Thursday, September 30, 2010

Battery "Very Happy" with USL Restructure

The Charleston Battery ended any speculation about its 2011 season plans with its official announcement to join USL's restructured USL PRO league recently.

No Quarter caught up with Charlestonn Battery President, Andrew Bell to talk about what fans can expect in 2011.

No Quarter:  Was the Battery happy with the USL decision to merge its professional leagues?

Andrew Bell:  " Very Happy.  We've been an advocate of this for awhile; I think it's the only model that makes sense for soccer below MLS.  If you look at the history of USL we are essentially moving back to the model that was in place back in the late '90s and it was incredibly successful (I think there were 30 teams in the league in 1999!)  Once the decision was made to switch USL1 to a single table we started to see a very high level of franchise attrition and churn. USL PRO has the added advantage of essentially being run by the teams, all major decisions will be made by a board with each team represented.  Assuming we can continue to bring in like minded ownership groups the commonality of purpose will add tremendous value to the league."

NQ:  Will the decisions of that board include expansion teams.

AB:  "Yes, it's my understanding that the board's responsibility will include expansion."

NQ:  Have you heard anything about new clubs or teams moving up from PDL to join USL PRO?

AB:  " I know that it is a strong possibly but I can't comment on other teams that might participate.  I think the next couple of years we will see the league grow very quickly; the challenge is going to managing that growth."

NQ:  Tim Holt mentioned in a recent press release that there could be up to "four regional divisions" in 2011.   Has there been any hint as to which regions those division might be and who the Battery might be aligned with?

AB:  "It's my understanding that the regions will become clear once the participating teams have all been announced."

NQ:  Do you have any idea what that timeline might be?

AB:  "I would hope everything is clear before the AGM in November."

NQ  Any chance we might see the Wilmington Hammerheads return in 2011?

AB:  "I would love to see a team back in Wilmington sometime soon;  there is no doubt that it is a great market for a team at this level."

An article out of Wilmington went to press the same time we were putting together this interview.  The article explains the Hammerhead situation and hope of bringing back the team.

Ex-owner trying to get Hammerheads back

NQ;  I know the Battery season just finished, but things have got to be moving onto next season already.   Can we expect the Carolina Challenge Cup in March again?  How about another great exhibition with another EPL team?

AB:  "We are working on the Carolina Challenge Cup and will hopefully be able to announce the participating teams a little earlier this year.  We are definitely interested in bringing over an EPL side for another exhibitions next summer; hosting Bolton Wanders was great all around experience."

NQ:  Can we expect a similar length season in 2011 as we had in 2010?

AB:  "Yes, I would expect a similar length of season but again it's my understanding that this well be decided by the Board of Governors."

Thanks Andrew for taking the time to talking to us.

Additional news.

The NASL bid to USSF mentioned in the last article on No Quarter has been submitted.  Here is an interesting quote from an article on Inside Minnesota Soccer:

The Rochester Rhino's are conspicuously absent from the NASL bid even though team owner Rob Clark has a multi-year commitment to the NASL.  Clark was contacted several times today for comment but did not return the calls.  Clark has admitted to attending the USL PRO meeting in Orlando in September and told IMS he was considering his options.
Read the entire article at the following link.

NASL Submits Bid for Division-2 Sanctioning for 2011

Monday, September 27, 2010

Battery Joins USL Pro

The Charleston Battery officially announced they are joining USL-Pro for the 2011 season.

Official Charleston Battery Announcement

Much speculation over which team will join the Battery in 2011 continues, mostly due to the fact that the U.S. Soccer Federation placed new stricter standards for leagues and teams applying for Division 2 status and weather or not many USL PDL teams will look to join the new regionalized league.  

Currently the NASL is the only league looking to apply for Division 2 status for 2011, but with the departure of Portland and Vancouver for MLS, the future of Minnesota, St. Louis and Baltimore in question and a few other teams not meeting some of the USSF new D2 standards, there is a possibility that USSF will not sanction NASL for Division 2.  USSF recently gave NASL an extension to the end of September to try and bolster its numbers and strengthen the finances of the teams that are currently involved in NASL's bid.

So who will the Battery be playing next season? 

No Quarter thinks we will see the return of the six USL2 teams from 2010; Richmond, Real Maryland Monarchs, Harrisburg City, Pittsburgh, Charleston and Charlotte.  The Dayton Dutch Lions announced they will join USL pro in 2011 during the summer.  Both  USL1 expansion team Orlando and FC New York look like likely candidates as well. 

The much pondered USL Caribbean region looks like it will feature Antigua, and two teams from Puerto Rico and possibly two more additional Puerto Rico teams.  Former USL1 team, The Puerto Rico Islanders announced that they would be joining NASL for 2011 shortly after the USL restructuring announcement was made.

