(March 28th editor’s notes: Added a bit at the bottom of the post to include Andrew Bell’s responses to questions related to the Mena/Kafari contracts and whether MLS partners receive any additional rights to USL PRO partners’ players. — dc)
Charleston Battery President Andrew Bell confirmed Thursday that the contracts signed by Vancouver Whitecaps draftees Adam Mena and Michael Kafari last week were with the Battery, not the Whitecaps.
The deals are believed to be the first instance of a USL PRO affiliate signing unsigned draft prospects sent down by its MLS partners.
USL PRO Communications Coordinator Nicholas Murray pointed out that forward Blake Brettschneider was released by the New England Revolution after the 2012 season and signed with the Rochester Rhinos in 2013, shortly after the two clubs signed an affiliation agreement. But Brettschneider — a USC Gamecock — was already a two-year MLS veteran with 32 appearances by that point.
Mena and Kafari are both interesting MLS prospects, and while I don’t have this officially, media in Vancouver say the club retains their MLS rights because of their draft selection.
@CHSSoccerNet Interesting. Pleased for them both though. Caps still have their MLS rights, so good opportunity for both to shine.
— AFTN Canada (@aftncanada) March 27, 2014
Kafari is a defensive midfielder and a tremendous athletic talent out of New Mexico who was drafted in the third round of the 2014 MLS Superdraft. He played in preseason match immediately after arriving in Charleston, but aggravated a knee injury he’d suffered in Vancouver. The club is bringing him back slowly to ensure there will be no lingering effects.
Mena was a starter for a highly successful Notre Dame team, but injured his knee in his first match of the 2012 season. He re-injured the knee in 2013 while in camp with the Whitecaps, but returned from a second surgery in fine form this winter.
He scored four goals for Charleston in preseason and earned a start at forward in his professional debut against Orlando.
In other (reported earlier) contract-related news, Battery rookie defender Drew Ruggles left Charleston for Jacksonsville, Fla., Thursday to join the Wilmington Hammerheads in camp. The Battery are hoping their young prospect will earn a pro contract with the North Carolina club.
SPEAKING OF HEALTH: Forward Dane Kelly is getting closer to making his 2014 debut. The Jamaican speed demon has trained all week, and while he isn’t 100 percent yet, he’s looking fast enough.
Kelly came out of the match with a strained hamstring during the Battery’s loss to Houston on the final night of the Carolina Challenge Cup.
“We don’t know if we’re going to start him or bring him off the bench,” said Coach Mike Anhaeuser. “We’ll just have to evaluate that one. But hopefully he’s ready to go.”
The big question coming out of last week’s draw with Orlando was defender Taylor Mueller, who took a skull to the eye in the 89th minute. The Battery have kept him on concussion protocols. He’s been cleared for full practice, which could put him track to start on Saturday against Richmond. But with other options available to Anhaeuser it’s possible that the versatile big guy from Washington State will open the match as a sub.
That would clear the way for Jackson Farmer, an 18-year-old member of the Whitecaps Residency program, to make his first professional start. Farmer’s pro debut came last week when he replaced Mueller.
The cause of this back-line shifting is Quinton Griffin, who receive a red card in stoppage time. The league announced Wednesday that he would receive only a one-game suspension.
THE SALGADO STORY: Striker Omar Salgado opened his account with the Battery on Saturday, playing the entire second half and assisting fellow Whitecaps forward Mamadou Diouf on his goal.
But the thing about Salgado is that he’s a big-time prospect who was the first pick of the 2011 MLS Superdraft. And that means just about everything he does in USL PRO is going to be a story.
Martin McMahon wrote a nice piece on Salgado that ran Wednesday at Goal Canada. And The Post and Courier‘s Andrew Miller went straight to Salgado after practice on Thursday. Look for his story in the paper on Friday.
Quick Salgado quote from the McMahon piece:
I talked to Robbo (Coach Carl Robinson) and we had a conversation. I explained to him that I felt like I needed to play some games, get my game fitness back after the last couple of years.
They gave me two options – stick it out there, or come here. I decided to come here and get those games.
When I spoke to him Saturday I asked what the coaches told him when they sent him down to Charleston, never imagining that the team asked left the decision to him.
