So, quick reset. Last night was the Season Ticketholders Meet-and-Greet with the Battery at the Three Lions Pub, and tomorrow the team travels to Cary, N.C., to take on the Carolina Railhawks of NASL in a preseason friendly (the match was rescheduled from Friday earlier this week).
The club made news last night in some small ways — mostly in terms of signings — but Tuesday was mostly devoted to giving the club’s most loyal fans a chance to connect to the front office, coaches and players. I can’t compare the vibe to previous events (this is our first season as season ticketholders for anything), but the fans seemed to enjoy themselves, the mood seemed legitimately upbeat, and the players generally seemed comfortable chatting up the paying customers.
THE “IT’S OFFICIAL” DEPARTMENT: General manager and coach Mike Anhaeuser made the big news of the night, confirming the signings of five players. Four of those we’d already reported here: the Battery’s “tres Cubanos”: goalkeeper Odisnel Cooper, power-striker Eiver Cordovez, and flashy midfielder Maikel Chang, plus Antiguan international Quinton Griffith, who has split time at outside midfield and fullback this preseason.
The signing we hadn’t heard yet was Jarad van Schaik, a former youth player for the Portland Timbers who spent last year playing for the NASL’s Puerto Rico Islanders. Van Schaik is strong midfielder who has played outside and inside for the club in the past month.
Still on trial: Former college players Austin Savage (forward from Clemson), Sean Ferguson (center back from CofC) and Ralph Lundy III (CofC midfielder), plus Gibson Bardsley, a midfielder who spent last season with the Dayton Dutch Lions and has scored three goals in preseason duty for the Battery during 2013.
Previously signed and present: The familiar faces are captain Colin Falvey, Michael Azira, Amadou Sanyang, Cody Ellison (Anhaeuser called him “our big cowboy”), Taylor Mueller, Nicki Paterson, Jose Cuevas, Zach Prince, Mark Wiltse, Dane Kelly, Kevin Klasila and John Wilson.
Mystery men: Signed midfielder Ryan Richter made a brief appearance in Charleston (logging two assists in the win over College of Charleston) between narrowly missing the cut for D.C. United’s roster and being called in to try out for Toronto F.C. on March 5. That was supposed to be a “four-day trial,” but there’s no word from the Battery or from Toronto yet on Richter’s status. Another player who has been previously listed on the team’s signed roster was J.C. Mack, who has been trialing in Tampa Bay with the NASL Rowdies during camp. But here’s word from the Rowdies yesterday that Mack has been released, and he’s no longer listed on the Battery’s website. And no, I have no idea what that means.
So if you’re counting, that’s 16 players who are signed and present, plus four trialists, plus Richter and possibly Mack, for an outside total of 22 players in discussion. The club has a roster limit of 26, and can use up to five additional players from its academy team in USL PRO play. On the flip side, once a player signs, his contract is guaranteed, and it’s common for clubs at this level to carry multiple vacancies below the roster cap as a cost-savings measure. So while the core of the roster is coming into focus, there are still plenty of decisions waiting on Anhaeuser’s desk.
THE “YES, THEY SAID IT” DEPARTMENT: My favorite line of the night came early, as club President Andrew Bell welcomed the crowd to the Three Lions and celebrated the team’s 2012 USL PRO championship. Bell followed that up with this quip:
“I would like to say, despite some rumors to the contrary, there is a trophy in the cabinet — despite the best efforts of some of our employees.”
Just in case this doesn’t sound familiar, there’s a Charleston Battery legend about the provenance of that cup that involves a post-championship team pub crawl, some adventures at Molly Darcy’s and beer. But I’m not usually in the business of reporting unconfirmed rumors. If you want to hear those, you’ll have to ask me in person.
Speaking of rumors: OK, so I tend to make an exception to that rumor policy when the rumors are announced in public by the club president. Here’s Bell, again, from his introductory remarks:
“You didn’t hear it from me, but, Aug. 17 it’s quite possible that we’ll be hosting U.S.A. versus Canada in an international rugby match. But you didn’t hear it from me. It’s a rumor.”
I also liked this comment from Bell, who was describing the effect of the MLS/USL agreement that the leagues signed in January.
“We’re a club that develops players, as you know. Players on this squad will play in Major League Soccer. We think, we the right resources, with an MLS club backing us, we can help more of them make that jump. We don’t have an official affiliation yet, but we are working actively towards it, so stay tuned. You will be the first to hear about that. Trust me.”
So we’re definitely moving from “whether” there will be an MLS partner for the Battery to questions of “Who” and “When?”