There has been some speculation to Rochester returning to USL but recently have said they will not make a decision until after their current season is completed.

If NASL fails to secure sanctioning from USSF, that could leave several teams looking for a league and USL Pro being the a viable option.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

There's Only One Johnny Wilson!

Off the field, he is mild mannered and has a smile that is contagious.  He always had time for anyone that came to wish him well or ask for an autograph. 

On the field he was a tough defender.  Tenacious, one that could get up the field, cause problems and fast enough to get back if needed.  Steadfast, calm and able to lead from the back.

photo by Kim Gregory
For many fans, number 25, John Wilson WAS the Charleston Battery.  He played 186 games for the Battery, a number only Paul Conway and Dusty Hudock beat and logged more than 16,200 minutes on the pitch.  His athleticism, never say die attitude and dedication to the club, quickly made him a fan favorite.

After a career that saw him in a Charleston Battery uniform for seven seasons, Wilson announced his retirement after the 2010 Championship match.

"It's been a great run, not only this season, but for my career," Wilson said in an interview with the Post and Courier. "To end my career like this is a dream come true. For my last game to be played here at Blackbaud Stadium, where my career began, in front of my hometown fans and to win a championship in my last game is awesome. Every player wants to go out like this."

Wilson’s road as a professional soccer player almost didn’t happen.  It was a communication error, and a good friend, that laid the course.

“I was 9 years old and had met Andy Mace at school. He had just moved to Seneca, South Carolina from Louisiana,” Wilson told No Quarter. “We became good friends and I would go to his house after school and play.”

“Andy had already been playing soccer before he arrived in South Carolina.  One day I went to Andy's house after school on the bus.  His mom or my mom forgot to tell me that he had soccer practice and that I was actually supposed to take the bus to my house. So Andy's mom asked if I would like to come along and I yes.”

“I went to his practice and was standing on the sideline until an Englishman named Tony Stevens asked me if I would like to join in the practice” Fortunately for Battery fans, he said yes.  “I will never forget it; I was wearing a white t-shirt, black jogging pants, and a pair of leather black and white Larry Bird Converse shoes. I just ran around chasing the ball. After the practice coach Stevens asked if I would like to join the team and I said sure.”
Little did he know at that time that one day he would be playing soccer at the highest levels in this country and competing with and against players that had played in some of the top soccer leagues in the world.  But even in high school, Wilson’s path almost took another direction.
“I had always been a fan of American football and wanted to be like Walter Payton some day. A lot of my friends played and I always wanted to play not only because I loved the sport, but because it gave me a chance to hang with my friends. I wanted to be a running back until my brother hurt his knee playing football as a running back.”  Wilson’s coaches thought he had a future playing in college and he became a kicker on his team.  “Just being around the guys and the atmosphere made me happy. I think I got some of physical play and defending from American football.”

As turned out, Wilson wasn’t too bad at kicking footballs. “My first letter was from Notre Dame,” said Wilson. “Soccer was what I wanted to do though. I continued to kick through high school while also concentrating on soccer.”
John went on to play college soccer at Clemson University as a forward and helped the team reach the NCAA Final Eight in 1998.  He was drafted MLS side, Kansas City Wizards in 1999 but decided to play his rookie season with the Charleston Battery that year. 
photo by Mikey Buytas
Andrew Bell, Charleston Battery President, remembers Wilson’s early years with the Battery.
“I think I’ve been there for every single game that John has played in a Charleston Battery uniform including his first game back in 1999,” said Bell.  “When he was in college he was a forward but our coach at the time Alan Dicks saw his potential as a defender and converted him to play at left-back.  I think he went straight into the first team and never looked back!”

Long time Battery fan Jim Gregory remembers Johnny as well. 

"When the 1999 Charleston Battery season opened in the brand new shiny Blackbaud stadium, most of us had never heard of Johnny Wilson, even though he was born in South Carolina and had a successful career at Clemson,"  said Gregory.  "He was incredibly fast for a defender and we always enjoyed his blazing runs down the wing."   

