Sounders Insider

Sounders heading down to Carolina Challenge Cup

CarolinaCC14This is a travel day for the Sounders who are heading down to Charleston, S.C., for the Carolina Challenge Cup, which begins Saturday.

I will be back later with some reaction from some Sounders. But for now, here are some tournament notes from the club:

Sounders FC will play matches on the next two Saturdays with intentions to get the players in a rhythm for the season opener against Sporting Kansas City on March 8. Seattle will play the Charleston Battery of the USL-Pro on February 22 and will face DC United the following Saturday (March 1). Sounders FC also played a match against the Portland Timbers in Tucson, Ariz., on Saturday, February 8 and the team held a intrasquad scrimmage on February 15 at CenturyLink Field, making it four straight Saturdays of competition prior to the opener.

Carolina Challenge Cup PreviewThe Carolina Challenge Cup is hosted by the Charleston Battery of USL-Pro at Blackbaud Stadium in Charleston, SC, from February 22-March 1. Sounders FC is making its first appearance in the 11th edition of the week-long, round-robin tournament. Seattle will be joined by the Battery, U.S. Open Cup champions D.C. United and the Houston Dynamo. Sounders FC is the only newcomer to the 2014 tournament as D.C. United (seven appearances) and Houston (three) have previously played in the cup. Review of Tournaments PastSounders FC has played in three preseason tournaments over the past five years. In 2010, the team participated in the La Manga Cup in Spain, beating Stabaek IF, 2-1, and Brann, 1-0, while falling to Rosenborg BK, 3-0. The next year, Sounders FC hosted the Cascadia Summit at Starfire Stadium, dropping matches to the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps FC. In the team's most recent preseason tournament, Sounders FC won the 2013 FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup, ousting the New England Revolution (2-0), Real Salt Lake (2-1) and New York Red Bulls (2-0) before beating RSL, 1-0, in the final.

Tournament OpponentsCharleston Battery One of the most successful clubs in minor league soccer in the United States, the Charleston Battery finished third in the 2013 USL-Pro regular season, reaching the semifinals of the playoffs and fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup. In 2012, the team won the USL-Pro Championship, marking the fourth title in club history. The Battery plays its home games at the soccer-specific Blackbaud Stadium and are coached by former Battery midfielder Michael Anhaeuser. Charleston has competed in all 10 editions of the tournament, with its best finishes (second-place) in 2008 and 2011.

Houston DynamoThe Houston Dynamo have kept a fairly consistent group of players since falling to Sporting Kansas City in the Eastern Conference Championships of the 2013 MLS Cup Playoffs. The Dynamo have added just three new players, including defender David Horst in a trade with Portland and Tony Cascio via loan from Colorado. Six players have left the Dynamo over the offseason, most notably forwards Brian Ching (retired) and Cam Weaver (on trial with Sounders FC), and defender Bobby Boswell. Houston has played seven matches this preseason, going 5-2-0 and outscoring opponents 19-6. The team has played just three MLS sides, losing to the Colorado Rapids and Portland Timbers while beating the San Jose Earthquakes. Houston will play the Pittsburgh Riverhounds at Houston Sports Park before traveling to South Carolina. The Dynamo have competed in the Carolina Challenge Cup three times, winning back-to-back trophies in 2006 and 2007 and finishing fourth in the 2013 tournament.

D.C. UnitedThe defending U.S. Open Cup champions finished at the bottom of the table in the 2013 regular season, prompting the club to a massive overhaul in the offseason. Overall, 11 players on last year's roster are no longer with the team, including midfielder Dwayne De Rosario and former Sounders FC defender James Riley. To replace the talent that left, the Black and Red brought in 12 players this offseason, including former Sounders FC forward Eddie Johnson and defender Jeff Parke. D.C. United also acquired defenders Sean Franklin and Bobby Boswell and forward Fabian Espindola in the Re-Entry Process, and midfielder Davy Arnaud in a trade with Montreal. The new-look group has played three preseason games, falling 1-0 to Toronto FC and losing twice to the Chicago Fire. D.C. United have competed in the Carolina Challenge Cup seven times, winning three straight times from 2010-12, and did not compete in the 2013 edition.

Where to WatchAll three of Seattle's matches in the Carolina Challenge Cup will be streamed live on CharlestonBattery.com and YouTube.com/thechsbattery. Tickets to every match of the Carolina Challenge Cup are on sale to the general public. Individual tickets priced at $15 and $25 will be available online or at the Charleston Battery Box Office (843) 971-4625. A limited number of discounted groups tickets (groups of 10 or more) are also available for purchase. Carolina Challenge Cup tickets are also included in all 2014 Charleston Battery season ticket packages.

Charleston ConnectionsSounders FC has several connections to the Charleston Battery. Seattle's four-time team MVP Osvaldo Alonso began his professional career in the United States with the Battery in 2008, earning USL-1 Rookie of the Year honors while leading the club to the final of the U.S. Open Cup. Lamar Neagle and Alex Caskey both had brief stints with Sounders FC before joining the Battery, where they each played one season before returning to Seattle. Neagle earned golden boot and MVP honors in 2010 when the team competed in USL-2, and Caskey scored once in 19 appearances in 2011. Assistant Coach Ezra Hendrickson played briefly for Charleston in 2003-04, and Sounders FC trialist Michael Azira is an active member of the Battery. In addition, former Sounders FC defender Amadou Sanyang currently plays for the Battery.

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