Interview with Charleston Battery coach and general manager Mike Anhaeuser

Jun 17, 2015; Charleston, SC, USA; Orlando City forward Pedro Ribeiro (15) blocks a corner kick against the Charleston Battery during the second half at Blackbaud Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 17, 2015; Charleston, SC, USA; Orlando City forward Pedro Ribeiro (15) blocks a corner kick against the Charleston Battery during the second half at Blackbaud Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports /

There are very few sides in the USL whose history can stack up with that of the Charleston Battery.

Founded in 1993 the Battery have become a staple of U.S. Soccer not just for their annual tournament, the Carolina Challenge Cup, but for winning. The side has won four USL titles and narrowly lost to D.C. United in the 2008 U.S. Open Cup final. After shocking FC Cincinnati last season in the first round of the USL playoffs the Battery fell to Louisville City FC in a close 1-0 contest.

Through all of the club’s success there has been one constant on the pitch: Mike Anhaeuser. Anhaeuser started with the club back in 1994 and quickly became one of the Battery’s top players. After his playing career was cut short due to a knee injury Anhaeuser moved into coaching, first serving as an assistant coach with the club then eventually taking over as head coach.

Via email,  Sean Maslin had the chance to speak with him about the club’s upcoming season, their success over the years, their affiliate agreement with Atlanta United, and the Carolina Challenge Cup.

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Sean Maslin :The Battery have reached the Conference Semifinals the past two seasons. What sort of improvements does your side need to make in 2017 to make it back to the finals?

Mike Anhaeseuer: We are trying to keep a good portion of our team together from last season which is very important and sometimes very difficult , but at the same time we will need to add a little more to our offensive ranks so we can be a little more dangerous in the final third next year and put teams under more pressure

SM: The USL has obviously expanded greatly over the past five to ten years. This season in the Eastern Conference your club will be playing the Ottawa Fury and Tampa Bay Rowdies, two clubs that have extensive experience in the NASL. What are your thoughts on the league’s expansion and have you had the chance to watch any matches of the Fury or Rowdies from last season?

MA: I have watched more than a few NASL games. I’ve watched Tampa a few more times than others, because it was always likely that we could always match up against them in the US Open Cup. I like to keep up with other teams and players throughout the leagues.  I think these two clubs will only add to the already difficult USL Eastern Conference.

SM: You coached the Battery side that made it to the U.S. Open Cup Finals in 2008. What does it take for a side not in Major League Soccer to make it to the final stages of the tournament and how do you balance playing time for your side when playing in multiple competitions?

MA: First you have to have a quality side to begin with, depth is very important to have a chance in the Open Cup.  The Cup is in the middle of the season and if you have to win four or five MLS games it has become very difficult. MLS teams are not putting out sides with only reserves or younger players because winning the Cup earns a spot in CONCACAF Champions league, money and a trophy that clubs are proud to own.

SM: Your side has played quite a large role in the rise in interest soccer in South Carolina over the years. Why do you feel that the Battery have been so successful in galvanizing interest in the region?

MA: The Battery has been a professional soccer organization for over 25 years and we always try to be involved with every club, organization, school and any soccer event in the area or state. We have also had success on and off the field which has allowed us to gain fans and interest regionally and also internationally. Bringing in premiership teams, MLS teams and other large foreign clubs for friendlies helps tremendously as well.

SM: This winter former Battery player Michael Azira had the chance to participate in the African Cup of Nations for Uganda. Did you get a chance to watch any of his matches and as someone who had a chance to coach him what did it feel like to have one of your players play such an important tournament?

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MA: I did not get to watch the game that Micheal played live, but I did know that he played in the game versus Ghana.  This was a huge success for Micheal and he has worked very hard to get to this point of his career.  I wish every Battery player success when they get to play with their National teams.

SM: Over the past week your club extended their affiliate agreement with Atlanta United SC. You also have agreements set up with three PDL sides-Myrtle Beach Mutiny, Tri-Cities Otters, and South Georgia Tormenta FC. How are important are these agreements to the success of your club and, with regards to Atlanta, what has your experience been like thus far working with them?

MA: We are very excited to extend our partnership with Atlanta United, they have been great to work with. Atlanta worked out well last season as we were able to get some important minutes and development for Romario Williams, Alex Tambakis and Andrew Carleton.   The PDL partnerships are new for us.  They’ll allow us to work together with the clubs to possibly get players, club strategies, operations and development to help grow the Battery.

SM: This time next month the Carolina Challenge Cup will be going on at your home stadium. Is there any pressure to win this tournament or is getting prepared for the season more important to your side?

MA: We try to utilize the tournament to get prepared for the season more so than trying to win, but it creates a wonderful atmosphere for the development of the team and a great way to showcase MLS and professional soccer in the Lowcountry and South Carolina.

SM: Since you have been with the club for quite a long period of time I would imagine you have heard your fair share of interesting songs from supporters. Are there any particular over the years that still make you laugh?  

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MA: I love all the chants that our supporters come up  with….but a couple that seem to stick are “Black and Yellow, Black and Yellow” and “Charleston Battery….best team in the league” It would be great if we could get the Battery cannon back to fire off when we score a goal like we did back when we played at Stoney Field.  It might just help us score a few more goals every season!