We’re on the downslope of the week and headed toward the first weekend of spring, notable for its overstuffed calendar of significant local, national and international soccer events. Of course it’s also the best weekend of the year for college basketball, which means that most Americans aren’t exactly sitting around the office today pondering this: “I wonder whether the Montreal Impact will win their fourth in a row this weekend?”
But we’ve got more important things to talk about. Like MLS fantasy soccer, the USMNT hex match against Costa Rica, some nifty links to USL PRO, some local soccer news and that rematch of the Battery-Hammerhead 2012 USL PRO Championship coming up at Blackbaud on Saturday.
KHAOS AT KAMP KLINSMANN: So you’ve probably heard enough about this over the past two days, but if you’ve been busy with — Oh, I dunno, maybe a JOB — The Sporting News published an article this week that cited anonymous criticism and comment from “22 individuals with ties to the U.S. national team or its members—including 11 current players based in MLS or abroad.” Much of it was less than pleasant, ratcheting up the already heightened anxiety of U.S. fans headed into Friday’s World-Cup-Qualifying match against Costa Rica.
The push-back began yesterday, and this morning’s headlines were full of dueling player sentiments, from Carlos Bocanegra’s Facebook page to Michael Bradley’s statement about the “shameful” comments by his teammates and Hercules Gomez’s belief that all of this will be good for the team in the long run (money quote: “It’s almost cute”). Since every soccer pundit in los Estados Unidos seems to have offered an opinion. I’ll keep mine simple: If the USMNT recovers from its uninspired performance against Honduras and wins on Friday, much of this will go away. If it should happen to beat Mexico on the 26th, the whole thing will just be an ironic footnote. But if the USNMNT comes out of March with zero points in the Hex, the US Soccer Panic Meter will go to 11. Ergo hoc, ergo propter hoc.
Anyway, here’s the really important thing: Madra Rua will be televising the Costa Rica match. Cheers.
USL PRO STUFF: It may be No. 3 in the North American pyramid but its No. 1 in our local hearts, and USL PRO is getting a bit more attention this week as we move closer to 2013’s opening match on Saturday (expansion Phoenix FC at the LA Blues). But you know, USL PRO First Kick is more of a rolling start than a dramatic celebration. Charleston and Wilmington play the same night, but ours is an exhibition match, and the Battery don’t play their first regular season game until April 13, and don’t host their home opener for another month.
Here’s the Union Dues’ staff picks for the 2013 season. Notice how Charleston winds up second in two of the three predictions? Too high? Too low? About right?
Soccer America has this rundown of significant moves in USL PRO this offseason, and it’s notable for one thing: There’s no mention of anyone joining the Battery. That’s because most of our 2012 stars came back (I count 12 on the roster right now, not including Ryan Richter who continues to hang around in Toronto), and the big signings here are international talents with zero celebrity footprint in US soccer so far. I suspect that will change in April.
It’s also worth noting that the addition of former Battery forward Tony Donatelli down at expansion VSI Tampa is considered one of the big signings this offseason.
Just how unequal is USL PRO? The Battery had about a week of training camp before the start of the Carolina Challenge Cup, and Orlando City got going early, too. But here’s Pittsburgh, kind of a dark-horse preseason buzz team, and they just started their camp a week ago.
Nicholas Murray of USL staff published the league’s advancer on the 2013 Charleston Battery yesterday, and it’s told through the eyes of leading-scorer Nicki Paterson. A taste:
“Coach [Mike Anhaeuser] has picked up a few guys who will definitely fill the void of those guys leaving,” Paterson said, “and then guys like Jose Cuevas, going into his second year, John Wilson and Colin Falvey have been at the club for several years, I’m now in my third year here, Zach Prince is in his third year, there’s a lot of guys who aren’t rookies anymore.”
Cuevas in particular could be set for an even more successful campaign than 2012, which saw him claim Rookie of the Year honors. Paterson believes Cuevas has matured this offseason, now having a better understanding of what it takes to reach the next level thanks to a spell with the Seattle Sounders FC this preseason.
“The one thing anyone will know about Jose when you see him play is the boy’s got talent,” Paterson said. “He’s quicker than a lot of people give him credit for, his feet are really good, a lot of quality, but the most important thing for Jose is that he knows where the goal is, and whether it be a practice game in training, whether it be a league game, or whatever, we know that if he gets a chance, more often than not he’s going to score.
“He’s had a little taste of what training’s like in MLS with Seattle for a week, he knows the work those guys put in, and then the little things like his diet and the way he lives off the field, he’s only going to get better and better and better. If he keeps improving there, his output on the field is only going to get better, so I’m expecting the same, if not more from him this year.”
NATIONAL PLAYER IDENTIFICATION CAMP COMING TO CHARLESTON APRIL: US Club Soccer, which is headquartered in Charleston, usually puts on four youth player identification camps a year, but it’s never scheduled one here. That changes next month when Daniel Island/Patriots Point will be hosting the next one from April 11-14.
The id2 National Identification & Development Program camp is an Olympic development program, and while it’s open to all players, regardless of U.S. Soccer affiliation, the camp is invitation-only. The targeted birth years for this cycle are boys born in 1999 and 2000, and girls born in 1998-99.
“One of the unique things about the id2 program is that it comes at essentially no cost to the players, whereas some of the other identification programs, it’s kind of a pay-to-play, which excludes a whole bunch of people that can’t afford it,” said Greg Hutton, the organization’s director of projects and communications. “So our mentality is you’ve just got to get to the camp, we take care of your gear, everything else, put you up, feed you. So it’s pretty awesome.”
It’s also a chance to get a peek at some of the players we’ll be seeing at the national level in the next decade or so. I’ll be covering it. More on this as we get closer.
PHOTOS FROM THE BATTERY-COUGARS DRAW ON TUESDAY: Kim Morgan Gregory has new galleries up. Go take a look.
MEANWHILE, IN THE REGIMENT MLS FANTASY LEAGUE: For the second week in a row, the weekly competition seems to have ended in a tie, with Luke Largin and Scott Johnstone both currently credited with 61. I believe one of those totals was 62 earlier in the week, but as veterans of this game know, MLS stats tend to get adjusted in unexplained, annoying ways. If you don’t like your score, wait five minutes. It will change.
That scoring pulled Luke into 3rd place and put Scott in fifth. When the dust settled, my 58 points left me in sole-possession of first place, with Melissa Grooms demoted to second because of that Red Card assessed to Joaquin Oscar of Chivas USA. Week four of the MLS season (and Week 3 of the Regiment league) is a tough one, with three teams on bye and lost of the best players absent for international duty.
HOSTING THE HAMMERHEADS: Speaking of heated competitions, the Battery’s first paid-attendance match since the Carolina Challenge Cup takes place Saturday, and it’s got plenty of storylines for an exhibition game. I’m working with the fine folks at the Port City Firm to get a fans’ perspective on the 2013 Wilmington Hammerheads, and we’ll try to have good advancer here tomorrow.
Until then, don’t forget to stretch…