Thu, Sep

Ataulla Guerra and Neveal Hackshaw join Charleston Battery

Trinidad and Tobago Internationals Neveal Hackshaw and Ataulla Guerra will join the Battery for the 2016 season, USL confirmed Thursday afternoon. Their contracts are cleared pending ITC approval.

Hackshaw is a 20-year-old holding midfielder from the TT Pro League’s North East Stars F.C., based in Sangre Grande, Trinidad. Guerra, 28, is from Central FC in the TT Pro League, based in the Couva region of Trinidad. Both are active members of the Soca Warriors, the Trinidad and Tobago’s national team.

The two internationals joined the club during the February Invitational Camp and were immediate standouts. Hackshaw, who has been with the club since mid-February, quickly moved into the defensive midfield job opposite returning midfielder Justin Portillo. Guerra, who departed Charleston briefly to attend to business at home, has appeared in several roles. He started at forward and scored the match-winner in Wednesday night’s 2-0 victory over the USC Gamecocks in Columbia.

Battery General Manager and Head Coach Mike Anhaeuser called Hackshaw a good signing with upside, and the ability to jump in right now.

“He was a U20 international for Trinidad and did so well he’s moved up to the (senior) team,” Anhaeuser said. “He was on the roster for the US game. He came available to us and we really jumped on it right away, particularly when Jarad (former Battery midfielder Jarad van Schaik) was saying he might not come back. We had to be looking for that position. He’s been in now for several weeks, and he’s been showing that, even for a young player, he’s got a lot of potential and a big upside.”

Hackshaw and van Schaik are “kinda similar,” Anhaeuser said. “Both left-footed. Has a good engine. Jarad’s (strength) is probably his ability to get around the pitch, but Neveal is very strong and very good with the ball, so he might have a little more ability with holding players off. You don’t want to compare a player, or put pressure on him, but Hackshaw kinda fills the mold, and that’s why I was interested in getting him.

“(If he had stayed in Trinidad) he probably would have moved to one of the bigger clubs, and he’s moving here for that reason: To try to grow and become a better player, and maybe take it to the next level: MLS or maybe Europe or wherever.”

Hackshaw said he played three or four positions as a professional before settling into his current role with the Battery, which is also his position with the Soca Warriors. “I started as a left winger, moved to left back, then to stopper,” Hackshaw said. “They played me on the right wing, and then moved me into midfield. I love the midfield.”

He listed his strengths as “jumping to head the ball, winning the ball on the ground, cutting down plays, passing the ball.” He’s working on improving the right-footed side of his game.

If Hackshaw fits the mold of the young prospect, Guerra is shaping up as a veteran tone-setter, both on the field and in the locker room. Anhaeuser called him “a versatile player with a ton of quality and experience,” and described his personality as ultra-competitive.

“He wants to do well, he wants the team to do well,” Anhaeuser said. “He gets on the players, he gets on himself. But he does it in a good way, because he wants to succeed. He gets upset if he misses a pass that he knows he should have hit, he wants guys to get it in to him. And that’s what guys with experience and that edge bring to the table. We have a lot of players like that. And he seems to have a bit of character, too — a fun character, which makes it enjoyable.”

After coming up through the ranks in the TT Pro League, Guerra spent two years in the Finland Premier Division with RoPS, which won the Finnish Cup with him in 2013. His TT Pro club faced the L.A. Galaxy in CONCACAF Champions League last year, and he’s one of the most capped players on the Soca Warriors, who deploy him as a second striker. His primary position is attacking midfield, and he’s played wide, centrally and farther up the field during the Battery preseason.

Guerra described his playing style as “very athletic, like to be on the ball and want to do well all the time. I want to win games, and I came here to win as many trophies as I could.”

He sees signing with the Battery as an opportunity to once again advance up the soccer pyramid.

“It was very great experience for me to play in Europe,” Guerra said. “I was young, but I took the opportunity because I wanted to play abroad for many reasons. At that time I was young, you know, and I didn’t have the experience to climb toward the next level, but now I have the experience to keep going and play at the next level. That’s my goal and that’s my dream.”