Saturday, January 26, 2013

The 2013 season Schedule

The much anticipated release of the 2013 Season schedule was announced Thursday.  Now we can all get on with planning our life for the next seven months as we all look to the dates to see when we can squeeze in vacations, plan road trips and finally set that wedding date!

This season we get 14 home matches and 14 away matches for a 28 match season, four more matches than last season.  This season we get eight Saturday matches, three Friday matches a pair of Wednesday matches and one Thursday match.  That is two more Saturday matches than last season. And only one back to back match, over all it looks to be a pretty favorable schedule.

Also this season we play every team twice, once at home and once.  The exception is Antigua.  They will play their entire schedule on the road.  While not sure what the reasoning is behind this it will definitively be be a tiresome schedule for the Barracudas.

For the traveling fans, road trips to Charlotte and Wilmington this season will mean potentially missing a day of work as the Charlotte away match is on Tuesday and the Wilmington match is on a Friday night.

The away date in Richmond is on a Saturday but the six hour trip each way will likely require a hotel stay somewhere.  And with the addition of the expansion team in Tampa, the Battery will play Orlando on a Thursday night followed by a short trip down Interstate 4 to Tampa for a match up against them on a Saturday night which would be a great little trip to Florida.
Pittsburgh Riverhounds new stadium

Another trip worth checking out is one to Pittsburgh on Saturday June 11.  If you haven't been following the Riverhounds this off season,  they have built a nice looking stadium that overlooks downtown Pittsburgh and would be great to see a match there during its inaugural year.

Under the new MLS/USL agreement the Battery  will play two matches against Houston Dynamo's reserve squad this year.  Houston has a great new stadium, BBVA Compass Stadium, and with direct flights to Houston from Charleston starting around $300 RT, might make a good trip as well.

Houston Dynamo's BBVA Compass Stadium
Which match ups are you most excited by?  And which potential road trips are you likely to make?  Let us know!

Charleston Battery 2013 USL PRO Schedule 
Charleston @ Richmond Saturday, April 13 7:00PM 
Charleston vs. Antigua Saturday, April 20 7:30PM 
Charleston vs. Pittsburgh Saturday, April 27 7:30PM 
Charleston @ Harrisburg Wednesday, May 01 7:00PM
Charleston @ Dayton Friday, May 03 7:00PM 
Charleston vs. Wilmington Saturday, May 11 7:30PM 
Charleston @ Charlotte Tuesday, May 14 7:00PM 
Charleston @ Houston Sunday, May 19 TBD 
Charleston vs. Rochester Saturday, May 25 7:30PM 
Charleston vs. Harrisburg Friday, May 31 7:30PM 
Charleston vs. Charlotte Wednesday, June 05 7:30PM 
Charleston vs. Houston Saturday, June 08 7:30PM 
Charleston @ Pittsburgh Saturday, June 15 7:00PM 
Charleston @ Rochester Sunday, June 16 4:05PM 
Charleston vs. Tampa Saturday, June 22 7:30PM 
Charleston vs. Orlando Friday, July 05 7:30PM 
Charleston @ Orlando Thursday, July 11 7:30PM 
Charleston @ Tampa Saturday, July 13 7:30PM 
Charleston vs. Dayton Friday, July 19 7:30PM 
Charleston vs. Phoenix Wednesday, July 24 7:30PM 
Charleston vs. LA Saturday, July 27 7:30PM 
Charleston @ Wilmington Friday, August 02 7:30PM 
Charleston vs. Richmond Saturday, August 3 7:30PM 
Charleston @ LA Thursday, August 08 7:30PM 
Charleston @ Phoenix Saturday, August 10 7:30PM 
Charleston vs. Antigua Thursday, August 15 7:30PM 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

USL and MLS reach landmark agreement

It has been rumored for months but yesterday it became a reality.

USL and MLS reached an multi-year agreement that looks to beneficial to all parties involved.

Over the years MLS has been searching for a way to help develop their youth players and this decision could be the beginning of a better way to improve player development in the US.

Basically the plan looks like this.

MLS teams have their choice for four paths.