STRIKER BUFFET: Look, there’s just so much attacking talent in Charleston right now that it’s hard to foresee how the club will use it. And unlike the the 2013 squad — which tended to attack out of the midfield and had only Kelly as a reliable starter at forward — this year’s crop of strikers includes players who are undeniably forwards — including the much improved Heviel Cordoves.
“Every striker’s different, though,” Anhaeuser said Thursday. “They bring a little something different to the table. Omar’s different than Dane. Cordoves is is different than Omar. Even Adam, we moved him up there. But we got Marlon. We have about six guys that can play up front.
“Some are a little different, and maybe it does give you options to possibly mix and match… So it is nice to have those options. But unfortunately you can’t get them all on the field at the same time.”
BANKRUPTCY: These are the golden days for Battery soccer, but it’s good to remember that things are still tough out there for lots of USL PRO clubs.
The main cause? Debt incurred in the construction of Highmark Stadium — a beautiful soccer palace located on a riverbank in downtown Pittsburgh, and a massive upgrade to the club’s facilities .
The Riverhounds are expected to remain in operation and emerge from this bankruptcy in better shape than ever before. But just tuck that knowledge away.
BTW, here’s a piece on Wilmington’s outlook under new ownership this season.
PRACTICE: After a heavy training day Wednesday, Thursday was relatively light, and highlighted by some funny drills under Assistant Coach Troy Lesesne.
The final finishing drill ended with the winning group posing for an Instagram shot — and the losing group forced to do a can-can dance (See photo at the bottom of this post).
Team Captain Colin Falvey, who will make his 2014 debut Saturday against Richmond, appeared to be in great spirits Thursday.
Always a good omen.
COMING UP: Tomorrow is the Battery’s traditional Old v. Young scrimmage in the stadium (always fun to watch if you’ve never seen one). Be on the lookout for Dane Arlauckas‘ Battery TV preview of the Kickers match (spoiler alert: I’m in it), and I’ll have my preview up Friday afternoon.
And it’s not entirely clear what this means, but the Battery is promoting the first “Call To Arms” for the amorphous “Falvey’s Army” at Molly Darcy’s on April 1.
Whatever it is — and really, who cares? — it certainly looks like fun. Hoo-ah!
Mark your Calendar: First Falvey’s Army: Call to Arms will be Tues, April 1st from 5:30-7:30pm at Molly Darcy’s! More info to come!
— Charleston Battery (@Chas_Battery) March 26, 2014
New this season we are offering a $8 military ticket for each match!
— Charleston Battery (@Chas_Battery) March 27, 2014
— Charleston Battery (@Chas_Battery) March 26, 2014
MARCH 28 UPDATE: Got a reply this morning to some questions I sent late in the day to Battery President Andrew Bell. In keeping with club policy, Bell doesn’t talk about the details of individual contracts. He does, however, suggest that Vancouver Whitecaps should retain rights to Mena and Kafari through existing MLS rules. Which was my assumption as well, but still, you gotta ask.
Asked whether Vancouver pays the full salary of loaned players, Bell replied that MLS pays the salaries of the loaned players. The league is unique in that all MLS contracts are with the league, not the club, so that’s probably a clarifying question I need to follow-up elsewhere.
The rest of the questions and answers I’ll just list below, so as not to trample unintentionally on any intended nuance in his answers.
CHS: Does Charleston pay for other things associated with loaned players — housing, utilities, transportation, etc.? Does the club receive reimbursement for those expenses from the Whitecaps?
AB: We are still working out the details.
CHS: Under the formal terms of the affiliation agreement between the clubs, does Vancouver acquire any special, previously non-existent rights to players signed to the Battery? Such as, if a contracted player such as Colin Falvey were to go on trial with another MLS club, would Vancouver be able to make a claim on him?
AB: I don’t think anything like this is included in the current affiliation agreement.
CHS: Is there anything in the agreement between the leagues that would give affiliated MLS clubs additional rights to players that would supersede the discovery claims of other MLS clubs?
AG: Not that I am aware of.
TOP IMAGE: The winners of Thursday’s finishing drill celebrate their victory by posing for a photo. Dan Conover photos.