DANIEL ISLAND — The Battery wrapped up a relatively relaxed training session Tuesday morning as Coach Mike Anhaeuser applied a cautious approach to preparing his small squad for its next big Carolina Challenge Cup match.
The home side will host a veteran Chicago Fire team Wednesday night at 7:15.
Charleston opened its 2013 Cup account Saturday with a 3-2 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps. The night began under a withering assault by Vancouver, and Charleston was fortunate to be just three goals down in the 50th minute. The Battery scrapped back into contention late, riding strong efforts by Quinton Griffith, Nicki Paterson and Dane Kelly. Chicago is coming off a winning debut in this year’s Cup after downing Houston 3-2 in a game memorable for a slick field and some shaky performances.
For Anhaeuser, who had only 19 players on the practice field Tuesday, managing the health of his team at this point in training camp trumps tactical concerns. ” I’ve got to be cautious of those guys who have played and maybe have little injuries,” he said. “Mark Wiltse’s still out, but Colin Falvey, I think… well, you know, we’ve got to make a decision. I’ve got to talk to the trainer now. We might try to give him 45 minutes, but I’ve got to be cautious because I don’t want to lose a player. You know, even John Wilson went 60 minutes (on Saturday), so if he plays it might be 45 minutes.”
Falvey, Charleston’s 27-year-old captain, tweaked his hamstring during the first week of camp and spent Saturday on the sidelines (during Friday’s media lunch, he joked that picking up a hamstring injury in camp “is just a veteran move at this point”). On Tuesday he said he’s feeling much better, but conceded that his status for Wednesday night probably rests with the training staff.
ENTER CORDOVEZ? One of the other players hobbled by an early camp injury is also one of the Battery’s most intriguing trialists: Evier Cordovez, a powerfully built 23-year-old forward from Havana, Cuba. Cordovez first made headlines in the U.S. when he and three other members of the Cuban national team slipped away from their handlers during a World Cup Qualifier last October in Toronto. Three of those four — Cordovez, 20-year-old goalkeeper Odisnel Cooper and 21-year-old midfielder Maikel Chang — are now in camp with the Battery.
In an interview last week, Anhaeuser said that he had particular concerns about his Cuban players’ fitness, since they’ve been living in tough conditions since seeking asylum in the United States and haven’t had routine access to the best training resources. Both Cordovez and Chang picked up injuries related to their fitness during the first week, but the 6-2, 195-pound Cordovez has been healthy enough in practice to display a booming shot from distance.
“He actually can finish with both feet,” Anhaeuser said. “His fitness is just the big concern, and you’ve just got to be careful because when you go into those games, they’re kicking you, you’re playing at full intensity, and one wrong move and you’re out again for two or three weeks.”
Anhaeuser said Cordovez will be available Wednesday night and might make a short appearance.
Charleston’s continuing Cuban connection is the legacy of the club’s successful history of handling Cuban defectors, particularly Seattle Sounders midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, Anhaeuser said. “I got the phone call (on these players) because they know that we had Osvaldo, and we’ve had (Yeniel Bermudez), and we’ve had Lester More. So they’re comfortable and they know that we’ll take care of them.”
An infusion of international-quality Cuban talent could be a huge boost to Charleston’s 2013 chances, but FIFA rules and domestic regulations make the situation tricky. Stay tuned…
TIGHTENING UP: In his Saturday post-game, Anhaeuser said the mistakes in the opening minutes represented lessons the team could learn. Just don’t expect them to be learned by Wednesday.
“We’ve only had one practice,” the coach said. “We had a gym session (on Monday). We worked on closing gaps, trying to maybe tighten things up a little bit. There’s not really enough time right now. I’m trying to see what players do by themselves. But we did make the adjustment in the second half. That was good. I thought we did a better job. We did put a couple guys in different positions, and I’ll try a couple of new guys, so that’s one thing I’ll look at. But … we sat and talked about closing the space, giving them the outside instead of giving them big holes in the middle.
“We’re looking to the future. You’ll see. I gotta try a few guys, even guys we have, in positions to try to see what I might do come the season if I’m in these same situations.”
CLOSING ON KELLY: One of the big additions to the Battery lineup on Saturday was Jamaican forward Dane Kelly, who scored the team’s final goal on a wicked shot from the left. Kelly, who played in Charleston last season on a loan from Jamaican club Tivoli Gardens, arrived in town on Thursday. His status for 2013 isn’t resolved yet, but it’s getting clearer.
“I mean, we’ve been in contact with him, but obviously he’s playing down there, so we have to make sure it fits with (Tivoli’s) schedule,” said Anhaeuser, who is also the team’s general manager. “Hopefully he just stays with us through the (tournament). If he has to go back to Jamaica for a little bit to play with Tivoli, then we’ll sort it out. But we’ve got him through the tournament. He’ll be here and then we’ll focus on seeing what we can do with their club.”