(Thursday editor’s note: Added a gallery of photos by Janet Edens Conover. Ross Almers’ gallery is here. – dc)
When is a surprise not a surprise?
When everything adds up. Like when Vancouver decided to recall forward Omar Salgado from his loan the Charleston Battery.
On Tuesday — the same day he was named to the USL PRO Team of the Week for his five-point performance over the weekend — Salgado got the news that he would be heading north to rejoin the Mothership for the first leg of the Whitecaps’ Canadian Championship series with Toronto F.C.
Salgado broke Charleston’s two-match scoring drought in the first half at Harrisburg Friday, opening the floodgates for the team’s 6-0 aggregate scoring over the weekend. He was so good that the only man capable of beating him out for the league’s Player of the Week honor was teammate Odisnel Cooper, whose back-to-back shutouts earned him the title.
With Salgado creating mismatches every time he touched the ball, Whitecaps Coach Carl Robinson had to be pleased.
He also had to be relieved. Vancouver has three matches to play in the next seven days — at Toronto in the Amway Canadian Championship tournament tonight, at Columbus on Saturday, and at home against Toronto next Wednesday — and the team is actually short on strikers for the first time in recent memory. The club’s top two forwards in terms of minutes and production — Darren Mattocks and Designated Player Kenny Miller — are out of this week’s picture.
Mattocks has a bad hamstring. Miller is simply gone — via a mutual agreement to terminate the remainder of his contract.
Glance at the remaining Vancouver bench and it’s pretty obvious that Salgado must look like an attractive option.
“So you don’t need to be a rocket scientist,” Battery Coach Mike Anhaeuser said after Wednesday’s training session. “They brought Omar up to cover for this Canadian Championship. And it looks like they’re playing some young guys, so they want to have him on the bench or possibly to play for them. So we’ll just have to wait and see on Thursday. If they keep somebody due to injury, they will talk to us then.”
Salgado got the call Tuesday morning and said he was on a plane to Toronto by 2:30. His sudden departure made him the third loaned player recalled to Vancouver this season. Forward Marlon Ramirez, who hasn’t been getting game minutes here, and defender Jackson Farmer, who has, got the call late last week. Farmer is also expected to figure in this week’s first-team 18, and — like Salgado — his call-up was related to injuries. Whitecaps defenders Sam Adekugbe and Ethen Sampson are both out with knee issues.
Of course, what Battery fans want to know is whether these recalls are short-term or permanent. But it’s entirely possible — if not likely — that not even Robinson knows for sure. Salgado and Jackson have been getting in a good groove here in Charleston, but if they play well in Canada and the Whitecaps need help at their position…
“They’ve got to adjust to what happens to their players, and sometimes that’s the difficulty from our end down here,” Anhaeuser. “We’ve got to just go about our business. It’s almost like having an injury… Because it doesn’t matter. (Vancouver) could get three guys injured on the weekend and I’ve got to replace them Saturday because they’re not going to be back in the game. Now, if they come back, they’re available. And if they don’t, it’s like they’re injured.”
The speculation out of Canada is that the Whitecaps wanted Miller’s Designated Player slot because they have an interest in some unnamed international striker. But a wicked performance by Salgado this week could always convince the Vancouver brass to save their money for something else…
SPEAKING OF SALGADO: The big 20-year-old out of El Paso, Texas, didn’t mention his call-up in today’s USL PRO Weekly. But he did say nice things about the Battery (“It’s a top-class organization”) and Charleston (“The city is awesome”), and sounded optimistic about the season going forward. You can listen to the interview here.
COOPER IS THE BATTERY’S FIRST POTW: There was no doubt Odisnel Cooper’s stellar weekend was going to earn him a second appearance on the league’s Team of the Week. Back-to-back clean sheets on the road will do that for a keeper. Getting the league’s top weekly honor was just gravy.
League honors are getting to be routine for Cooper. In the six weeks when he’s been eligible for the award, Cooper has been either on the team or listed as an Honorable Mention four times
Four other Battery players — John Wilson, Mamadou Diouf, Amadou Sanyang, and Jarad van Schaik — have appeared on the TotW roster this season, with van Schaik getting the nod twice. Diouf, Salgado, Shawn Ferguson, Adam Mena, Zach Prince, Dane Kelly and Andre Lewis have all received one Honorable Mention. Cooper and his former Cuban international teammate Heviel Cordoves have received two.
But if there’s an injustice in this week’s selections, it’s that the league left out the three Battery defenders who played every minute of those two shutouts: Colin Falvey, Shawn Ferguson and Quinton Griffith.
HOT WEATHER, HOT TRAINING
The Battery had expected their overnight bus from Dayton to pull into Charleston around 8:30 in the morning. They were delayed until almost noon. So Monday was a travel day, and Tuesday was the team’s day off.
But there was no “easing into” the work week on Wednesday. Assistant Coach Troy Lesesne put the team through an intense session on the back field at Blackbaud Stadium, and the formal practice wrapped up with a high-energy finishing drill that featured absolute screamers by Griffith and Cordoves, among others.
The only man on the sidelines was forward Dane Kelly, who picked up a bruise on his knee at Harrisburg. He could be available for Saturday’s match against Wilmington.
Rookie midfielder Michael Kafari, who is looking for his first regular-season Battery appearance after rehabbing a knee issue during preseason, ran hard throughout the session. He looked strong throughout, and when others wilted, he showed no signs of fatigue.
More than half a dozen players stayed on the field after practice to get in some extra work, and the team was scheduled for an afternoon yoga session, too.
“The guys really enjoy it and it’s really good for them,” said Anhaeuser, who believes it helps the team get a good stretch after a bus trip and four games in eight days. “It gets them to focus on concentration and it really makes you think about things other than how long the bus ride was on Monday.”
As for the rest of the week, Anhaeuser plans to keep things intense — because the next match is against the Wilmington Hammerheads.
“Wilmington is always a battle, so I’ve got to make sure these guys train at a proper level, because if they slack off they’re going to come to the game and those guys are going to come in here to try to kick us, they’re going to try to hit long balls.”
WHAT WINNING DOES
Charleston went six games without a win to open the season, but after last weekend they’re on a two-game winning streak and back near the top of the league table. What, if anything, does that change?
“It just gives us a little more confidence, doesn’t it?” said team captain Colin Falvey. “Not much changed for us because I thought – and anyone who has watched our performance I think would agree – that the results probably haven’t matched performance. I thought we were quite good in a lot of the games. We just didn’t manage to get over the line and get all three points.
“We needed to keep going and do what the coaching staff (said), believe in our game plan, our structure and system. We just had to make sure everyone believed in that and was buying into that, and goals would come. That was the only thing. We were just looking for a few goals. They obviously came over the weekend, and long may it continue.”
Since his arrival in the 2013 preseason, van Schaik has been No. 19 on your Battery program. But a couple of weeks ago, the midfielder from Oregon showed up wearing the No. 14 jersey instead.
Van Schaik said there’s no special story behind the swap. Fourteen’s just always been his favorite number, and he’ll be wearing it for the rest of his tenure in Charleston.
“Last year I was never really presented the option of choosing and I’m not really one to make a big fuss about what number I am going to wear,” he said Wednesday. “But this year I had the opportunity.”
He’s certainly earned it.
TOP IMAGE: Colin Falvey and Zach Prince at practice on Wednesday. JANET EDENS CONOVER photo.