CHARLESTON — Four teenage prospects from the S.C. Battery Academy have joined the Charleston Battery 2016 roster through a program that allows USL teams to sign amateur players from their affiliated academies without it costing the prospect his NCAA eligibility.
The players are: Forwards Robbie Robertson of Camden and Conor Sloan of Murrell’s Inlet, midfielder Alex Henderson of Daniel Island, and defender-midfielder Cole Gulledge of Murrell’s Inlet.
This year’s crop of academy talent isn’t the first group to earn spots on the Battery’s available roster, but with Battery goalkeepers coach Dusty Hudock now in his first season as head coach of the S.C. Battery Academy U-18s, communication between the programs is improving.
“It’s a physical link between both programs,” Hudock said of his dual duties. And with more than six years as Coach Mike Anhaeuser’s assistant, the two men are on the same page when it comes to soccer talent.
“He has enough trust in me that when I recommend a player, he is willing to bring him in for a training session,” Hudock said. “On their part, we’ve had players who know their jobs and have been able to do them. We have to give credit to these guys for how well they’ve done.”
S.C. Battery Academy is an independently owned program that is affiliated with, but not managed by, the professional soccer club. It fields teams at the U14, U16 and U18 levels.
Cole Gulledge, 18, is a versatile 6-3 senior at St. James High School who will play for College of Charleston in the fall. He joined the academy four years ago and wound up making an appearance for the Battery last July in Charleston’s 2-1 exhibition loss to West Bromwich Albion. He calls that experience his best moment in soccer so far.
“Natural ability took over,” Gulledge said. “The crowd just went silent for me. (I was) playing alongside a great group of guys, they took me in well, and I just couldn’t be happier about it.”
At 6-3, he’s an aerial specialist who is working on his quickness and technical skills. “I’m more of a holding midfielder, sitting behind the playmaker, and I can also slide into a center back role, or even, as I did recently with the first team, I can slide out to the right back. I was pretty successful there.”
Conor Sloan, 17, has known Gulledge since the two were four years old and they came up as players together in Murrells’ Inlet.
The 5-9 striker began to take soccer seriously after attending a camp in Alabama while he was still in middle school, and he’s appeared in Battery preseason matches. The left-footer plays forward, but prefers to work at left wing. He’s committed to Furman University.
“I would say my major strengths are probably my quickness and my speed, my ability to take players one-on-one. My weaknesses would be my right foot, that’s for sure. I need to work on that, and I have been.”
In the meantime, Gulledge has been the member of the academy contingent with the most Battery mileage.
“Every time he’s performed, Augie has been happy with him,” Hudock said. “He’s been more than satisfied with his knowledge, his tactical decision-making, and his physicality.
“Augie is a trust guy. He’ll give you enough rope, and then if do well, he’s going to give it to you more and more. He keeps asking for Cole. And Cole would probably knock out everybody on the field right now to play for the Battery. That’s how much he cares. He really wants this.”
“Coast FA is extremely proud of the achievement of Cole and Conor” said Coast FA DOC Ross Morgan, “They are a great example to all the younger boys and girls at Coast FA of what is possible through hard work and dedication.” They can often be seen at Socastee Park putting in extra work on their own. Many of our rec players will recognize them as they turn out to referee games in the McDonald’s rec league on their off weekends. We look forward to watching the next chapter of their soccer careers with excitement.