Second-year forward Heviel Cordoves scored a brace Friday to lead a squad made-up mostly of young Battery reserves to a 2-0 win over a traveling NAIA All-Star team. But one of the oddest stories in North American soccer still managed to grab a share of his headline.
Lewis’ stature as an attacking midfield prospect would be enough to earn some notice here, but it’s the weird-factor that sends this into the next level of newsworthiness. That’s because after Vancouver drafted him in January, the club learned that the 19-year-old Jamaican had signed with the New York Cosmos of NASL before the MLS draft.
That led to some “wasted draft pick” headlines and much hand-wringing in British Columbia, but the front office still brought Lewis to Vancouver by signing him on loan from the Cosmos. Which means that he comes to Charleston as a player on not one, but two, loans.
Here’s the other thing that makes today’s affiliation loan news confusing. Around mid-day, both the Battery and the Whitecaps formally announced the loans of five Vancouver players to Charleston as part of the two team’s 2014 affiliation agreement. Which made sense, given the fact that there were five Vancouver players on the field or on the sidelines this afternoon, and we’d already confirmed and published their names: Centerback Jackson Farmer, midfielders Michael Kafari and Adam Mena, and forwards Marlon Ramirez and Mamadou Diouf.
Here’s the confusing part: When the formal announcements came out, they included two names that CHSSoccer.net had not been able to confirm before — Lewis and midfielder Aminu Abdallah — but left off two players who were at Blackbaud today — Kafari, who went 90 minutes at defensive midfield, and Mena, who was scheduled to arrive today and showed up on the sidelines for a few minutes in the second half.
I checked with the Battery for a clarification and was was told that the club can’t comment on either Mena or Kafari today, but to expect to know more next week.
So without putting anyone too much on the spot, let me point out something approaching the obvious: Mena and Kafari are third-round picks (Mena in 2013, Kafari in 2014) who have yet to sign their first MLS contracts. The five named players are all either signed to Vancouver’s MLS squad (Abdallah, Lewis and Diouf) or its U-23 squad (Ramirez) or its U-18 squad (Farmer).
But when you set all that aside, here’s the day’s big headline: It looks like Battery Coach Mike Anhaeuser wasn’t too far off last month when he said that Vancouver could send Charleston as many as eight players on loan this year. Because we’ve got seven either in town or flying in right now, and it’s still preseason.
The influx already appears to be affecting the Battery’s roster. Forward Miguel Teos wasn’t with the club at training on Wednesday or for today’s preseason match. That leaves rookies Justin Portillo, Dante Marini and Drew Ruggles and goalkeepers Eric Shannon and Andy Ramos as the only remaining new guys brought in by the club this offseason. Ramos and Shannon are locked in a “pick ’em” contest for the team’s backup goalkeeper spot.
SPEAKING OF PRESEASON…
In his first season with the Battery, Heviel Cordoves blasted his way to seven goals while demonstrating two finishing styles:Power, and More Power. He’d either put the ball somewhere faster than the keeper could get there, or he’d try to put the ball through the keeper.
But on Friday afternoon, Cordoves showed off a new tool from his work box: finesse. It was like watching a fastball pitcher befuddle batters with deadly off-speed stuff.
Charleston came out of the first 45 minutes against Tourbeau Sports’ NAIA All-Star team in a scoreless draw, and was probably lucky to have it. With a preseason road match at the Carolina Railhawks scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, today was a day for young veterans and newcomers. Anhaeuser’s starting lineup featured Taylor Mueller at right back, Drew Ruggles at left back, Shawn Ferguson and Jackson Farmer in central defense, Justin Portillo and Michael Kafari in central midfield, and attackers Dante Marini, Austin Savage, Mamdou Diouf and Maikel Chang, with Marini and Chang on the wings. The unit had the look of a 4-2-4 for much of the half, and the NAIA team repeatedly put pressure on starting goalkeeper Eric Shannon.
After the break, the Battery sent in Zach Prince for Mueller in a defensive switch that moved Ruggles to centerback and shifted Farmer to right. The team came out in a more traditional 4-4-2 look, with forwards Cordoves and Marlon Ramirez replacing Savage and Diouf. Ramos replaced Shannon.
The changes quickly payed dividends, with Prince combining well with left winger Marini, while both Cordoves and Ramirez found room to operate at the top of the formation. In the early minutes of the second half, Prince worked his way up to the midstripe and initiated an attack by playing a smart through-ball ahead to Cordoves. The 6-4 Cuban began his run trailing defender Andy Griffin, a Second Team NAIA All-American.
The 2013 version of Cordoves didn’t out-run many opponents, but the 2014 version has slimmed down significantly. He managed to make up ground, turn the corner on his marker, reach the pass first, shield Griffin off and redirect the path of the ball toward goal.
With Griffin hanging onto his jersey from behind and the defender’s Baker University teammate, goalkeeper Matt Bickley, charging off his line, Cordoves was in tight spot, with no chance to queue up a big right-footed shot. So instead of blasting it, he simply calculated Bickley’s angle, stuck out his left foot, and nudged the ball deftly over the descending keeper’s head. It took a couple of bounces for the ball to reach the empty net.
Later in the match, Cordoves ran down a dangerous ball on the left side of the box, and with all his momentum pushing him toward the end line, he somehow managed to chip back to the right, sending another soft roller over the keeper, past the goal line and into the side netting.
It was a promising showing from a talented former Cuban international forward, and suggested that perhaps his time playing indoors for the Wichita B-52s has helped him expand his game.
GAME NOTES: Forward Austin Savage was back on the high-pressure game Friday, a role that Marlon Ramirez took over when he replaced him at the half. The Honduran speedster twice managed to win back possession for the Battery by pressuring the opposing keeper…
If you squint at him just right, it’s possible to see some Jose “Chiva” Cuevas skill and style in Cuban midfielder Maikel Chang. He seems to lack Cuevas’ burst and determination right now, though…
Dante Marini first strikes you as a creative midfielder who is fast, short and technically adept. But the part of his game that I noticed on Friday is just how strong he is. A low center of gravity is one thing, but he’s also strong enough to hold off defenders…
If you’re wondering whether there’s a player who fits the mold established by recently annointd Seattle Sounder Mike Azira, the closest thing on the roster right now is probably rookie Justin Portillo out of Coastal Carolina. It’s not clear whether he’ll be able to survive the Vancouver numbers crunch, but he’s a balanced and calm central midfielder….
Whitecaps rookie Michael Kafari is a powerfully built ball-winner in central midfield. Though he’s been described as bringing an offensive mindset to a defensive role, I didn’t see that on Friday. He filled the No. 6 role against the All-Stars, and seemed to get more comfortable with his touches and passing as the day wore on… The Battery’s best attacking sequences in the first half came when right back Taylor Mueller moved into an overlapping position.
In his first appearance with the Battery, Mamadou Diouf, the former University of Connecticut star, looked to be a gliding-style forward who worked centrally but preferred to face goal instead of post up. On one occasion he managed to pick his way through traffic with nothing but skill, and he came within inches of reaching a cross that came into too high across the face of goal. He didn’t make many runs, and often seemed to be working underneath Savage.
TOP IMAGE: Goalkeeper Matt Bickly flinches as Heviel Cordoves flicks the first of his two Friday goals toward the net. Dan Conover photos.