USOC Preview: Young Lions & the Portland prize

USOC Preview: Young Lions & the Portland prize

Third round, 2014 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup

Charleston Battery vs. Orlando City U23’s

Wednesday, May 28

Gates open at 6, game starts at 7:30

Blackbaud Stadium, Daniel Island, SC

Tickets $5 to $10. (843) 971-GOAL (4625) 

Livestream with Andrew Bell and Dane Arlaukas:

Complete coverage of the Third Round on, an independent network of volunteer reporters that totally puts the U.S. Soccer Federation’s meek efforts to shame (and is proud to be a contributor)

Complete records of Charleston’s all-time U.S. Open Cup history here.

So you’ve just won two back-to-back home games. What do you get if you win a third?

Answer: A midseason Blackbaud home date on June 18 against a popular MLS club in a match that really means something.

That’s what’s on the line Wednesday night when the Charleston Battery host the U-23s from Orlando City SC in the Third Round of the 2014 U.S. Open Cup. Win and the Battery advance to host 2013 MLS Western Conference Champions Portland Timbers. Lose and it will be the first-ever Battery home Cup loss to an amateur club.

Mike Anhaeuser

Mike Anhaeuser

“I told the guys, if we win, we have Portland,” Coach Mike Anhaeuser said Tuesday after training. “Portland coming to town is fantastic. But you don’t get it unless you win. So there’s nothing for me to say. It’s great when you have these. It’s simple. The winner moves on. You don’t have to try to get them motivated. If they can’t motivate themselves, and want to be at home against Portland and have that opportunity, then we have an issue.”

Like the Battery’s Second Round PDL opponent  — the Panama City Beach Pirates — Orlando’s U-23s play in the PDL. And like the Pirates, the U-23 Lions aren’t a known commodity. They’ve only played two matches together this season. Which means the Battery can’t really approach the match as it would one against a league opponent at this point in the season.

“You don’t know the ins and outs of them, but right now it’s not really about worrying what they’re going to bring to the table,” Anhaeuser said. “We’ve got to be prepared and we’ve got to play like we did last time. If we do that, we’re not going to have any problems.

Orlando City U-23s' Romario Williams

Orlando City U-23s’ Romario Williams

“They’ve got a young Jamaican kid we know about who plays up front from UCF (striker Romario Williams, who scored twice last week against Ocala). We also know that they’ll probably have a little bit more individual talent and possibly size. So that might be the biggest difference we’ve got to be ready for. They’ve got some players that are probably a little more pedigreed coming in.

“(And) they beat a good team in the Open Cup (Jacksonville FC of the NPSL). I know Jacksonville. I know their team. They’ve got some solid players. So we know it’s going to be a big game, but we’ve just got to come out here and do what we’re doing.”

A disappointing 0-2-0 home-and-away series with Wilmington earlier this month has obscured what is otherwise generally good news coming out of Daniel Island. Across all competitions, Charleston has gone 4-2-0 in May, with two more matches remaining before the calendar clicks over into June. The Battery’s May goal differential? A gaudy +9, based on 11-2 for-and-against scoring.

“We’re starting to click a little better offensively,” Anhaeuser said. “Our defense is still sound. Couple little changes here and there.”

Well, maybe more than a couple. With the Battery set for their final USL regular season match against Orlando’s first team on Saturday night, Anhaeuser is deep in that two-simultaneous-competitions roster-management phase. That means left back John Wilson probably won’t even suit up Wednesday, and Mamadou Diouf and “a couple of the older guys” who’ve had knocks this week will probably take the night off.

Michael Kafari

Michael Kafari

Then again, it’s not like the Battery haven’t found success while fielding early round Cup lineups that blended veterans with younger players. Since the club first entered the tournament in 1999, Charleston has gone 12-0 at Blackbaud against amateur teams, including a 9-0 record against teams from the 4th tier. The Battery’s only loss to a PDL club came on the road against the Des Moines Menace in 2005. The underdogs beat Charleston 3-2 in Iowa.

A few players are already set. Michael Kafari — a Vancouver draftee who signed with Charleston — will get his first professional appearance and start. He’s a defensive midfielder who can also play on defense. Veteran forward Dane Kelly will get the mid-week start — mostly because his two yellow cards against Pittsburgh rendered him ineligible to play Saturday at Orlando.

Anhaeuser, who is known to respect a streak, also said he’ll also start forward Heviel Cordoves, who scored three times against Panama City Beach and assisted against in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Pittsburgh. Cordoves was named one of five finalists for the Player of the Round for Round Two (along with Darius Madison of Reading United AC, Alfredo Rodriguez of the North Texas Rayados, and Josh Trott of the NY Greek American Atlas), but the award went to Josh Winters of Chattanooga FC. Winters scored twice and led Chattanooga to a 3-1 home win over the Wilmington Hammerheads, making them the first NPSL team ever to beat a professional opponent in the tournament. Kinda hard to top that.

The Battery made its first tournament appearance in 1999 — and went all the way to the Cup Semi-final. It had modest campaigns in the early 2000s, but since failing to qualify in 2003, Charleston has become one of the most successful minor-league clubs in modern Cup history. The Battery have made it past the second round eight times and past the third round seven times, with trips to the Quarterfinals in 2007, 2009 and 2010, plus one appearance in the Semifinal in 2004. Since their return in 2004, the Battery have won at least one Cup match in every year except 2005.

Pittsburgh's last defender alertly stepped up and caught three Battery attackers offsides Satuday, negating this goal by Dane Kelly.

Pittsburgh’s last defender alertly stepped up and caught three Battery attackers offsides Satuday, negating this goal by Dane Kelly.

The jewel in the Battery’s Open Cup crown remains the 1-2 Cup Final loss to D.C. United at RFK Stadium in 2008. No non-MLS team has made it to the finals since, and Charleston stands as one of only two minor-league teams to have appeared in a Cup Final since the dawning of the MLS era. Rochester did it twice in the 1990s, losing to D.C. at RFK in 1996 and beating the Colorado Rapids 2-0 at Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, in 1999.

Wednesday’s match will be the second Cup encounter between the two clubs. They last played in 2007, when the Lions U-23s were called the Central Florida Kraze, and Charleston beat them 3-0. Orlando City SC bought the PDL club in 2011 and integrated it into its developmental program.

Last year the Battery defeated San Jose Earthquakes 1-0 at Blackbaud to earn a trip to Rio Tinto Stadium, where the Battery actually led eventual runner-up Real Salt Lake 2-0 before surrendering an equalizer on a controversial penalty kick. The exhausted underdogs collapsed 2-5 in overtime.

TOP IMAGE: Battery forward Dane Kelly posts up in February’s draw against D.C. United; Romario Williams of the Orlando City U-23s.