The Charleston Battery players had a simple goal entering the month of July – win every time they stepped onto the pitch.
Mission accomplished, sort of.
Instead of playing four matches in July as scheduled, the Battery took the field just once. Three matches were postponed – two for weather-related issues and the other because of an accident involving one of the team's vans.
“We wanted 12 out of 12 points, but we got three out of three and we’ll take it,” said Charleston Battery captain Taylor Mueller. “It’s been a crazy, crazy month.”
Throw in June’s U.S. Open Cup match against Major League Soccer’s Atlanta United, which was moved to Kennesaw, Ga., because of poor field conditions at MUSC Health Stadium, and the Battery has had to reschedule four games this season.
It's been a bizarre summer for the Battery, who are hoping Saturday’s home match (7:30 p.m.) against the Tampa Bay Rowdies goes as scheduled. Rain is in the forecast.
The Battery hasn’t played since July 20, a 3-2 win at Hartford, and hasn’t played at home since a 1-1 draw against the New York Red Bulls II on June 29.
“Never been through anything like this before in my 30 years as a player or a coach,” said Charleston Battery coach Mike Anhaeuser. “Imagine a team like the Patriots having to cancel four games and having to make them up, it just doesn’t happen. You might have one a season or one every couple of years, but four within a few weeks of each other, never seen anything like it. Mother Nature has gotten in the way, but you can’t control the weather.”
The traffic accident before last weekend’s match with Swope Park forced a half dozen players to be taken to the hospital in Kansas City. The Battery normally takes three mini-vans plus an SUV from the team's hotel to the playing venue. One of the vans was struck from behind by a car on its way to the stadium.
“It was a pretty scary situation,” Mueller said. “I was in the van right in front of the one that got hit. A sedan hit a Lincoln Navigator and the Navigator hit the van the guys were in. There were no screeching tires or anything like that. From what we know, the woman driving the sedan was looking down or not on the road and just hit the Navigator full speed. We know she was in bad shape.”
Anhaeuser said several Battery players tried to offer assistance to the driver of the sedan.
“Hopefully the lady driving the car is going to be OK,” Anhaeuser said. “We had eight players caring for her because she was in worse condition than we were and that shows you the character of the guys on this team.”
Mueller said postponing the match was the right decision.
“I think this last week was a real reality check for some of the guys,” Mueller said. “Our mental state was all over the place and not in the right place to play a match after what happened.
The six players transported to the hospital were released and back at practice by Thursday.
“The good thing is that none of the injuries were serious,” Anhaeuser said. “The question moving forward is how are the guys going to be mentally. We are going to be cautious.”
One thing is for sure, the Battery will be well-rested when they take the field against Tampa Bay.
“The one positive is that we’ve got everyone healthy and everyone’s rested and ready to go,” Anhaeuser said. “We need to restart and refresh and treat it like it’s the start of the second half of the season.”
The three games have been rescheduled in September, which makes that a busy month for the Battery. Charleston will play seven matches in four weeks.
“We tried to put the games into good positions so they don’t kill us," Anhaeuser said. "We’ll play Wednesday, Saturday, Wednesday, so we will have to have everyone healthy and ready to go during that stretch.”
Another benefit of the long layoff is the return of midfielder Ataulla Guerra. Guerra finally joined the team in early July, scored a goal against Hartford, and has had two weeks to train and get into shape. Guerra led the Battery with 15 goals during the 2018 campaign.