By CHARLIE CORR – firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, March 8, 2016
There is no sugarcoating the fact that the Charleston Battery will miss the services of striker Dane Kelly, the USL’s all-time leading goal scorer who signed with the Swope Park Rangers during the offseason. But the Battery have always had the wherewithal and experience to stay on course to overcome such a loss. Charleston was in the thick of the 2015 USL Playoffs, advancing to last year’s Eastern Conference Semifinals, and is looking to return to the championship form of 2012. With the brunt of the Battery’s defense back in the fold, they have every reason to think they should be back in the heart of the postseason picture once again this year.
Head coach: Mike Anhaeuser
Stadium: MUSC Health Stadium
2015 results: 12-6-10 record; 3rd in Eastern Conference
2015 postseason: 2-1 OT win vs. Richmond in East Quarterfinals; 2-0 OT loss vs. Louisville in East Semifinals
Goalkeeper: The Battery created some depth and competition at this position early in the offseason. Cuban goalkeeper Odisnel Cooper has been a mainstay for Charleston for the past few seasons, garnering 2015 USL All-League Second Team honors and earning team MVP honors from the Battery fans. But with the team’s partnership with 2017 MLS expansion side Atlanta United FC, the Battery will also have the services of 23-year-old Greek goalkeeper Alex Tambakis, on loan from United. It figures to be a strong push among the goalkeeping corps – which includes returning backup Kevin Corby – heading into the 2016 season.
Defense: The Battery’s defensive group probably deserved more praise than it received last season, overshadowed in the Eastern Conference by the Rochester Rhinos’ stingy work rate en route to the 2015 USL Championship. Charleston returns a sizeable group that allowed only 28 goals in 28 regular-season matches. In fact, the starting four from last season’s USL Playoffs all return – left back Emmanuel Adjetey, right back Quinton Griffith and center backs Taylor Mueller and Shawn Ferguson, the latter named to the 2015 USL All-League First Team. Postseason hero Forrest Lasso, who tallied the winning overtime goal against the Richmond Kickers in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, is also back in the mix.
Midfield: Charleston is still in the process of defining its midfield corps, but the club has a good nucleus to build around with returnees Justin Portillo and Maikel Chang. Chang led the Battery with six assists last season to go with three goals. Portillo was second on the club with six goals while adding two assists, and his passing and vision consistently drew rave reviews. With a few more pieces in place, Charleston should be reliable in the middle of the pitch again in 2016.
Forward: At this point of the offseason, it appears that this is Ricky Garbanzo’s show on the attack. Garbanzo is coming off a successful rookie season that included five regular-season goals and assists as he played behind Dane Kelly and combined with the likes of Maikel Chang. The 2016 forward group still needs several figureheads to put the pen to paper, but could include Heviel Cordoves who has played for Charleston since 2013 and is competing in the team’s camp.
Strengths: The returning starting back line of Emmanuel Adjetey, Quinton Griffith, Shawn Ferguson and Taylor Mueller is ultimately the key to Charleston’s success heading into 2016. With some apparent depth in goal with Odisnel Cooper and Atlanta United FC loanee Alex Tambakis, the Battery appear to have one of the most stable defenses in the USL.
Weaknesses: Charleston’s front line has a heavy task filling the void of Dane Kelly. Ricky Garbanzo is an enticing option following his rookie season, but the Battery could go through a soul searching period in finding enough front-line scoring threats to match double-digit output that Kelly brought to the table.
Key number: 25 – The Battery hold the league’s longest home unbeaten streak at 25 games, posting a 16-0-9 record during their current stretch that includes Charleston’s 2015 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal win against the Richmond Kickers. The team’s last defeat at the now-named MUSC Health Stadium occurred on May 10, 2014 – a 1-0 loss to Wilmington Hammerheads FC.
Noteworthy matchups: A number of Battery matches deserved to be circled on the Eastern Conference calendar. One of the biggest is unquestionably Charleston’s home match against the Richmond Kickers on July 2. It will be the first meeting since the Battery’s thrilling 2-1 victory against the Kickers in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
Coach’s view: “Carlos [Bocanegra] has a lot of connections, so you might see a player from outside the country. You might see a player locally, or some young international that might come through the ranks. Those are the positives. It’s something you don’t know until you can agree to terms and get everybody on board.” – Mike Anhaeuser, on the Battery’s partnership with MLS expansion Atlanta United FC
Current roster (updated: March 8, 2016):
Goalkeepers: Odisnel Cooper, Kevin Corby, Alex Tambakis
Defenders: Emmanuel Adjetey, Shawn Ferguson, Quinton Griffith, Forrest Lasso, Taylor Mueller
Midfielders: Maikel Chang, Justin Portillo
Forwards: Ricky Garbanzo