As USL Communications Coordinator Nicholas Murray and Regiment President Mikey Buytas pointed out yesterday, last night’s CONCACAF Champions League match in Monterrey looked a bit like a Charleston Battery alumni game — at least on the Seattle side of the pitch. The Sounders lost 0-1 to Los Tigres in a first-leg match that could have been much worse for the visitors if not for heroic play by keeper Michael Gspurning and former Battery stalwart Osvaldo Alonso.
Also representing Seattle and Charleston last night: Midfielder Alex Caskey went 81 minutes, and Lamar Neagle replaced Sounders Designated Player Mario Rosales in the 69. Neagle, who returned to Seattle this offseason after being traded to Montreal along with Mike Fucito and three magic beans for the rights to forward Eddie Johnson in 2012, managed to get a flick-on towards the Tigres’ frame in the 82nd minute. But it was not to be.
As Scott Johnstone commented on Facebook, “The Sounders should be our USL affiliate.” Which is actually kind of an interesting thought.
I spoke with both Battery President Andrew Bell and general manager/coach Mike Anhaeuser last month about the USL/MLS cooperation agreement, with particular emphasis on how it might affect the Battery’s plans moving forward. Both were mostly “getting to know you” interviews, in which I was gathering materials for stories and previews that require more reporting, but I thought both said interesting things about the deal. Particularly Bell. Here’s an excerpt from my transcript from our Feb. 8th sit-down:
(Me: Why so many deals with the Sounders?)
AB: We’ve known them because they used to be in the league, so for many years they were a rival of ours. Of course you get to know the people that you’re competing against well. Our coach has a good relationship with the assistant coach there, Brian Schmetzer, I know the owner, Adrian Hanauer, from our days in USL together, and it’s been fortunate that it’s worked out. It was serendipitous because in 2008 we had Osvaldo Alonso, (and) 2008 was Seattle’s last year in USL One. Of course he ended up playing against them several times, they liked him, and they had the ability to sign players from USL at that time, and they had some protection (from MLS) for players in our league. So they took Osvaldo, it worked, and we’ve been … able to send a couple of other players to them, and vice versa.
(Me: What about the MLS agreement? Would the Battery be interested in moving up from Reserve play to a loan/formal affiliation deal?)
AB: It’s something we’d like to do. We have to make sure it’s the right situation. I can tell you we’ve talked to a couple of MLS teams. It’s not going to happen for this year of course, but it’s something we’d like to see in 2014 or 2015, whenever it happens, and I think it will, and I think you’ll see other teams, more than just the four we have this year. It’s something that we believe in strongly. We think we should be a formal development club for Major League Soccer.
Obviously if you’re an hour and a half away it makes it very easy, but when you’re talking about season-long loans, it really doesn’t matter. If you’re getting all these players for a year, there’s really no increasing cost if they weren’t able to drive backwards and forwards.
So would an affiliate deal with Seattle make sense? As a fan of the Battery and the Portland Timbers I secretly hope it doesn’t. But looking at things pragmatically, it’s not as if there’s a regional MLS team we can call our own, and Seattle has been an MLS playoff team ever since its expansion season. It’s a well-run, quality franchise, and that history of trust and cooperation with the Battery front office has to count for something. I really wondered about the distance factor, but as Bell mentioned, the season-long loan arrangement makes geography less significant. Although I won’t claim to understand the particulars of that clause.
Oh, and don’t forget that — as Bell says — the Seattle-Charleston pipeline runs both ways. Amadou Samyang spent 2011 with the Sounders before signing here on the eve of the 2012 season opener.
CHANTS: The Battery take on the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers tonight, and I’m particularly interested to see this squad because it’s right on the edge of what I consider to be the Lowcountry coverage area. Should I cover them or not? It’s a successful program, which certainly is a vote in the team’s favor, but the drive time and cost associated with picking them up argues against.
Anyway, the Chanticleers are coming off a fine season. We’ll see how they do against a Battery team that’s in excellent form right now — despite missing the services of stars Nicki Paterson (groin injury) and Ryan Richter (taking his shot with Toronto).
If there’s any question you’d like me to ask tonight after the match, send me an email. Or leave me a comment. Please.
SPEAKING OF RICHTER: Here’s a nice overview of the competitive situation he faces at at Toronto F.C. And this post from D.C. United’s blog on Sportsblog Nation gives a better picture of how close he came to making the Black and Red roster.
As an MLS fan, I think there’s a generic sense that players from USL PRO and NASL who make it to an MLS camp but don’t immediately win a top-level roster must be insignificant talents. I don’t share that sense anymore — particularly not after this year’s Carolina Challenge Cup — but I think that general sense will probably continue to undervalue our players until the North American pyramid starts functioning better. The distance between a top USL PRO player and an average MLS starter is really not all that great — and much of it can be covered between the ears.
COLLEGES, ETC: Speaking of coverage decisions, CHSSoccer.Net has focused so far on the Battery because, well, it’s the team that soccer fans in the Lowcountry share. But the idea for the site is to cover local soccer at all levels, as well as the leagues that matter to people who live here. I began reaching out to the men’s and women’s soccer programs in the area this week, and I hope to begin adding some of that coverage here soon.
I’m not decided yet on what would make for “good” coverage of local college soccer, so I’m wide open to suggestions.
And of course, once I’ve got that piece in motion, I’ll be moving on to other levels of soccer here. Any help with contacts, introductions and background briefings for the academy, select, high school and elite leagues in the area would be greatly appreciated.
BATTERY V. COFC: The game was a week ago, but I got around to emailing Kim Morgan Gregory yesterday and got her link to her gallery from the Battery’s 5-0 win over the Cougars. She’s got some nice player shots in there, particularly of John Wilson and Dane Kelly, I thought.
BEST OF LUCK… to Corbin Ensminger, an enterprising young sportswriter who graduated from the University of South Carolina into a tough job market and decided to start writing about soccer on his own by launching the Southern Soccer Blog. Corbin and I have been linking back and forth to each other’s work for a few weeks now, and I looked forward to promoting more of his stories, but yesterday he wrote to say that he’s taken a full-time sportswriting job for the newspaper in Laurinburg, N.C. He’s around for the next couple of weeks, so if you see him, wish him well.
HELP A BROTHER OUT: Finally, thanks for reading. I can see the traffic inching up, day after day. Each unique visitor and page load is great news, and when you come back a second time, that’s really the statistic that encourages me most. A bootstrap site like this must grow to survive, and it has to earn its way with each individual reader. I do this in my spare time between other jobs and my repair business (which is sloooow this time of year), with no marketing and advertising budget yet, so every time I get a new reader, it’s like Christmas.
If you like what I’m doing and where this site is heading, the best way to get more of it right now is to tell your friends. In all seriousness, there’s nothing better than that kind of growth, because it’s based on something stronger than buying attention. So please, if you don’t already, follow this site on Twitter and like it on Facebook. Tell me what’s on your mind. Tell me what you’d like to see. I’m not just being “nice” when I say I want to hear from you — I’m doing this on my own right now, so it’s not like I walk into a newsroom every morning where I get peppered with feedback (Dude, what the hell are you doing?) and suggestions (You should try writing about a real American sport).
I’m trying to build a site that I’d like to read. But it can’t be just about me.