Charleston Battery midfielder Zeiko Lewis is no stranger to playing soccer in cold temperatures.
After all, the former first-round draft pick of Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls spent four years bundling up for matches with Boston College, then played professionally in Iceland during the 2018 season.
But the Bermuda native admitted he’s happy to be back in warmer weather for the 2019 season.
“The weather here in Charleston is closer to what I’m used to,” Lewis said. “Adjusting to the cold in Iceland took some time. I don’t mind the cold, but being in the cold weather for 365 days of the year is tough. You get used to it, but it’s a different kind of cold in Iceland. I think the warmest day during the summer over there was like 70 degrees, so it was a little bit of a culture shock for me.”
Lewis said he’s looking forward to spending a hot, humid summer in the Lowcountry playing for the Battery.
“The summers here will be a lot like they are back home,” Lewis said. “I can’t wait.”
The Charleston Battery will open the 2019 USL campaign against the Ottawa Fury at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at MUSC Health Stadium.
Battery coach Mike Anhaeuser said he signed Lewis in hopes of bringing a little more offense to the roster. Lewis, the former ACC freshman of the year, had been a prolific scorer during his collegiate career – recording 18 goals and 26 assists in 73 appearances at Boston College.
“He’s a guy that can break down defenses off the dribble and can play right behind the forward or out on the wing,” Anhaeuser said. “He’s left-footed, he’s very crafty and he’s able to do things on the offensive end that we’ve lacked in the last couple of seasons. We wanted to add some flair to our attack in hopes of being able to score more goals this season.”
Lewis, 23, was taken by the New York Red Bulls with the 17th overall pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft. Minutes after getting selected by Red Bulls, he raised eyebrows when he told reporters that “the teams that passed on him” in the draft would eventually regret it.
“A lot of people took it the wrong way,” Lewis said. “I wasn’t mad or trying to prove anybody wrong. It was mostly that I just believe in myself. I’m not saying others didn’t, but I know how good I am and I try to prove that every day I’m on the field. I’d rather let my soccer do the talking for me.”
Lewis spent the 2017 season with the USL’s New York Red Bulls II, scoring two goals in 23 matches. That summer, Lewis got a chance to play against the Battery, which was one reasons why he signed with the club.
“They have a rich history here, and I played against the Battery before and I always thought they were a very good team,” Lewis said. “When my agent told me that the Battery was interested in bringing me here, I jumped at the opportunity - it was a no-brainer for me to sign here.”
Lewis signed with Handknattleiksfelag Kopavogs (HK) in Iceland’s first division last season. Lewis spent the end of last season with HK on loan from Fimleikafelag Hafnarfjarðar (FH).
“It was nice being over in Iceland - the soccer is very good and played at a high level, but it was always in my plans to come back over the United States and play here,” Lewis said. “It’s closer to home and to my family. I enjoyed my time in Iceland, and potentially I’d like to go back in the future, but I wanted to come back to the U.S.”
Lewis has international experience on his resume with the Bermuda national team. He made his first national team appearance when he was just 16 and has scored eight goals in 18 appearances for his country since his debut in 2011.
“He has that international experience, which is very valuable," Anhaeuser said. "We haven’t had that guy that can break defenses down with his dribbling ability and that can challenge guys one v. one. We’re hoping that’s what he can bring to our attack. We will probably use him more on the wing where he can break guys down and give us some good service into the box. He has the ability to bring something special on the offensive end.”
Lewis has yet to hit the Lowcountry beaches but doesn’t have plans to do so anytime soon.
“I stay away from American beaches - I’ve been spoiled my whole life,” Lewis said with a chuckle.
2019 Charleston Battery Schedule
March 9 Ottawa Fury 7:30 p.m.
March 16 Hartford Athletic 7:30 p.m.
March 30 at North Carolina FC 7 p.m.
April 7 Charlotte Independence 2 p.m.
April 13 at Bethlehem Steele FC 7 p.m.
April 20 Nashville SC 7:30 p.m.
April 27 at Memphis 901 FC 8 p.m.
May 4 Pittsburgh Riverhounds 7:30 p.m.
May 11 St. Louis FC 7:30 p.m.
May 18 at Indy Eleven 7:30 p.m.
May 25 Atlanta United 2 7:30 p.m.
June 1 at Louisville City FC 7 p.m.
June 8 Birmingham Legion FC 7:30 p.m.
June 15 at Tampa Bay Rowdies 7:30 p.m.
June 22 Swope Park Rangers 7:30 p.m.
June 26 at Ottawa Fury FC 7 p.m.
June 29 New York Red Bulls II 7:30 p.m.
July 5 at Atlanta United 2 7:30 p.m.
July 13 Memphis 901 FC 7:30 p.m.
July 20 at Hartford Athletic 7 p.m.
July 27 at Swope Park Rangers 5 p.m.
Aug. 3 Tampa Bay Rowdies 7:30 P.M.
Aug. 10 at St. Louis FC 8:30 p.m.
Aug. 14 at Loudoun United FC 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 17 Louisville City FC 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 24 at Nashville SC 8 p.m.
Aug. 30 at Charlotte Independence 7 p.m.
Sept. 7 Indy Eleven 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 14 at Pittsburgh Riverhounds 7 p.m.
Sept. 22 North Carolina FC 2 p.m.
Sept. 27 at New York Red Bulls 7:30 P.M.
Oct. 5 at Birmingham Legion FC 8 p.m.
Oct. 13 Loudoun United FC 2 p.m.