Veteran left back John Wilson, who came close to retiring after the Battery’s 2012 championship, said Monday he intends to return for another season with the club in 2014.
“I would like to play one more year,” Wilson said. “You, know, that’s what I think the good Lord wants me to do, is play again. So I’m going to do my best to play, and we’ll see from there.”
Wilson cited his mother’s diabetes, which prevented her from coming down to watch him play in 2013, as part of his motivation to return, indicating that he like to give her another chance. But his changing perspective is clearly part of the equation, too.
“I know I’ve said it for like the past three years now, ‘Oh, I’m done.’ But I’m realizing that, you know, I enjoy playing. I was telling somebody the other day that the last two, three years, I’ve really gotten the fun of actual playing really back. So you know, I’m going to put this body back to work, and see what I can get out of it again.”
If he returns for 2014, it would be Wilson’s 12th year with the club. He joined the Battery as a rookie out of Clemson in 1999, and despite several forays into Major League Soccer, made 114 appearance for the Black and Gold between 1999 and 2003. He spent a season with Rochester in 2004 before moving up to MLS on a permanent basis with D.C. United in 2005, but injury cut short his top-league career in 2007. Coach Mike Anhaeuser convinced Wilson to try a comeback in 2008, and the Seneca native has been with the club ever since.
As a 35-year-old fullback in 2013, Wilson was both a player and a member of the Battery staff. To keep him fresh for the long season, Anhaeuser kept him on a regular rotation and limited his play on artificial turf. He got off to a rough start in the Battery’s final match of 2013 — a 2-3 USL PRO Semifinal loss at Orlando — but played valiantly down the stretch, creating a chance for a late equalizer.
Wilson’s return would likely lock down at least one part-time starting position for the Battery, who are expected to experience more turnover in 2014 than they did this year. Offensive catalysts Nicki Paterson and Jose Cuevas have both moved on, center back Cody Ellison was out of contract as of the beginning of November, and several returning players — centerback and captain Colin Falvey, midfielders Mike Azira and Jarad van Schaik and forward Dane Kelly in particular — are expected to receive invitations to MLS camps in January.
PRAISE AND HONORS
The biggest non-player news of the Battery off-season so far has been United Soccer Leagues’ announcement that Anhaeuser will be one of three 2013 inductees to the USL Hall of Fame. The enshrinement will take place on Dec. 13 during the USL Annual General Meeting in Clearwater Beach, Florida. Big congrats to the Battery’s coach and general manager, who is also being recognized for his contributions as a player.
Two Battery employees are also nominated for league awards at the annual event. President Andrew Bell is a finalist for USL PRO Executive of the Year, and Whitney Woods, who handles marketing and communications for the club, is up for the Betsy McAdams Key Grip Award.
The club is a finalist for the league’s communications award, as well as the Organization of the Year award.
BIG PAY DAY FOR OZZIE
Former Battery star Oswaldo Alonso not only made the leap to MLS with Seattle, he’s been generally recognized as one of the top defensive midfielders in the top North American league. Last week, his employers finally got around to acknowledging it, too.
The Sounders made Alonso a Designated Player on Nov. 19. Terms of the deal were not announced, but he’ll join Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins as the club’s DPs. Alonso earned $210,000 in 2013, while Martin’s contract paid him $1.7 million. Dempsey? His special deal earned him more than $5 million last season.
MEANWHILE, IN WICHITA…
Alonso is the biggest-name Cuban player to rise up through Charleston, but two of the team’s current crop of former Cuban internationals are playing out in Wichita this winter for the B-52s of the PASL. The expansion team is 1-3 to start their season, and both Charleston players — forward Heviel Cordoves and midfielder Maikel Chang — are contributing.
Cordoves didn’t register any stats in the B-52s first game, a 3-15 loss at Dallas, but accounted for 10 shots, two goals and an assist in their home-opener win against Illinois. He figured in the team’s two most recent matches, getting off three and four shots in losses at Las Vegas and at home against Hidalgo (a 5-6 overtime defeat).
Chang fired six shots in the win over Illinois and opened his account for the B-52s with a goal and an assist on five shots at Las Vegas. He was good for four shots on Saturday night, and has already logged more game minutes for Wichita than he accumulated outdoors for Charleston.
Both Cordoves and goalkeeper Odisnel Cooper were major contributors during their first year with the Battery, and both are signed for 2014. Chang, however, spent most of the season trying to get healthy, seeing only brief stretches of action, and though he remains in the Battery’s plans, he goes in 2014 unsigned. Both are developmental prospects, but Chang is the enigmatic player who will be watched most closely.
The two roommates look like they’re having a blast with indoor soccer out west, and based on their comments and Facebook photos, appear to be in great shape, and significantly stronger than they were when they first arrived in Charleston last winter.
With so much of the rest of the Charleston roster still marked by question marks, their development could go a long way toward setting expectations for 2014.
SPEAKING OF SEATTLE
The Battery’s big-get for the 2014 Carolina Challenge Cup was Seattle, and for several reasons: It’s the MLS team with the most former Battery stars, it’s “MLS royalty,” and it boasts the biggest star of US Men’s soccer: Clint Dempsey. Bringing the Sounders to Blackbaud in February as the club begins reorganizing itself around Dempsey is a marketing no-brainer.
But will it work out that way?
With the USA looking ahead to Brazil 2014, US Men’s National Team Coach Jurgen Klinsmann is urging his MLS players to go looking for offseason jobs overseas.
“We made it clear, our priority number one for them is finding a team to get on loan for January-February into March, or if that is not possible, you have to be with us in January camp. That is mandatory. We start on Jan. 6 in Los Angeles,” Klinsmann said on Nov. 12.
“If a player has the opportunity to go on loan, you’ve got to go for it. You’re in real competition, you’re in a real competitive environment, you’ve got to have a point to prove and kick-start 2014 that way. We all observe their individual situation. Whenever we can be of help, we will be. But it is important to us to cut short their vacation time, not making it longer than four weeks in December because it would take far too long to get back into shape and get back into a rhythm before the beginning of 2014 and we can’t afford that.”
Other 2014 CCC players who could be affected by that loan program could include Seattle’s Brad Evans and Houston’s Brad Davis. Seattle forward Eddie Johnson is also a USMNT fixture, but he’s considered unlikely to return to the Sounders for 2014.
This year’s CCC featured a Vancouver Whitecaps team that was headlined by US hero Jay DeMerit. But DeMerit’s health problems from February not only kept him out of the competition, they also ruined his 2013 MLS season.
With the Sounders, Houston Dynamo and D.C. United, Charleston has a great CCC field with or without Dempsey. But with him? In a World Cup year? That could do wonders for attendance.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS
The Battery have traditionally done a good job of finding talent in the off-season, and their two “combines” (or “open tryouts”) this go-round will take place in early January and right before the official start of training camp in advance of the CCC in February.
First up, a trial on January 4-5. Next, a trial on Feb. 13-14. The Battery will also host a preseason trial camp from February 15-16.
The CCC begins on Feb. 22, and runs to March 1.