By Corbin Ensminger
Jose Cuevas doesn’t believe in superstitions, but if they help give the team confidence, he’s all for it.
Cuevas is talking about oatmeal cookies. If you haven’t heard, a superstition has risen over the cookies. It started a few weeks ago when King Street Cookies brought several types for the players to sample and give their feedback on.
The Battery drew with Richmond 1-1 in the first game after getting the cookies. The team got another batch before the next match, in which they beat Arizona 2-1. When they traveled to Canada to face the Montreal reserves, staffers from the Battery front office posted a photo of themselves eating cookies. The Battery won 1-0.
The team ate its own oatmeal cookies on the flight to Montreal. The team bought more for the team to eat after Thursday’s practice.
“Maybe the fans will start bringing some to games,” Cuevas said with a laugh.
Magical cookies or not, the Battery is in for another challenge Friday when the Dayton Dutch Lions come to Blackbaud Stadium. Charleston is in ninth place, one spot – and one point – away from eighth. Getting into the top eight is the team’s goal right now, as those teams qualify for the playoffs.
Charleston not changing much
Battery coach Mike Anhaeuser said Friday’s lineup will not vary much from the side that tied 0-0 against Rochester last week. The team has gotten eight points from the last four games, so he does not want to change anything that he doesn’t have to.
However, there will be one major absence Friday. Captain Colin Falvey is still out with an injury, Anhaeuser said. He picked up a knock against Montreal and had to miss the Rochester game. The team is making sure not to rush the defender back before he is fully recovered.
“He trained a little (Wednesday) with the ball and looked good, so we’re shooting for next week,” Anhaeuser said.
The Battery plays two home games next week against Orange County on Wednesday and Rochester on Friday, so the squad will need to rotate at some point after players pick up substantial minutes.
Taylor Mueller has been rotating in-and-out with Falvey recently at the back, so he will help fill in. for the captain. Mueller has played right back occasionally, but center back is his natural position. Charleston will also continue to rely on Shawn Ferguson, Quinton Griffith and John Wilson on defense.
Mueller said the team has had a good week of practice.
“We worked on some technical passing. The team is starting to hook up and get results. Getting the tie up in Rochester kind of felt like a victory on the road,” he said.
Mueller said he was proud of the way the team played defensively in New York. They will have to have another solid game without Falvey against Dayton, a team that likes to attack. On the other side of the ball, Cuevas’ return to the team has seemed to spark Charleston’s offense, as the attacking midfielder has been a key creative player since coming back.
He has one goal, on a penalty kick, but his influence goes far beyond statistics.
“Jose helps a lot with build up and on his free kicks,” Anhaeuser said. “He brings out the best in other players and does a nice job of linking up with them.”
Cuevas said he didn’t come back to the team with the mentality that he was going to fix anything.
“I just want to make a difference, and I think it’s been going well,” he said.
Cuevas was not yet on the team when they met Dayton earlier this season.
Dayton is trying to restore order after losing six straight games. The team named Matthew Weston the new head coach on Thursday morning. He has also coached with FC New York and VSI Tampa Bay.
Sid van Druenen resigned from his head coaching role before the last match, and assistants Catherine Gordon and Jack Hermans filled in for him. Van Druenen did not leave the club, however, as he has stayed on as a technical manager.
Dayton sits in last place with 17 points, but can jump right back into the postseason hunt with a win. And the Lions have had a lot of success on the road this season. Strangely, Dayton is 5-5 away from Ohio and 0-10 at home.
Dayton plays a 4-3-3 formation, and likes to work the ball down the wings. Anhaeuser said Charleston plans to deploy the same strategy that saw them to a 2-0 win over Dayton in May.
“We want to take some risks but not get caught out by the counter,” he said, adding that it is easier to put pressure on the opponents all game long in the cooler weather of Ohio than in Charleston.
Lions forward Aaron Schoenfeld has accounted for 12 goals this season, but was recently called up to the Columbus Crew, Dayton’s MLS partner. Joseph Broekhuizen is still a solid attacking threat for the Lions, and Anhaeuser said the team has to be careful not to get caught out on counterattacks.
Mueller will have a personal interest in Friday’s match as well, as he will face off with a former teammate from his club soccer days. Cameron Vickers grew up playing club soccer in Washington with Mueller. He has faced off against Vickers twice, in the first matchup this season and last year when Vickers was in Arizona.
“It’s a small world for soccer players,” Mueller said.
Dayton has scored 22 goals this season, but has problems on defense. The Lions have given up a league-leading 46 goals this season, six more than the next closest team, Orange County.
The game begins at 7:30 p.m. The Red Cross will be holding a blood drive outside the stadium before the game, and donors will receive a free ticket and a lucky oatmeal raisin cookie.
TOP IMAGE: John Wilson trains at Blackbaud. Ross Almers photo.