Notes from Tuesday’s training, plus a photo gallery…
HEALTH: Three players sat out training on Tuesday: Taylor Mueller, who was sporting a serious shiner around his left eye from a head-to-head collision in the final minutes of Saturday’s match; Maikel Chang, whose hamstring tightened up during Monday’s session, and Michael Kafari, who continues to have issues with an old knee injury.
The Battery is taking concussion precautions with Mueller, and while he’s already been cleared for non-contact exercise and could be available for duty against Richmond on Saturday, the team won’t rush him back. Mueller would have been in line to replace the suspended Quinton Griffin at right back this week if it weren’t for the injury.
Chang made his first pro start on Saturday after missing almost the entire 2013 season with hamstring problems. So his “tightness” is something the team will monitor carefully.
On the bright side, forwards Dane Kelly (hamstring) and Marlon Ramirez (ankle) both played in Tuesday’s extended controlled scrimmage. Kelly ran sprints after practice, while Ramirez and fellow Vancouver Whitecap Omar Salgado stayed late to do extra work with Assistant Coach Troy Lesesne.
UNSIGNED: The Battery’s two unsigned players — forward Austin Savage and defender Drew Ruggles — both participated in Tuesday’s practice. There’s been no change in their status.
The double-whammy of losing Griffin and Mueller has stretched the Battery’s depth along the back line, and Ruggles could offer the team a viable fill-in start at center back on Saturday. That would require signing him to a contract, however, and a decision on that probably won’t be made until Thursday. If Ruggles isn’t available to the Battery this weekend, it’s likely that teen-age defender Jackson Farmer would get his first professional start, most likely at right back.
AVAILABILITY: One of the team’s issues headed into the home-opener was whether all the players would have their international and domestic clearances worked out. We didn’t know which players that affected last week, but we did know that the uncertainty affected Anhaeuser’s choice for the team he prepared for the first game of the season. Saturday’s starters had started the two previous preseason matches
At this point there’s only one player that hasn’t been cleared — and instead of being an international, it turns out to be American goalkeeper Eric Shannon. Shannon spent last season playing in Guatemala’s top division, and apparently the officials down there just never responded to the paperwork the Battery sent down.
That’s why Shannon’s name appeared in the program last weekend even as Shannon spent the evening in the stands. The mysterious new face on the bench — a man we knew only as a one-game loan from Wilmington — turns out to have been Matt Glaeser, formerly a starter in Fort Lauderdale. Wilmington Coach Dave Irving sent him down as an emergency backup to Odisnel Cooper.
COACHING: The early portions of practice were directed by Lesesne, the Battery’s new full-time assistant coach. For readers unfamiliar with Lesesne’s coaching style, he is vocal, organized and precise, and the drills under his supervision proceeded energetically and efficiently. Tuesday’s tempo was noticeably up-beat, and the session rain well past the usual two hours.
With Lesesne directing much of the traffic and fellow assistant Dusty Hudock working with goalkeepers, Anhaeuser was able to put his attention on observing players during drills.
The three coaches divided the field during the rapid-fire intra-squad scrimmage, with Anhaeuser roaming and giving instruction.
VISION: While the Battery’s forwards made some nice finishes on Tuesday, the coaches stressed looking for the open man. It was kind of a universal theme.
That said, Vancouver loaners Omar Salgado and Mamadou Diouf both had some nice goals, as did Battery forward Heivel Cordoves. It’s just that the coaches weren’t letting them rest on those laurels.
It’s a general observation, but even during the Carolina Challenge Cup most of the roster struggled to put balls in the net in everything from finishing drills to Cup matches. On Tuesday, multiple players put the ball on frame during the scrimmage, and the shots flew into the net during drills at an encouraging clip.
CONCEPT: Anhaeuser said the Vancouver players are learning the way the Battery wants to play — particularly the forwards, who have defensive responsibilities when he switches to the high-pressure scheme that the team put to use in multiple preseason matches.
Then again, Anhaeuser said, he’s still figuring out how best to use his new players. That’s particularly true with Salgado, who flashed impressive playmaking skill during his second-half appearance against Orlando. He has the body of a center forward, but the inclinations of a wing player, and opinions on how best to utilize his talents have been divided since he entered MLS in 2011.
LINEUP: Richmond could face a quite-different lineup than the one that drew Orlando 1-1 at Blackbaud Stadium. Captain Colin Falvey returns from a one-game suspension, but Griffin will miss this week for a red card (no word yet from the league on whether his suspension will be for just one game). The most likely plan will be to keep John Wilson at left back and Shawn Ferguson at center back, with Farmer stepping in at right back.
Amadou Sanyang and Jarad van Schaik would be the obvious choices in central midfield.
Beyond that, Anhaeuser has his pick of forwards and wingers — a mix-and-match buffet of options that includes last week’s starters Zach Prince, Adam Mena, Cordoves and the dinged-up Chang, but also Salgado, Diouf, Kelly, Ramirez and attacking mid Andre Lewis, who made the first-week 18 but went unused.
There are effectively no additional defenders available on the current signed roster. Central midfielders Aminu Abdallah and Justin Portillo would be the first options to replace van Schaik at his usual spot if he were called upon to play fullback. Rookie Dante Marini looks like depth at the wing right now.
More about that later this week in the game preview.
TOP IMAGE: Colin Falvey marks Mamadou Diouf as Odisnel Cooper looks on during Tuesday’s training. Dan Conover photos.