Charleston Battery striker Dane Kelly walked out of the locker room after the team’s training session on Friday with ice bags on just about every joint in his body.
It’s been that kind of month for the Charleston Battery.
When Charleston takes the field for its USL match with the Wilmington Hammerheads at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Blackbaud Stadium, it will be the sixth game since May 14 for the leg-weary Battery.
The Battery was already scheduled to play in four league matches during that stretch, but added two games in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup for good measure. The Battery’s 3-2 victory over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers on Wednesday night in the third round of the Cup means a date with Major League Soccer’s Orlando City SC on June 17 and the possible return of international superstar Kaká to Blackbaud Stadium.
There’s just no rest for the weary.
“I’m tired, but I’ll be ready (Saturday),” Kelly said as he made his way to his car.
The Battery has had just two days to rest and prepare for the Hammerheads after Wednesday night’s thriller against Fort Lauderdale. Charleston coach Mike Anhaeuser has had to manage the minutes of several key starters in order to keep them fresh for the club’s USL matches.
“We take the U.S. Open Cup very seriously, so we want to put our best foot forward and play our best players,” Anhaeuser said. “I tried to rotate guys in and out of the lineup before we started the Cup games. We were able to get all of the guys that we have here involved over the last couple of weeks. We’ve got some guys injured, which is typical this time of year, but we don’t have the depth we’ve had in the past.”
An already limited roster got a little smaller during the week. Anhaeuser has only 18 players on the Battery’s roster and three of those are expected to be unavailable this weekend against Wilmington. Midfielder Memo Rodriguez returned to Houston to help in the Dynamo’s exhibition match Thursday night with the English Premier League’s Manchester City. Midfielder Zach Prince is serving a one-game suspension for yellow-card accumulation, while defender Quinton Griffith is still recovering from knee surgery. Defender O’Brian Woodbine could return from a hamstring injury sustained earlier this week, but is no lock to play.
“We’ve got to protect some guys who have played a lot of minutes and manage those guys because it’s only May and we’ve still got a lot soccer ahead of us,” Anhaeuser said. “But we also have to balance that because we still want to win and get the three points out of the match.”
The Hammerheads, meanwhile, are a rested team after getting knocked out of the U.S. Open Cup in the first round. They have played just once since May 16.
“They should be fresh and ready to go,” Anhaeuser said. “I expect that they’re going to be very aggressive and try and wear us down. We’ve got the ability to substitute five players, so everyone is going to play.”
One player that hasn’t logged a lot of minutes this week is striker Heviel Cordoves. Cordoves was serving a one-game suspension for the U.S. Open Cup and did not play against Fort Lauderdale.
Cordoves will have his hands full with Wilmington defender Ashani Fairclough, who was selected to last year’s USL Pro First Team. A 6-2 former midfielder, the 22-year-old Fairclough has MLS-quality athleticism and is widely considered a prospect for the top-level league. He spent 2013 with the Seattle Sounders, though he did not make an MLS appearance.
Now in his third year, Cordoves has three goals in USL play this season, with all three coming in starting assignments during the Battery’s three-game season-opening winning streak. Cordoves has scored three game-winners this season, including the only goal in the opening round of the U.S. Open Cup against Miami United FC.