Friday, December 3, 2010

Going Dark

On the heels of Real Maryland's self-relegation from the third tier of U.S. soccer, Crystal Palace Baltimore has announced that it is no more:

Club looking to secure stadium for 2012 and beyond

December 3, 2010

Baltimore, MD - Crystal Palace Baltimore announced today that they will not be fielding a team in the North American Soccer League (NASL) during the 2011 season in order to restructure with an intended re-launch for the 2012 NASL season. The re-launch will include a complete re-branding of the club to coincide with opening a soccer facility in downtown Baltimore.

In addition, the club announced that it is ending its four year relationship with Crystal Palace FC of England’s Championship Division. Crystal Palace Baltimore was the first trans-Atlantic partnership of its kind in North America but the relationship between the clubs could not survive the financial struggles that resulted in Crystal Palace FC entering administration in England.

The club is currently working with the City of Baltimore to secure a venue for 2012 and beyond. “We want to be downtown and believe doing so will allow us to better connect to our fans and the City” said Pete Medd, part-owner and President of Crystal Palace Baltimore. “We would like to thank our loyal fans who have stuck with us despite not having a place to call home and we are committed to giving them what they deserve and what all of our future fans in Baltimore deserve; a venue that honors their loyalty and commitment to the club.”

The club looks forward to involving local soccer fans in the process of choosing a new identity and nickname. One thing that has been determined is the Club’s future colors: red, yellow, and black, the proud and historic colors of the City of Baltimore and the state of Maryland.

I have enjoyed watching the franchise in its brief existence, but the absurdity of last season -- when ownership chose to vault to the second division without a viable field to play on and without established local support -- made the collapse of the club somewhat easier to take as it seemed inevitable.

I held out some small measure of hope that new investment might still see the team play on in 2011, but this was never a realistic possibility.

In the span of three years, the D.C. metro area has gone from having three traditional professional men's soccer teams to one, with the one remaining in some trouble.

The loss of Real Maryland and CP Baltimore led me, for the first time, to look into Baltimore's indoor soccer team today, the Blast (of the five-team MISL) with an eye towards possibly attending a game this winter. (Having looked at the Blast's website, the fact that former Terp captain Rich Costanzo is now playing with the Blast pretty much guarantees that we will head up to 1st Mariner Arena at some point in the next couple of months).

The loss of CP Baltimore is unfortunate, but I am left with lots of pleasant memories of watching the club over the last three seasons. I hope that the stated goal of getting a squad back on the field in 2012 is achieved.

Nevertheless, regardless of whether a team comes back, I am grateful to Mr. Medd, and everyone else associated with the franchise, for the games that were played -- following the club has substantially augmented my love for the sport and my interest in soccer generally.

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