The Carolina Challenge Cup is always a tough tournament for the Charleston Battery.
The Battery has been together for less than two weeks of training, while the three Major League Soccer teams are fine-tuning their final product for a season that starts next week.
Still, Charleston Battery coach Mike Anhaeuser saw plenty of bright spots this week that give the veteran coach an optimistic outlook for the upcoming USL Pro season.
The Houston Dynamo got second half goals from Tony Cascio and Giles Barnes to defeat the Battery, 2-0, in the final match at the 11th annual Carolina Challenge Cup before a crowd of 4,530 Saturday night at Blackbaud Stadium.
Meanwhile, for the fourth time in 11 years, D.C. United captured the Carolina Challenge Cup by playing to a 2-2 draw with the Seattle Sounders. D.C. United won the week-long tournament on goal differential.
Overall, Anheauser said the Battery showed plenty of potential, but still had a good bit of work to get done before the season opener against Orlando City on March 22. The Battery finished 0-2-1 in the week-long event.
"We're kind of always at a little bit of a disadvantage going into the tournament because the MLS teams are a week away from their season and we've just started to train," Anhaeuser said. "I thought we played pretty well in the three matches. I think what you get most out of it is to see who can handle the game from a technical standpoint, from a physical standpoint and then from a mental standpoint. I think that's the biggest thing you get out of this tournament."
The Battery has been together for less than two weeks, some players, who joined the team mid-week, even less than that. The Battery is still trying to find their lineup and create chemistry, which will develop over the coming weeks.
"It's always kind of tough coming out here with only a few training sessions under your belt and competing against teams that have been together for a while," said Charleston midfielder Zach Prince. "But I think we like that underdog role. I think it makes us work harder. I know everyone enjoys playing against the MLS teams. I thought we did well this week. We would have liked to have won a match and score a few more goals, but this is definitely something we can build on."
The Battery managed just two goals during the week, but was able to generate quality scoring chances throughout the tournament. The Battery was especially dangerous during their 1-1 draw with D.C. United on Wednesday.
"We should have scored a couple of more goals against United," Anhaeuser said. "We don't have everyone here yet, but I'm confident that the offense will come. I thought defensively we were solid all week."
One player the Battery will likely be without this season is midfielder Mike Azira. Azira, who has been with the club for the last to seasons, had been trying out with the Seattle Sounders and appears to have landed a spot with the MLS club, according to a Battery source.
Meanwhile, in the opening match of the night, D.C. United's Fabian Espindola got the scoring going early when he converted on a penalty kick after a Seattle hand ball in the penalty box in the 8th minute.
Seattle's Kenny Cooper headed in a shot past former Charleston keeper Andrew Dykstra to tie the game at 1-1 in the 30th minute.
Perry Kitchen gave D.C. United a 2-1 lead with his goal in the 53rd minute.
Seattle tied the game when Marco Pappa scored in the 63rd minute.