Familiar foes clash as Battery opens season
Nineteen years, 11 months and 26 days ago, the Charleston Battery played their first match in franchise history against the Richmond Kickers.
So, it only seems fitting that the two teams should open the 2012 USL Pro Division season against each other tonight at City Stadium in Richmond. The Battery will host Richmond in their home opener next Saturday (April 14) at Blackbaud Stadium.
Charleston, Richmond and the Charlotte Eagles are all celebrating their franchise’s 20th anniversary seasons. The three clubs are the longest continuously operating professional soccer teams in the United States.
In honor of the anniversary, Charleston and Richmond will both wear ‘retro’ uniforms for tonight’s match. The Battery will don a vintage black and white uniform, while the Kickers will wear a custom green and blue strip inspired by both clubs’ first seasons.
“The league had a great idea for the two teams to play each other the first two weeks of the season,” said Battery head coach Mike Anhaeuser. “We’ve had such a great rivalry over the years and with both teams celebrating their 20th anniversaries it seems natural that we’d open the season against each other.”
The Battery beat Richmond, 2-1, in their first league match at Stoney Field nearly 20 years ago behind goals from Mario Lone and Nigel James. The teams have met 43 times, with the Battery holding a slight 20-19-4 advantage in the series. They split their games a year ago, with each team taking a 2-1 win at home.
“It’s never an easy match, they are always close and hard fought and I don’t expect this year to be any different,” Anhaeuser said. “They’re always going to have a quality side and we feel like we’ve got a good team. It’s a great way to find out early where you stand and what you need to improve on as the season moves forward.”
The Battery’s roster is still evolving going into the season opener. Striker Dane Kelly, who had four goals a year ago, isn’t expected to be with the team today. He is still on loan with a team in Jamaica. Kelly is expected to return in time for next Saturday’s home opener against the Kickers. Dane scored two goals during the Carolina Challenge Cup, the Battery’s preseason tournament featuring three teams from Major League Soccer.
“We think Dane will be back next week,” Anhaeuser said. “Dane is having a great preseason and played very well in the Carolina Challenge Cup. With Dane out of the lineup, it gives someone else a chance to step up and show what he can do.”
On Friday, the Battery added former Seattle Sounders midfielder Amadou Sanyang.
A native of Bakau, Gambia, Sanyang, 20, was signed by the MLS’ Toronto FC in 2009. Sanyang played in 21 MLS regular season games over three seasons with Toronto and Seattle.
“We are very pleased to have him. He has a tremendous upside in the central midfield,” Anhaeuser said. “He will be used primarily as a defensive midfielder, but we will also look for him to come forward and score a few goals on free kicks.”
The Addition of Sanyang should help ease the loss of midfielder Alex Caskey, who was signed by the Sounders last month.
“We’ve still got some players out there that we’re hoping to sign,” Anhaeuser said. “It’ll take another week to solidify the roster.”