Charleston Battery striker Ian Svantesson is trying to make up for lost time.
Svantesson missed nearly a month of the 2018 season, his first with the club, with a nagging leg injury, but the time spent on the Battery's bench gave him a new perspective on the game.
Svantesson scored in the 65th minute as Charleston had a goal disallowed in the first half and had to settle for a 1-1 draw against the Ottawa Fury on Saturday night before a crowd of about 3,500 in the season opener for both teams at MUSC Health Stadium.
After scoring 11 goals for the Tulsa Roughnecks during the 2017 season, Svantesson was signed by Charleston coach Mike Anhaeuser in the hopes that the 6-6 striker would give the Battery a much-need physical presence around the goal.
But injuries and a new system with the Battery conspired to keep Svantesson’s production last year to just four goals in 21 matches.
“Last year was disappointing on a lot of levels,” Svantesson said. “When you are paid to score goals and that’s not happening, that’s going to be frustrating. The only thing I could really do was just continue to work on my game and get better.”
The hard work has appeared to pay huge dividends this season.
Svantesson, 25, scored twice in the Carolina Challenge Cup against Major League Soccer opponents and again on opening night for the Battery.
“He has worked his tail off to get better,” Anhaeuser said. “He’s a different type of forward than the ones we’ve been used to around here the last few years, so I think we had to get used to him as well. We have to play the ball into him, into his feet, into his chest, so he’s able to turn guys. He’s starting to pick up the little things that he needs to do to become more effective. That’s the good thing. I think over time, he’s only going to get better. I thought he battled tonight. He’s got into the box and got into scoring positions.”
Svantesson said the month he spent on the bench last summer helped him see the game in a different light.
“I think the injury might have been a blessing in disguise for me,” Svantesson said. “I think sitting back and watching the game helped me give me a different perspective on what I needed to do to be more effective. Obviously, I didn’t have the kind of season I wanted. I feel different out there, I don’t know if the switch has been flipped or what, but I’m more comfortable out there now.”
Despite being without Ataulla Guerra, the team’s leading scorer from last season, Zeiko Lewis, the club’s top offseason signing, and Leland Archer, a starting defender, the Battery controlled most of the run of play. Charleston nearly scored in the opening minutes of the match as Svantesson and midfielder Kotaro Higashi both had quality chances.
“I really liked the way we came out and probably could have been up a goal or two after the first five minutes,” Anhaeuser said.
Instead it was Ottawa that struck first as Fury midfielder Kevin Oliveira scored in the sixth minute.
Charleston answered when former Coastal Carolina star Romario Piggott knocked in a Higashi rebound in the 18th minute. However, the linesman ruled that Piggott was offside on the play.
“I’ll have to look at it on film,” Anhaeuser said. “He didn’t raise his flag at first, so it was hard to tell what happened.”
Svantesson tied the game in the 65th minute off another Higashi rebound.
“Half of my job is following up shots and poaching,” Svantesson said. “As long as Kotaro keeps bouncing balls off of goalies’ faces, we’re going to be good. Getting the goal tonight is a continuation of how the preseason has been going for me. We definitely left a few goals on the table that we should have had, so there's something we can build on.”
The Battery will face Hartford Athletic next Saturday at MUSC Health Stadium beginning at 7:30 p.m.