Monday, January 7, 2013

Carolina Challenge Cup & An Offseason Update

Its time again to break the offseason silence and with the dawn of the New Year unveil the fresh hopes and aspirations of 2013.  The past year was certainly a prosperous one for the Charleston Battery.  Despite the cancelation of an exhibition with Nottingham Forrest, the Black & Gold provided an entertaining season of football with riveting league play, hosting the New York Red Bulls in the Open Cup, and perhaps the club's most memorable playoff run to date.  Advancing to the Championship match by besting the Rochester Rhinos in penalties, Charleston would go on to win their forth league title, defeating local rivals the Wilmington Hammerheads at Blackbaud Stadium to lift the USL PRO trophy.

Looking forward, this year's Carolina Challenge Cup will showcase more Major League Soccer talent than ever before! The Chicago Fire, Houston Dynamo, and Vancouver Whitecaps all participated in the MLS Playoffs and the Dynamo finished runner-up to the LA Galaxy.  Estonian international Joel Lindpere was recently acquired by Chicago from the Red Bulls and should be present at the CCC.  Also worth noting, the American legend Jay Demerit, captain of the Whitecaps and USMNT regular, will make his Blackbaud debut when the 'Caps do battle with the Battery in the first round of the tournament.

Concerning league news, the USL PRO has added two new teams for 2013 season and announced a Sacramento expansion side slated for the following year.  VSI Tampa Bay FC and Phoenix FC will liven up the league and provide some fresh challenges for the Pride of the Lowcountry this year.  Sadly, Kyle Hoffer, a defensive lynchpin in Charleston's 2012 Championship squad was the first signing for VSI and Phoenix FC have poached defender Devin Grousis from the Charlotte Eagles.

The Battery Coaching staff completed their yearly scouting visit to Jamaica in mid-December and could likely pepper Charleston's provisional squad with more Caribbean flavor.  The final set of open trials will be held this weekend as players from across the state and across the country will vie for a contract or provisional roster spot with the Battery.  As in years past, this has proved to be a great opportunity to enlist local talent from the Palmetto State as well as prospects from further afield.

Speaking of local talent, there's even more good news for fans of the Beautiful Game in the Midlands.   South Carolina's PDL side, the SC United Bantams (formerly Palmetto FC), have teamed up with the SC United youth soccer program for the 2013 season.  This means the Bantams will split playing home fixtures between Lander University and USC.  The collaboration will now provide a natural avenue for athletes to progress from youth soccer to the college level, and then on to amateur development and professional football.  And who knows?  With a rich crop of collegiate footballers, we may see a few Bantams move up to join the Battery before long!

So here's to the Battery's USL PRO title defense and an incredible year of football in 2013!!

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