  1. Affiliate with a USL Pro club.  This would include sending a minimum of four MLS players on season long loans to their affiliated club.  From a report in Rochester, it looks like USL coach will have a decision in which players would come on loan.  MLS clubs that choose this route will not enter a team into the MLS reserve league.  It appears there will be at least four affiliations for the 2013 season.  Sporting KC with Orlando, Rochester with New England Revolution, Richmond with DC United and Harrisburg with Philadelphia Union.
  2. MLS clubs can continue with their current reserve league but will play a home and home series with a paired USL club.  This increases the amount of games a MLS reserve squad would have in and would be against a competitive foe. The majority of MLS teams have opted for this route for the first season.
  3. A third route would be for a MLS team to field their own USL Pro side.  A choice which would benefit both USL and MLS the most in my opinion but would also be the most difficult both logistically and financially for MLS teams.   None of the MLS teams have gone this route but several already have PDL or NPSL squads that they might look at moving up to USL Pro in the future.
  4. Forgo any affiliation or reserve league play.  It is rumored that Chivas USA may have chosen this route.
MLS team that choose to not be affiliated can still loan players with lower division teams and may enter into agreements in the future.  It was also mentioned that future announcements regarding mutual commercial and marketing would be coming over the next couple months.

So How does this effect Battery fans?  We ask Andrew Bell, Charleston Battery president.

No Quarter:  How does the Battery feel about the announcement?

Andrew Bell: "We are very excited about the new partnership, its something that we've been a long a vocal advocate for.  The Battery is fully supportive of the concept and we will do everything we can to ensure its long term success."

NQ:  Is the Battery working on an affiliation with a MLS club?

AB: "We are open to an affiliation but we need tom make sure it makes sense for both sides.  This season we are very much looking forward to playing a home and away against an MLS reserve side."

NQ:  From other reports it seems like this will be an evolving process, what do you see happening in the next year or two?

AB:  "I'd have to defer to the USL office for an specifics on that but I'm personally hopeful that this is just a small step in a growing partnership.  We all need to work together to help grow our sport and develop players."

NQ"  Some have said that this will cause clubs to loose their individual identity,  how will the Battery maintain its identity?

AB:  "I don't think there is any danger of that.  The Battery is entering its 21st season this year and I think our brand, history, coaching staff, fans and all the intangibles that make up a club will endure for a long, long time."

Thanks to Andrew Bell for taking the time to discuss the matter with us.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

28 Days...

That is how many days left until the Battery take back to the pitch at Blackbaud Stadium and the start of the 10th Carolina Challenge Cup.   If you haven't seen the photos of the field from the Battery's twitter or Facebook feed, it is looking fantastic.  Even the practice pitch looks like a putting green.

Last week the Battery finished up the second of two open trials.  I had a chance to stop by for the Friday session and noticed a few players that likely will be given a shot at the Battery invite trials happening the week prior to the Carolina Challenge Cup. Three players of note were recent Cuban defectors, Maikel Chang, Heviel Cordoves and goalkeeper, Odisnel Cooper.  While I didn't see much of Cooper, both Chang and Cordoves looked good.   The three Cubans walked out of their hotel in Canada the day before a World Cup Qualifier between Cuba and Canada in late October before finding their way to the United States and seem to have impressed the Battery.

The next trial is an invite trial which will take place the weekend of February 9.  While the list isn't out for this trial, it is typically made up of a few players from each of the Battery's past trials and scouting trips plus a few other players with some experience playing at the professional level. Several of those players will be asked to stay for the Carolina Challenge Cup and will join the Battery players signed for 2013.

That 2013 Battery roster is still kind of in limbo right now. While nothing is confirmed yet it looks like Colin Falvey is returning along with Mark Wiltse and Taylor Mueller.  Battery's perinatal Johnny Wilson has been helping with the trials so he looks to be ready for 2013.  Nicki Paterson is rumored to be returning but does have a trial with the New York Red Bulls. Jose Cuevas who had a trial in San Jose after the USL season ended is thought to currently be on trial in Seattle.  No word on the two African players, Michael Azira and Amadou Sanyang but both would be welcomed back from the quality of their play last season.

Gone for sure are Kyle Hoffer and Tony Donatelli, both to new USL Pro squad VSI Tampa Bay Flames.