"Unlike most pro soccer players, what many of us will remember years from now will be the man, not the athlete,"  Gregory continued. "Not because his athletic talent can’t stand the test of time.  But  because he was a true sportsman on the field.  And there has never been a player with a bigger, more infectious smile.  He was the consummate gentleman to all fans young and old.  He always had time to talk to people before or after a match, even if the result didn’t go his way.  He never made excuses for himself or the team.   History has shown that it’s unusual for a Battery player to leave the team and move on but return later.  Johnny didn’t do it once, he did it twice.  And each time, the Battery would win a championship thus disproving the old adage that 'Nice guys finish last'.  Whatever the future holds for Johnny, I have no doubt he will be successful and earn many new friends along the way."
After the Battery’s season in 1999, he went back to Kansas City on loan in 2000 and on to win the MLS Cup.  Wilson returned to the Battery in 2001 through 2003 seasons, winning the A-League Championship.  Following a season with Rochester Rhinos, Wilson then played two years with D.C. United before returning to Charleston for his final three seasons as a professional.  Those last three years with the Battery he was a leader both on and off the field and key to the Battery’s success.
“His experience helped set the tone and motivated the younger guys,” said Battery captain Stephen Armstrong.  “He leads by example, preparing for the upcoming match all week long in training and that carries into the locker room.  He is the strong but silent type.”

“He’s been a tremendous asset to the club on and off the field,” added Bell.  “Not least of which because of his background and that fact that he is a true local product.  I’ve said on many occasions that he is one of the best soccer players that South Carolina has produced, possibly the best, and we’ve been fortunate to have him here for a very successful and long pro career.”
After a successful career, would Wilson have changed anything?
“There are many times you look back and you wish you would have done something differently, but for the most part I am happy with what I have accomplished and everyone who has been a part of it,” said Wilson.  “My dad always reminds me to look at where I came from and where I started; but to really look at where I am now and still going.” 
And who were Johnny’s biggest influences?
“I would have to say my biggest influence was my parents. They saw what the sport could do to change my life. I didn't know it at the time but they were laying down a foundation that would stick with me for life.  They played a major role in allowing me to pursue a sport that they knew nothing about while also trusting in some great people to guide me along the way.”
“I also had many great coaches from Tony Stevens, Bruce Talbot, Pierce Tormey, Bob Gansler, Peter Nowak and Trevo Adair to name a few.  On that first day, I think Coach Stevens saw something in me. I was very blessed to have a first coach that taught me so many things that have stuck with me today. I was blessed to have a family like the Mace's to not only introduce me to the game, but to also help me succeed in the game.”
“My parents did not get to see me play as much as they would have liked. They also didn't know much about the game. It was a blessing in disguise, “he explained “because I had no pressure and I was able to tune into the coach and the game better. It allowed me to grow as player and person.”

“When they did get to see me play it was the best feeling. When they attend games they just cheered for me and at the end of the game they would say did you have fun, good game, or always something positive.”
Now that he has retired from the professional game he is still involved with sports.  “Right now I am working with NCSA Sports. My goal is to reach out to all student athletes from all walks of life and motivate, educate, and empower them through sports, while also giving them examples from my career.”

“Through sports I have learned so much. Through sports I was also able to become the first person from my family to go to college.  Soccer changed my life.”
So as the Battery faithful come through the gate of Blackbaud stadium for the 2011 season, they do so knowing that Johnny won't be on the pitch.
Or will he?
"I saw John at the Charleston Riverdog's game a couple of weeks ago and he said never say who knows, maybe he'll pull a Brett Favre and come back for one more year!"  joked Bell.  "If not, I know he will be very successful in whatever career path he chooses, and the Charleston Batter certainly wishes him the very best of luck!"
Johnny added some final words.  " I would like to thank everyone who has supported me in my career.  Every person out there was a part of making a boy of Seneca, South Carolina dreams come true."
For the Battery faithful, there is, and always will, One Johnny Wilson.
You can follow John Wilson or contact him for more information about NCSA at:

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Where are They Now?

It’s been two weeks since the Charleston Battery won the 2010 Championship match but Battery players are still plying their trade.

Tommy Heinemann played a full 90 minutes with the Carolina Railhawks against the MLS bound Portland Timbers. The match ended 0-0 but Heinemann was very active with six shots and doing the dirty work up top that he is known for, was also credited with five fouls.

Lamar Neagle’s new club, IFK Mariehamn played one of the Finnish league’s hot team, TPS. Lamar didn’t feature in IFK’s surprising 2-1 victory over TPS but it not surprising as only arrived last weekend.

Ian Fuller came on as a second half substitute for the Austin Aztex in Puerto Rico Saturday night. Austin lost the match 3-1, after scoring in the first half but gave up three goals in the second.

Rudolph Mayard got a few minutes playing time Wednesday for Montreal in their 2-1 victory over Puerto Rico.

Kyle Reynish, who got played 3 games with the Battery while on loan from MLS outfit, Real Salt Lake, kept a clean sheet as he logged 90 minutes in the 0-0 match against the Seattle Sounders.

O’Brian Woodbine looks like he is heading back to Jamaica to play for his country’s Premier League in recently promoted team Reno of Westmoreland.

