The Carolina Challenge Cup starts its single-game round robin tournament with Seattle Sounders FC taking on the hosts. Those hosts have a darn good record against MLS sides, a history of players spending time in both cities and were the last lower division side to make the US Open Cup Final.
That is probably the extent of your knowledge of the Battery. Sounder at Heart reached out to Dan at CHSSoccer.net to learn about their local pro club in a preseason edition of three questions. He has a fine preview of all of the clubs participating, but this conversation focuses on the Battery. The match starts Saturday at 4:15 PM Pacific and will be streamed online.
SaH: Does Charleston have a specific style of play?
CHSS: Philosophically, the Battery like to stop people with a four-man back line and attack with a bit more possession than you'll see from a lot of USL PRO clubs. Tactically, Coach Mike Anhaeuer kept the 2013 team in a 4-5-1 that morphed pretty easily into a 4-3-3 depending on situations and personnel. It's not a team that parks the bus, although Anhaeuser will do it when that's his best choice of winning. Financial success in USL PRO requires teams that score and draw crowds, so even when the Battery go conservative, they still work the counter.
But the 2014 team is in transition when it comes to its attacking identity, largely because of players who departed. The team's leading scorer (Jamaican forward Dane Kelly) is back, but its top two creators (Jose Cuevas, who had a brief trial with the Sounders in 2013, and Nicki Paterson of the Ottawa Fury) are gone. Anhaeuser has indicated that he'd like to try two men up top this season, but he hasn't had the roster to support that idea so far this year. That could change on Saturday thanks to yesterday's return of Cuban attackers Heviel Cordoves and Maikel Chang from a successful season of indoor soccer with the Wichita B-52s.
Expect to face a solid, veteran club that knows how to play against MLS teams. The Battery went 4-3-0 against MLS teams (including two matches against Houston's reserves) in 2013. Just don't expect a lot of offensive fireworks at the moment.
SaH: Are there other players like Micheal Azira who you expect to get an extended look from teams in MLS?
CHSS: Battery Captain Colin Falvey is a 28-year-old Irish centerback who would be starting in MLS if he didn't require an international slot. A brilliant, tough player who sets the tone for everything the Battery do. He was the runaway winner of USL PRO's Defender of the Year honor in September.
Defensive mid Amadou Sanyang might have stuck with the Sounders in 2012 except for health concerns, and lives in Seattle during the offseason.
Jarad van Schaik got a long look from San Jose last fall. A well-rounded, versatile and complimentary midfielder.
You'll also spot a guy named Quinton Griffith. He didn't have good stats last season, but he's a disruptive and gifted winger out of Antigua. Already on the radar of several MLS teams.
Dane Kelly got a look with the Philadelphia Union last fall, but probably needs to repeat his success to get an MLS contract.
SaH: What player is the face of the Battery?
CHSS: Colin Falvey. You'll spot a lot of people wearing "Falvey's Army" t-shirts around the stadium, and if a Sounder gets out of line with someone from home side, you'll spot a lot of Falvey in that guy's ear.
Falvey is one of those classically charismatic players that every town wants. Fans love him. Players respect him.
As Battery midfielder Zach Prince puts it, people typically assume Falvey is 6-3 or 6-4 (he's 6-1) based on the way he plays. Because he plays huge, particularly in the clutch.
CHHS: The Sounders struggled on and off the field late last season. What needs to change for 2014, and how successful has the offseason rebuilding program been?
SaH: If you thought you were familiar with the faces of Sounders soccer, don't think so any more. Only eight players have more than a year with the club. Six of the expected starting XI didn't even spend the all of 2013 with the organization. When ownership decided they weren't going fire Sigi Schmid they turned the American cliche on its head and fired the players, a lot of them. Most notable was the Eddie Johnson deal, but also moving on were Mauro Rosales, Steve Zakuani, Michael Gspurning, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Patrick Ianni and others.
The overhaul is pretty massive for a club that was in the MLS Cup Playoffs and even won a game there. It is also a strong indication that merely making the Playoffs isn't enough and they have a plan on how to get there. They added two former team captains and bet heavy on fixing a lockerroom that seemed broken at times.
CHSS: Which Sounders most need to state their case in the preseason?
SaH: Andy Rose is making a strong case to earn starting lineup minutes despite him playing the positions that Dempsey and Evans play. There is some real competition for guys in the 18. It is likely that only one of Tristan Bowen and Chad Barrett gets regular playing time in the attack. On defense Jalil Anibaba, Zach Scott and Dylan Remick are showing well, but most teams don't have three defenders on the bench.
CHHS: How do you expect this year's style of Sounders soccer to be different from last year's? Will it be tactical changes that matter most, or "rebooting the lockerroom" changes?
SaH: There are some tactical changes. Sigi Schmid has said his key is not going to be a 4-4-2 or other notation, but getting the best players on the pitch in spaces where they will do well. That means something that can only be short-handed as an asymmetrical diamond. The left side midfielder will play wide and high. Dempsey will be high and in a space where a #10 plays. Attacks on the right will route through DeAndre Yedlin.
But the people of Charleston won't see that. There's only one Dempsey. Instead it will be a more conventional bucket 4-4-2. Seattle is more aggressive throughout the pitch this preseason than in past seasons. Like usual when they recover the team will look to quickly turn the opportunity into a shot on goal. Sigi is a big believer in minimizing the time from transition to attack. It can be fun to watch when the offense is scoring. When it isn't it looks like a lot of hard running.
And its looking like that opening match is going to be a sellout.
Less then 300 tickets still remaining for tomorrow! Call the ticket office today to secure your seat, we are open til 5pm...843-971-4625!— Charleston Battery (@Chas_Battery) February 21, 2014