The Charleston Battery begin their 25th anniversary season with a few brownie points in their pocket after a largely successful pre-season campaign. The Carolina Challenge Cup returned, bringing the Seattle Sounders, Columbus Crew and the Battery’s MLS affiliate Atlanta United to the Holy City in what was a very successful week for the club on and off the pitch.
The Battery drew two and lost one in the CCC, as they showed a lot of grit for a team who’d only been together for a few weeks. They earned a draw with Seattle thanks to Kotaro Higashi‘s 90th minute equalizer, and led the Columbus Crew for a majority of the game despite eventually conceding a goal, before coming up unlucky against Atlanta United, earning a taste of their own late-goal medicine.
The loss to Atlanta was one of only two in the pre-season, only losing on their travels to North Carolina FC. The Battery filled out their pre-season with their usual meetings with local college teams, winning seven of their eight non-CCC games despite the loss to their northern counterparts, with Heviel Cordoves, Attaula Guerra, and Romario Williams playing starring roles in more than a few big wins for the Black and Yellow.
Last year ended on a slightly sour note for the Battery after sort of grinding to a halt. They didn’t particularly finish the season well, but did cause an upset of sorts after turning heads by silencing a rocking Nippert Stadium and beating FC Cincinnati away from home. However, they bowed out of the playoffs thanks to a loss to Louisville City in the conference semis, falling to the #2 seed as New York Red Bulls II would eventually win the league title.
Lack of depth was a problem for the Black and Yellow last season, which was a big reason why momentum slowed down toward the middle-to-end of last year, and the Front Office has gone a little ways to correct this in 2017, completing six new signings after a fruitful batch of trials during pre-season, whilst also keeping hold of a large number of last season’s standouts, barring Zach Prince and Shawn Ferguson, who hung up their boots at the end of the last campaign.
The Battery took advantage of partnerships in the PDL by welcoming Nico Rittmeyer and Ryan Arambula into the fold from Tormenta FC and the Myrtle Beach Mutiny respectively, whilst Rittmeyer adds to a successful batch of College of Charleston alums to come through the Battery doors, and both players were involved with the SC Battery Academy early on in their careers.
Tah Brian Anunga is another new recruit after bouncing around at several levels of the USL, commonly used as a defensive midfielder in pre-season, he has past links to Wilmington and the Carolina Dynamo, and has represented his native Cameroon at U-17, U-20, and U-23 levels.
Former first round draft pick Skylar Thomas joins after spending time with Toronto FC II. He had 47 appearances with the Canadian side, and looks to establish himself as the successor to the now-retired Shawn Ferguson. He was also one to deputize at Left Back, given that Obrien Woodbine will be suspended for the first three matches of the new campaign.
Perhaps the most talked about addition is that of Kotaro Higashi. He helped his cause by scoring the equalizer in the draw with Seattle during the CCC, and impressing during the rest of the pre-season on his way to a contract.
Goalkeeper Joe Kuzminski joins after a successful college career at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, where he served three years as a starter and was captain during his senior year. He’ll likely serve as back up to Odisnel Cooper, who returns after a solid 2016. Given his age, you’d wonder if Kuzminski is seen as the one for the future for the club, and in which case, learning from the experienced Cooper, as well as coach Dusty Hudock, can only help his development.
The Battery again take advantage of their affiliation with Atlanta United, welcoming back Romario Williams and Jeffrey Otoo for the 2017 season. Additionally, Alex Tambakis and Mikey Ambrose will be available for Charleston against Cincy, as Ambrose will look to fill the hole left by the suspended Woodbine.
The new season looks to be an interesting one for the Battery, with anticipation being high ahead of their silver anniversary. The fact that six of their first ten matches are at home can only help, as a good start will certainly be beneficial in a season that runs from March 25th until mid-October.
Our first match, at home against FC Cincinnati, will definitely not be easy. Cincy are going into the new season with a new manager, and will certainly have a bad taste in their mouth following their early exit from the playoffs at the hands of the Black and Yellow.
The Battery begin their 25th season this coming Saturday against FC Cincinnati. You can watch the match on MyTV Charleston, or stream it via the club’s website or on YouTube.
TOP IMAGE: THE BATTERY PREPARE FOR A MATCH LAST SEASON AT MUSC HEALTH STADIUM. ROSS ALMERS PHOTO