Levi Coleman has headed home to Kansas City and has expressed interest in playing indoor in the off season

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

One on one with...Lamar Neagle

It’s always hard to hold onto the League MVP, especially in the lower divisions of North American soccer. Lamar Neagle is no exception. Neagle was signed by IFK Mariehamn in Finland last week.  The 2010 USL2 MVP signed a two month contract with an option for two years and joins fellow USL2 player Mason Trafford, who played with the 2010 Real Maryland Monarchs.

photo courtesy Kim Gregory
Things happened fast for Lamar. One day he is getting ready to head  home to the Pacific Northwest, the next he is on a plane to Finland.

“I was actually all ready to head back to Seattle and train there” said Lamar “but I got a call from an agent with a great opportunity to head overseas. I couldn’t really pass it up as I have wanted to go overseas for awhile.”

When asked about his time in Charleston, he has fond memories. ”I had a great time exploring Charleston with my family when they came out. Going to the beaches and downtown was a fun experience for me.”

“My favorite memory from the past year is probably in the championship game. Winning that topped off a great season for the club and me. Ian Fuller's save off the line from Delicate's shot was a pretty amazing moment.”

Finland is a long way from United States though. “Finland is a nice change.” said Lamar, “Where I am staying is a small island in between Sweden and Finland and has a small population. The town has very nice scenery and everything is walking distance. Everyone I have run into so far speaks English, maybe not the best but enough to get by!”

Fresh off the USL2 season, Lamar’s fitness shouldn’t be an issue adjusting to a new team. “The playing style here is similar, although a bit more possession than USL-2 I would say. The training sessions are similar too.”

So what does the future hold for the young forward? “Who knows what the future holds for any of us?” Lamar laughs, “But I feel like this is an extremely difficult question, especially for a footballer. One game can change your career.”

IFK currently sits 13th out of 14 teams, with six matches left to play. If Lamar can help take IFK out of the cellar, the future is bright for the young forward.

“If I play well here, then the options are open. Many teams come to watch these games, so one good game could change everything. But eventually I would like to be back in the MLS to play in front of family but I like the idea of playing overseas.”

No Quarter will be bringing you regular updates on Lamar and his time in Europe.

USL2 now part of USL Pro

It wouldn't be an off season in the lower divisions of soccer without some sort of change. It looks like this one will be no different.

United Soccer Leagues announced today a restructuring plan than combines USL1 and USL2 into one league, USL PRO.  

USL Restructures Professional Division - USL

USL headquarters have confirmed that USL PRO will not be applying for official Division 2 status and that the intent of the new league is to run it regionally, much like USL2 was run this season.   

The article mention that teams involved in USL PRO in 2011 will be announced in the upcoming weeks.  But from the photo on the ULS press release, it looks like Austin, as well as last seasons USL2 teams will be part of the restructure.

It also mention that there could be up to four geographical division.  Tim Holt has mentioned the possibility of a Western Division of USL2 a couple months ago so that is one possibility.  I would imagine the primary East coast USL2 will be divided into a North East and South East (or Southern) division.  The fourth possibility is a little more elusive, possibly the Caribbean division with Puerto Rico and Antigua or even a Heartland division with teams like Des Moinse, and St. Louis Lions.

We have sent out some emails in hopes of getting some more information and will update "No Quarter" if we hear anything.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Moving On Up...

It's that time of year again.  The time where players from the lower division teams start thinking about how they're are going to spend their off season and for some, how they are going to pay the car payment!

For a few Battery players that question is already answered, at least for a couple more months. 

The past week has seen several Battery players move to other teams.  The terms of these signings are notoriously hard to find out about but here is what we know so far.

Battery forward, Lamar Neagle has signed with IFK Mariehamm of the Finnish 3rd division for the remainder of there season.  IFK is currently second from the bottom of their table with six matches remaining.  I imagine they need someone to score goals and Lamar has proven he can do that. 

Battery midfielder and assistant coach Ian Fuller signed with the Austin Aztex of the USSF D2.  Austin at the top of the table with Rochester and looking to win a championship.  They have also brought in former Battery players, Randi Patterson and Yoshi from Crystal Palace Baltimore, which looks to have been off loaded by a sinking ship.

Tommy Heinemann has already made an impact with his new team, the Carolina Railhawks.  Heinemann played 61 min against Crystal Palace Baltimore last night in Cary, NC drawing a Penalty and scoring a goal in the 89th min. 

Also completing their loans with Charleston, Tim Melia returned to Real Salt Lake after the Champions match.  Pierre-Rudolph Mayard returned to the  Montreal Impact after the regular season was completed.   Mayard has been getting a few minutes in the last couple Montreal matches.   Hopefully someone sent Mayard, who was a big part in the Battery's success this season, his championship medal.  He definitely deserved to be part of the group that won the Championship.