression? Many of the soccer players I’ve met don’t exactly impress you with their firm handshake, but Alderson does. He looks sturdy, too.
Alderson arrived late last week before the Battery’s 2-0 win over Pittsburgh, and just started training with the team this week. But he said he’s recovered from the knee worries that delayed his arrival and he’s ready to suit up and play if called upon.
Battery President Andrew Bell said it might not be as simple as that (in the world of professional soccer, is anything ever as simple as that?).
“We actually have not announced (Alderson’s loan deal) yet,” Bell said. “But he’s traveling. We’re waiting for all the clearances to be completed. I think he’ll be available, but we’ll have to defer the final decision to Major League Soccer. Once the release is done, hopefully it’s today, we’ll announce it. He’s training with the team this week, and we’re excited to have him here with us.”
On the road
So here’s the basic schedule. The Battery plan on stopping somewhere for lunch and pulling into Harrisburg, Pa., in time for dinner. They’ll chill out tonight, then ride over to the stadium, do a walk-through, and then return to the hotel. After Wednesday night’s game, the team will board their bus and… well, either go back to their Harrisburg hotel or drive to Dayton, Ohio. Nobody was sure of the final schedule this morning. Either way it’s a seven-hour drive to Dayton, and once they get in they’ll have Thursday to recover. On Friday they’ll repeat their game-day ritual: Get up, bus to the stadium for a walk-through, chill out, then play the match. And when that one blows full-time, the team climbs back on the bus for the 10-hour drive home to Charleston.
Almost as soon as they arrive, the team will be back in action — at Saturday morning’s Dragonboat Festival at Brittlebank Park. Most of the players will be rowing, along with several staff members, Bell said. “I’m in it. Coach (Mike Anhaeuser) is going to be in it. Bobby Weisenberger our athletic trainer will be there. We’re defending champions, (and) we’re taking it quite seriously.”
Despite the early Saturday wakeup call, Bell said a Wednesday-Friday away-game schedule can be quite good. And veteran players spoke about how the minor-league bus experience is part of what forges each year’s new team for the season ahead.
“The biggest difference (in an away-week road trip) is we just don’t get to train as much,” said Zach Prince. “But it’s good, too, because we’re all together, and this is where we really get to know everyone, and really kinda build our team, as far as learn everyone’s personality and what everyone likes and what everybody doesn’t like. That’s good for us as well, to get to know each other on these road trips.”
Of course, road trips are more fun for some players than for others.
Being a rookie sucks
— Austin Savage (@YoungSavy) April 30, 2013
While Fisk won’t be making this trip due to his injury and the club is being cautious about what they say publicly about it, the good news is that that’s because they’re leaving any comment to Fisk’s parent club in Vancouver. So while any official word on his status will have to come through the Whitecaps, unofficially, the Battery now know what’s causing his recurring soreness and aren’t expecting him to be out long.
Fisk sat out the Pittsburgh game after winning Man of the Match honors in his first USL PRO start against Antigua, and the Battery sent him for tests. That’s always a little nerve-wracking, but it sounds like this is one time when precaution was rewarded with good news.
The bus manifest this morning means that Jose Cuevas‘ opening-night hamstring injury will cost him a minimum of 4.5 USL PRO matches. Cuevas scored nine goals in preseason and at times looked almost unstoppable. Here’s hoping he’s ready in time for Wilmington on May 11th.
Quinton Griffith injured his hamstring a week ago and sat out much of last week’s training, but was able to go Saturday against Pittsburgh. He said his hamstring feels strong now.
Amadou Sanyang said he feels great and he’s ready to go. Weisenberger said Sanyang was cleared to play against the Riverhounds, but stayed on the bench because the team didn’t need him to play. With as many as nine matches on tap for May, the Battery can use as many fresh player as they can find.
Anyway, I lied yesterday when I said that today would be Harrisburg preview day. Check back tomorrow, and we’ll go through all the particulars to get you ready.
In the meantime, start making plans to catch the livestream on UNation, or better yet, come down to The Market tomorrow night to join your fellow Battery fans at Molly Darcy‘s for the official away-game viewing party.
BREAKING: Michael Azira named to the USL PRO Week Six Team of the Week. Azira scored two goals on his only two shots in the Battery’s 2-0 win over Pittsburgh Saturday at Blackbaud Stadium.