Besides the new team in Tampa Bay,  Phoenix Wolves will join the LA Blues out west.  Both have presented some nice stadium options.  Phoenix will expand Arizona States soccer stadium while Tampa has audacious plans to build a phased stadium that will begin with a 6-8,000 modular seat stadium.   They have announce plans to start play in 2013 but with less than 90 days until the season begins, they are pressed for time to make that happen.

Those two expansion teams will bring the league up to 13 teams, with all 11 teams from last year returning for 2013 with Pittsburgh Riverhounds lead by former Battery players Jason Kutney and Justin Evans, will open their new 3000+ stadium that looks to be a gem.

Still no official word on the potential MLS/USL partnership but there was an encouraging tweet from the usually accurate IMSoccer that said sources are telling him a deal was reached and should be announce shortly.

The Battery front office have been busy this off-season, hosting several events at Blackbaud.    A new Charleston Battery website is set to be launched in early February and the Battery will also introduce a new kit and a new sponsor.

Expect more news and information to begin to leak out as the season fast approaches.  See you at the 'Baud for the Carolina Challenge Cup.  

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

10 years of the Carolina Challenge Cup

The 2013 Carolina Challenge Cup enters its 10th year when it begins on February 16.  And a great ten years it has been!  Over the years, the Battery have hosted seven different MLS teams, Freddy Adu scored his first professional goal at during the Cup back in 2004 and we've seen some great players on the pitch at the 'Buad.  Remarkably, in seven out of the past ten years of the tournament, the winner of the Carolina Challenge Cup has gone on to win either the MLS Cup or MLS Supporter's Shield.

Even though the USL season typically doesn't start until April, for Battery fans the Carolina Challenge Cup marks the unofficial start of the season.  It is a great chance to catch up with everyone you may not have seen in the off season and watch some great live soccer.  The grill will get fired up and a few drinks will be drunk.

Although the Battery has never won the tournament, it has finished second in both 2006 and 2011.  Not too surprising considering the boys have typically only been together for a week or so before the tournament.  This year probably won't change that statistic as the CCC will include tough competition;  the Chicago Fire, first timers Vancouver Whitecaps, and last years runner up of the MLS Cup, the Houston Dynamo.  

The MLS clubs all start their preseason training next week giving them nearly five weeks to prepare.  Houston have three players that were called up for the US Men's national team camp for the match later in January against Canada; goalkeeper Tally Hall, midfielder Brad Davis, and forward Will Bruin.

The Chicago Fire have recently added Estonian international midfielder, Joel Limpere.  The Fire's goalkeeper, Sean Johnson was also called into the US Men's January camp by US coach Klinsmen.

The Vancouver Whitecaps stars US international Jay Demerit, subject of the fabulous documentary, "Rise and Shine, The Jay Demerit Story."  If you can, find a copy and watch this great story.  It is currently on instant stream on Netflix.  Here is the trailer for the documentary.

For the Battery, there are still quite a few unknowns and hopefully we will start seeing the roster take shape shortly.  As expected, turnover is high, especially on a championship team at this level.  The win, attracts attention from everywhere.  Rumors floating around that Nicki Paterson has a January trial with New York, Jose Cuevas a trial in San Jose, Ryan Richter with one in Philadelphia.  Tyler Mueller was training with the Seattle Sounders at the end of the 2012 season.  Kyle Hoffer was offered a lucrative contract in expansion side, Tampa Bay Flames.

Colin Falvey should return as the captain of Battery and John Wilson hasn't ruled out returning in 2013.   Coach Anhaueser and club president Andrew Bell recently made a scouting trip to Jamaica and will have a second player trial here in Charleston this weekend.

Regardless the result of the tournament, the Lowcountry soccer fans will sure to see some great live matches.    Get your tickets early and look for information on the Regiment's Facebook page about tailgates and other events during the week.

An all-time table of all the Carolina Challenge Cup matches from 2003 thru 2012
1D.C. United28158341913+61.8674
2San Jose Earthquakes166501102+82.6671
3Real Salt Lake156510125+72.5002
4Houston Dynamo146402103+72.3333
5Toronto FC14124621113-21.1676
6Charleston Battery122121361531-160.5717
7Columbus Crew11631275+21.8335
8New York Red Bulls59162514-90.5568
9Wilmington Hammerheads1302114-30.3339