As we head into 2018, complete with a full schedule, the Charleston Battery currently have 12 players at their disposal. Ten returned from the previous campaign, including captain Taylor Mueller, veterans Quinton Griffith and Jarad van Schaik, last year’s Rookie of the Year Kotaro Higashi, as well as attacking standout Attaula Guerra, while arrivals of striker Ian Svantesson and right full back Jay Bolt have added some new blood to the mix.
We know for certain that the Battery’s open trials, which began this week, will prove to shed some more light on other new additions and the squad moving forward, but where will the Battery be looking to build on most?
The goalkeeping situation remains up in the air, as Odisnel Cooper is yet to announce an official return, while the other mainstay in goal, Alex Tambakis, was signed by Kansas City, which is, ironically, home to Tim Melia and Andrew Dykstra, both former Battery ‘keepers themselves. That leaves only Joe Kuzminsky, one of the nine returned from 2017, in goal, which makes that a position of note going into trials and the Carolina Challenge Cup.
At center back, the departure of Forrest Lasso will no doubt be felt at some stage of the season, but also gives the returning Skylar Thomas a chance to display his talents at what is said to be his natural position as the next man up. Taylor Mueller’s return also makes this somewhat easier,
Quinton Griffith will no doubt hold down the left back position for the majority of the year, as he has done for five of his six years in Black and Yellow, coming off a 2017 season where he started 26 of his 27 appearances. On the opposite side, Jay Bolt boasts an excellent college record and has bided his time in the lower leagues before joining the Battery in 2018 and spent part of last year on trial. He may still have to earn his spot, but having 3 of a defensive unit that kept 13 clean sheets last year return means that perhaps the coaching staff may be looking for depth at the very least before the start of the year against Cincinnati.
Midfield is where most of the Battery’s returnees call home, however, it’s also where the biggest hole may arise. Justin Portillo and Maikel Chang, long a big part of the attacking nucleus for the Black and Yellow, departed for the SLC Monarchs out west, the MLS affiliate of Real Salt Lake. This does, of course, mean that Jarad van Schaik can return to his natural central position after spending most of the season on the left side of midfield in 2017. Naveal Hackshaw, and Tah Brian Anunga also return to be another cog in what’s usually a two man midfield, while Kotaro Higashi’s return promises to build on an impressive debut season for the winger. Nico Rittmeyer’s progression promises to be an exciting prospect in his own second season, after being largely used as a sub last year. This means that a right sided winger may be something the Battery may look for, but the status of the injured Dante Marini may be something to keep an eye on, and depth may be the biggest talking point for the midfield as well.
Up front may well be a different story. While Attaula Guerra played in a more attacking position in 2017 than the previous year to very good effect, the Battery lost two other key players in the offseason. Romario Williams rejoined Atlanta United, while Heviel Cordoves joined the Richmond Kickers. While evidence points to new signing Ian Svantesson being the key man up front with Guerra in behind, a feasible option off the bench is key down the stretch, and so may be arguably the biggest need coming into the new season.
The Battery have of course been known to come away with at least a few new, exciting players from trials since they’ve begun, most recently the aforementioned Higashi.
Perhaps the most important part of how the squad will come together is how well the squad gels together. Despite on paper maybe not having that exciting a squad to the casual onlooker, fans will know that the club have done better with even less at their disposal, and will point to that being down to the togetherness of the team. It’s perhaps the fact that there will be so many new pieces to the puzzle that will make this year interesting for the Black and Yellow.
TOP IMAGE: THE 2017 BATTERY FINISH CELEBRATING A GOAL LATE LAST YEAR. ROSS ALMERS PHOTOGRAPHY PHOTO