After 25 years, Anhauser still flies under the radar with the Battery

The Charleston Battery head coach is one of the truly great soccer coaches in America.

Sigi Schmidt. Bob Bradley. Bruce Arena. Bob Lilley. All of these men are names synonymous with success in the American world of Soccer. They’ve worked tirelessly in the pursuit of building the game, on and off the pitch, in this country. They boast records and resumes that reflect their efforts. But, for many, one name is rarely spoken in the same sentence as these men, despite doing just as much, with what could be described as a lot less at his disposal. That name is Mike Anhaeuser.

Anhaeuser, or “Augie” as he is affectionately known, will celebrate 25 years with the Charleston Battery when they face Atlanta United 2 at the weekend. Those 25 years include stints as a player, assistant, manager, and general manager of what has become one of the most storied clubs in American soccer. During this time, he has been a part of all four Battery league title successes, became the winningest coach in the modern USL era, spearheaded the most recent non-MLS side to reach the US Open Cup Final, and helped launch the careers of Dane Kelly, Micheal Azira and, perhaps most notably, Osvaldo Alonso, among others.

But, how has he done it? The simple answer is adaptation. Throughout his coaching career alone, he’s been known to adapt to what he has to work with. The Battery side that featured Alonso as its engine room is not the same one that is currently being spearheaded by leading USL goalscorer Attaula Guerra, or even the Battery of last year with the flair of Maikel Chang, the metronome that is Justin Portillo, and the pace and power of Romario Williams.

This year, Anhaeuser has changed his formation away from his usual 4-4-1-1, with the target man up front and a creative attacker just behind to feed off of to a sort of  an arrow looking 3-5-2. This formation has given Neveal Hackshaw a new lease on life as an outside center half, after previous struggles as a defensive midfielder. On the other side of him is Skylar Thomas, having stepped in for a departed Forrest Lasso. Thomas has really come into his own at his natural position, while both he and Hackshaw are anchored by stalwart captain Taylor Mueller. He is now fourth all-time in the team’s record books for appearances after his start against Tampa on Wednesday, having recently passed Anhaeuser himself.

The formation also allows for better freedom in the attack. Kotaro Higashi is now further up the pitch and closer to goal, resulting in scoring his first competitive goals for the club after a year and change in Charleston. It also allows Gordon Wild to showcase his attacking prowess, resulting in a pretty fruitful partnership with Guerra.

In addition to getting the most out of his players on the field, he puts just as much work in off the field. Fulfilling both his duties as manager and GM, he combats the expected revolving door of players, and also a tight budget, by using the types of contacts that brought the likes of Dane Kelly, Omar Daley, Obi Woodbine, and Attaula Guerra to the club on trips to the Carribean and around the world with his backroom staff every off-season. Additionally, the Battery hold open trials every year, and boast an impressive record of signing at least one player from these trials for the last 11 seasons, the latest being Vincenzo Candela, who’s come to be a nice addition, filling the void left by Portillo as the more creative of the two deep lying midfielders.

Anhaeuser is also known for having a great connection with his players. Ask multiple people who know him and they’ll tell you that he knows exactly when a player needs to be substituted after putting in minutes. This also applies to off the field scenarios, where he’s earned a reputation for respecting his players and knowing when they need an arm around them for support or a ticking off after a bad day. Additionally, he’s not one for standing in a player’s way should the opportunity to move onto bigger things arise. This has helped many players that have come through the ranks thrive at higher levels and these players have attributed Anhaeuser as being a big part of their success.

Given the proven track record, the great eye for talent, and more things that fit the requirements of being a successful manager, it remains to be seen why Mike Anhaeuser isn’t held in similar esteem to that of some of his peers. But, he absolutely deserves all the plaudits that come with the success he’s had in his time with the club and the Charleston Battery remain forever in his debt.