New semipro soccer team Annapolis Blues FC puts best foot forward for franchise debut

The Annapolis Blues FC plays its first regular season match June 3. (Courtesy Jenna Wilson)
A new era kicks off Saturday evening in Maryland’s capital city when the Annapolis Blues FC plays its first regular season match by hosting FC Frederick.

“Tremendously excited and tremendously thankful for the entire Annapolis community and beyond. We’re approaching a record for the NPSL’s (National Premier Soccer League’s) attendance mark,” said general manager Fred Matthes. “We are about 6,000 tickets already. For our very first official home game — just on a great path and the support has been through the roof.”

Sitting 31 miles from Baltimore and 32 miles from D.C., Annapolis has long supported soccer in the Mid-Atlantic era from the days of the North American Soccer League’s Washington Diplomats and the Baltimore Blast of the Major Indoor Soccer League to the current era of D.C. United. While one imagines the region will support the new team, the framework of this club’s following is squarely in Anne Arundel County.

“We’re not Baltimore and we’re not D.C. — directly,” Matthes said. “We can have plenty of fans that come in from those areas that support this club but it really is Annapolis right at the grassroots level that’s supported this club and really has gotten into the soccer side of it.”

For those who have enjoyed college soccer inside the Beltway, you’re going to see quite a few local products on the pitch for Annapolis this summer.

“We have a couple of guys from Maryland, Matias (De Jesus) and then Justin Harris,” coach Colin Herriott said. “We have Jacob Morrell who plays at Georgetown who plays as a forward. And then we have three guys that are playing locally at American University as well: Toshi Davis, Leo Palomo, and Miles Lam.” Also in the mix are two players from Catholic University: Gordon Bernlohr and Liam Giblin.

Herriott hails from Scotland and has coached in the area for the better part of two decades, which certainly helped him form a roster from scratch.

“We have a particular playing style and an identity as a team,” Herriott said. “So for me it was making sure that we found the right pieces of the puzzle and by doing that I had to reach into my contacts in the youth game and then obviously at the collegiate level.”

And what style will we see Saturday and throughout this summer?

“I think you’ll see a really proactive style,” Herriott said. “A really fluid style in terms of possession. We want to be really attack-minded. We want to really dominate the ball for large periods of the game. I think it’s a style that the players are really enjoying, and I think it’s easy on the eye.”

There’s more than just play on the field to entice fans and families. While the game with Frederick is slated to start with a 7 p.m. kickoff, the gates to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium parking lot open at 3 p.m.

“We’ve got ‘autograph alley,’ autographed cards that the kids will get,” Matthes said. “We’ve got keychains that we’re giving out. We’re going to have our merchandise on sale which has been tremendously popular.”

This season, Annapolis Blues FC will play its home matches on Navy’s football (and lacrosse) field.

“You know it’s a bit larger than what we need right now but who knows in the future? It just made a lot of sense,” Matthes said. “Everybody’s very familiar with Navy-Marine Corps Memorial and the great tail-gaiting scenes that are out there. And it’s easy to get to right off route 50 there and into Annapolis. Like I said, more than we really need at this point but it gives us room to grow for sure.”

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that former longtime WTOP morning sports anchor and senior sports director Dave Johnson is a part of the ownership group. He might not be the majority partner, but Johnson has been the face of area soccer for now five decades.

“I came to the U.S. in 2003, and for me Dave Johnson’s the voice of D.C. United,” Herriott said. “I think he’s been involved in with the club since ’97 when the league (MLS) started.”

Johnson is far from an absentee investor.

“Dave’s excitement and enthusiasm is just amazing. He was out at our tailgate at our preseason match,” Matthes said. “And he was out shaking hands in the parking lot … some of that same enthusiasm we talked about before, Dave is certainly a part of that all the way through with this club.”

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Dave Preston

Dave has been in the D.C. area for 10 years and in addition to working at WTOP since 2002 has also been on the air at Westwood One/CBS Radio as well as Red Zebra Broadcasting (Redskins Network).

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