Charleston defender Colin Falvey and midfielder Nicki Paterson aren’t exactly sure what it is about Major League Soccer teams that bring out the best in the Battery players.
It could be the fact that the Battery has traditionally played well against their upper division brethren — Charleston is 9-9 all-time against MLS opponents in the U.S. Open Cup.
It could be that Falvey and Paterson feel there are more than a couple of players on the Battery’s current roster who deserve a shot at the next level.
Or it could be that teams from the MLS take the USL Pro Division teams lightly.
Whatever the case, Falvey and Paterson will get another shot to prove themselves against an MLS opponent when the Battery takes on Real Salt Lake in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup at 9:30 p.m. today at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.
The winner of tonight’s game will host the winner of the fourth-round match between the MLS’ Chivas USA and the Carolina RailHawks in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals on June 26.
“I truly believe that we’ve got guys on this team that are every bit as good or better than the fringe guys in the MLS,” said Paterson, who had two goals last Saturday night against the MLS’ Houston Dynamo reserve team. “There’s just not that big of a difference in the quality. I think when you’re playing against an MLS team, you’re playing on a big stage, and there’s always someone watching. You play well and you could end up earning a contract.”
The Battery has beaten an MLS team three times already this season, including a 1-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes. The Battery’s win over San Jose was the ninth victory over an MLS opponent in the U.S. Open Cup. The other victories were DC United (1999), New York MetroStars (2001, 2004), Houston Dynamo (2007, 2008), FC Dallas (2008), Chivas USA (2009) and Chicago Fire (2010).
The Battery has experienced plenty of success in the U.S. Open Cup, finishing as the runner-up in 2008, making the semifinals in 1999 and 2004, and reaching the quarterfinals in 2007, 2009 and 2010.
“The club takes the Cup very seriously,” Falvey said. “The regular season is important, and obviously we want to win our league, but we’ve always put our best team on the field during the Cup competition.”
Weather and altitude could play a factor. Nearly a mile above sea level, the elevation for Sandy is 4,450 feet. Game-time temperatures will be in the high 60s, but with only 20 percent humidity. The Battery is used to training and playing at sea level with high humidity levels.
“I don’t think the altitude is going to be that big of a factor,” Falvey said. “I think we’re among the fittest teams in the league, and because it’s so hot and humid here, I think we play in the toughest conditions. Obviously, it’s going to be different playing that high up. The air will be thinner and drier, but I don’t think it’ll be a big deal.”
Charleston midfielder Jarad van Schaik was drafted by Salt Lake with the 52nd overall pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft. He trained with the squad during the 2011 preseason but was not offered a contract.
The two teams have previously met in the Carolina Challenge Cup, the Battery’s preseason tournament. Real Salt Lake won both matches.