Answers, please, on a post card (or in comments, if you’d rather)…
THE “BOY, WAS I WRONG” DEPARTMENT: It’s a lot more fun to talk about the times when I’m right, but I’ve certainly got more experience being wrong. And the big lesson, one that I re-learn to varying degrees each year, is that One Should Never Pay Too Much Attention to Pre-Season. Case in point: The Chicago Fire.
The Fire went 2-0-1 en route to winning the 2013 Carolina Challenge Cup and looked like a steady, well-rounded veteran MLS squad while doing it. This prompted me to say some nice things about them and their chances in the East this year. And here they are today, 0-2 to start the regular season and plunging.
Lest I make the same mistake twice in a row, I’ll remember another lesson: Don’t Draw Large Inferences From Small Sample Sizes. Yes, the Fire are bad right now, but they’re only two matches into the season, and if memory serves they started slow and then just sorta snuck up on the rest of the table in 2012, too.
MLS FANTASY DEPARTMENT: In another early check on some predictions I made last month, what about the players I picked up in MLS Fantasy Soccer Manager last month after the CCC?
Kekuta Manneh for Vancouver has to be a value as a $5.5 forward. Goalkeeper Sean Johnson ($5) of the Fire may not get many saves, but he’s going to earn some clean-sheet bonus points with that veteran defense in front of him (Fire defender Austin Berry is a value at $6, too). And I already had Will Bruin ($9) of Houston on my roster. I’m not too worried about Houston’s play in the tournament, and Bruin showed up OK when he was on the pitch here.
Results? So far, a mixed bag. Kekuta Manneh started the season opener for Vancouver but sat down at the break and didn’t play in Week 2. He’s still a bargain as a $5.5 forward who might actually play, but he’s purely depth after two weeks. Sean Johnson has been nothing special (currently tied for 11th among goalkeepers), but he’s no liability as my backup. Austin Berry is averaging 5 points per game, which is good production for the price. And Will Bruin is just… incomplete. He did effectively nothing in the first week, and then the team had a bye in Week 2. Result? His price dropped from $9 to $8.8.
Recommendation: Buy Bruin.
Meanwhile, over in the Regiment’s MLS Fantasy Soccer Manager league, Melissa Grooms and I wound up sharing the first-week honors with 51 points (the league began in MLS Week 2). We’ve got 12 members, but it’s available to anyone who’d like to be in a local league. If you’re interested, get the code from Mikey Buytas.
DEPARTMENT OF GEEKERY: Major League Soccer’s fantasy ga,e was my gateway drug to soccer geekery last season, and it eventually led me to pick up an obsession with the online Soccer Manager game last June. If you’re playing, look me up as “xarker” and send me a message. If you’re not, and you’ve got a little spare time you’d like to sacrifice to the unholy pleasures of the capricious Soccer Manager Gods, sign up. Your first three teams are free.
While I do enjoy the game, it’s got serious flaws (the scope of which we won’t delve into here). But here’s the biggie: The ratings community is seriously behind on North American soccer in general, and the USL PRO franchises are so poorly monitored and updated that they’re basically a joke. Consider the “roster” for the Charleston Battery on Soccerwiki: Only five players listed, and only three of them (John Wilson, Amadou Sanyang and Mike Azira) are actually still associated with the team. I may try to update the Wiki once the 2013 roster is set, but the community managers are rather famously not interested in contributions from “outsiders.”
Anyway, despite those flaws, I’ve created a couple of North American promotion/relegation games in Soccer Manager, and they’re some of the only Game Worlds that feature USL PRO and NASL franchises. The Charleston Battery is available to manage in the North American Pyramid League (three 18-team divisions made up of Liga MX, MLS, NASL and USL PRO teams, League I.D. No. 159393). I took Charleston in the new U.S. & Canada Pro/Rel league (MLS, USL PRO and NASL in two 18-team divisions, League I.D. No. 173679), but most of the other lower-tier franchises are available.
If you’re interested, please consider yourself invited to join. If you’re in the game and would like me to send you a more formal invite, let me know.
Top photo: Evier Cordovez hugs Jose Cuevas as Odisnel Cooper and Maikel Chang look on during the Battery’s 2013 meet-and-greet event for season ticketholders. Coach Mike Anhaeuser formally announced the signings of Cuban defectors Cordovez, Cooper and Chang Tuesday and said that their English “is getting better every day.” Cuevas has acted as their interpreter during the Battery’s preseason.
Photos: Janet Edens Conover