Charleston coach Mike Anhaeuser knew that last week’s schedule was going to be the toughest stretch of the season for the Battery.
The soccer team traveled almost 5,000 miles, across three different time zones, to play three matches in five days.
Despite going 0-1-2 last week, Anhaeuser said he was impressed by the team’s performance under very difficult circumstances.
The Battery returns home to Blackbaud Stadium Saturday night to face VSI Tampa Bay FC at 7:30.
The road trip began with a flight to Utah to face Major League Soccer’s Real Salt Lake in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup. The Battery opened up a 2-0 lead on their MLS opponent before the altitude and Salt Lake’s skill caught up to them in a 5-2 overtime loss.
Charleston flew to Pittsburgh from Salt Lake City and, with one day of preparation, managed to earn a 1-1 tie against the Riverhounds last Saturday night. Then it was a quick turnover and another 1-1 draw against Rochester the following day.
“To get two draws on the road after the game we played against Salt Lake was fantastic,” Anhaeuser said. “We probably could have won both games. We had chances to win both. Those three games showed me how fit we are as a team. We used our entire roster during that road trip. I think we showed the character and fitness, and team unity during the road trip.”
The most impressive part of the road trip might have been the second half against Rochester, team captain Colin Falvey said. Trailing 1-0 going into the second half, a lesser team might not have fought back to earn a draw. The Battery got a goal from defender Shawn Ferguson and had two quality scoring chances in the in final minutes.
“A lot of teams would have folded and thrown in the towel after the first half,” Falvey said. “I think the second half against Rochester was one of the best performances of the year for us. We came out with a lot of energy in the second half and found a way to get a goal. We put them under pressure for almost the whole second half.”
The Battery will be without striker Dane Kelly on Saturday. Kelly is finalizing his United States green card application in Jamaica. Kelly leads the Battery with seven goals this season and hopes to return to the team in a week.
“Dane has to finish up the process, but this is a huge step for him,” Anhaeuser said. “We had hoped he’d be done with this a year ago, but the process took longer than we expected.”
Although it is the first-ever meeting between the two teams, there will be plenty of familiar faces on the field. Tampa Bay’s Tony Donatelli, Sallieu Bundu and Kyle Hoffer all played on the Battery’s 2012 USL Pro championship squad.
“Most of the time a lot of expansion clubs will build their rosters with younger players,” Anhaeuser said. “Tampa has a lot of veteran guys from around the league. Obviously, Tony, Bundu and Kyle were big parts of our team last year, so they’ve got a good bit of quality to their roster.”