Wednesday, December 5, 2012


I am going to miss Maryland's return to the College Cup Final Four and the Georgetown derby sited in Alabama on Friday.  I also missed Maryland's game against George Mason Sunday, missed our first home game tonight (against UMES), and will miss the South Carolina State game Saturday.

But even on vacation I cannot stop trying to find a sporting event to attend.  Thanks largely to a useful post on Puerto Rico Day Trips, we made it out to the Carolina Gigantes/Cangrejeros de Santucre game tonight at Roberto Clemente Stadium.

The stadium is, indeed, big, beautiful, and well-maintained.  We got ourselves a bit turned around getting out to Roberto Clemente, as (coming from the west) we needed to take a U-turn at the intersection of PR-3 and PR-857, then missed the turn to the parking lot (north on PR-853) and ended up back on PR-3 heading west.  Correcting the mistake was easy, parking cost only $2, and admission was free.  Scott Kazmir was on the mound for Carolina with Kyle Blanks in left field, the opposition featured Neftali Soto, former Nat/Oriole Luis Matos, and former Nat Felipe Lopez, and the stadium was gorgeous, so I kept looking for reasons to spend money to even out the experience.

Because Kazmir was on the mound, a number of scouts were in the stand.  At the game, I did not realize that he was back on the radar of major league clubs and, from tonight's performance, I do not think you would have reasonably guessed that this was the case.  Kyle Blanks, on the other hand, is striking.  I had not seen him play before.  At 6'6" and 270 pounds, he stands out without having to swing a bat.  He hammered a couple of balls tonight.  Given the level of talent there, I hope Blanks will finally be able to string together a full season of good health.

I did not expect to enjoy going to a winter league baseball game as much as we did tonight.  Definitely a family-friendly environment, with the added benefit of very easy access by car to Carolina's stadium from San Juan. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Real Maryland's demise has me pondering a bit more the club's impact.  I have focused predominantly on players like Mason Trafford, Joe Funicello, Jonathan Borrajo (recently released by the New York Red Bulls), and Draymond Washington because there was something about their play at Richard Montgomery High School that stood out -- making the trip to Rockville seem worthwhile.

In the summer of 2011, we went to Richard Montgomery largely to check out how a number of players with connections to the University of Maryland's program were doing.  We ended up seeing impressive individual play by a group of players attached to George Mason University, including Dray.  The kid that most captured attention was a crafty, diminutive winger just finishing his college career.  Ryan Gracia had scored 15 goals in four years for George Mason, but seemed to score at will for Real Maryland.

I completely underestimated Gracia and trained my eyes on him in a vain effort to discern the flaws that would prove that he was not as good as the Terrapins who were not getting many opportunities on the team.  Yet, in every match that Gracia played and we attended, he continued to impress.

Until yesterday, I had assumed that a failure to land a contract with a USL Pro squad at the beginning of the year meant that Gracia was not going to be given an opportunity to play professional soccer.  Not true.  Having found nothing to his liking here, Gracia went off to Scandinavia, trialed with the Swedish fourth division side Bodens BK and earned himself a contract in February.  Gracia's rookie year went well enough that he was able to parlay the experience into a contract with Nykoping BIS to play in the Swedish third division in 2013

I get that playing in Iceland or the Aland Islands or in the Swedish third division is not something that captures the hearts and minds of American soccer fans, but the fact that these opportunities are available and that American (and Canadian) players are seizing them is quite remarkable.  Gracia is 22 years old.  While conventional wisdom dismisses the ceiling of collegiate players, the best American outfield player played college ball until he was 20.  Over the next few years, Gracia can, if he so chooses, chase a dream that eluded virtually every American that has ever shown competence with a soccer ball at his feet.

That's pretty cool.  So is the fact that little Real Maryland played a part in making that pursuit possible. 

I am going to have to get used to the idea of getting up to Bel Air on a consistent basis in 2013.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Impeccable Timing

Nothing like extolling the praises of an entity that ceased to exist the previous day.  Having missed every game last season, attending a Real Maryland match next year will not be an option:

Hello Everyone,

How are you? I hope this email finds you well.

I am sad to inform you that Real Maryland FC will suspend operations for the 2013 Season after a great 5-year run.

The ownership group has decided to forgo next season as they have turned their attentions in another direction.

I have been working this past month with the USL in trying to find a new ownership group for the Real Maryland FC Franchise.

The turn-around time for a new group to come in for the 2013 Season has proven to be too short of a window for potential investors.

The Rights are now with the USL and interested investors should contact them directly.

While this is a sad and unfortunate turn of events, I don’t believe that this will be the last time the area will see a USL PRO/PDL/W-League Franchise. I am sure 2014 will see something stirring about; I hope.

This will be one of my last emails in addition to a report on how the last three remaining Real Maryland FC Monarch Teams do in the up-coming USL Super Y League North American National Finals this December.

Please help me wish the U12 RMFC SYL Boys (Coach Luis Calderon), U13 RMFC SYL Boys (Coach Julio Arjona) and the U15 RMFC SYL Boys (Coach Tim Francis) the best of luck in the finals.

At this time, I would like to say THANK YOU to everyone who helped out with Real Maryland FC over the course of the past 5 years. Without you, I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this.

Lastly, the office will be open today (Wednesday), tomorrow (Thursday) and Friday from 10am – 3pm. I am cleaning out the office and all gear must go!

All gear items will be on sale for $10 each – warm up pants, warm up jackets, rain jackets, training tops, polo’s, sweatshirts, blankets, banners, socks & shorts, medals, hats, professional game jerseys, replica game jerseys and game shorts are some of the items that will be available. These items will make great holiday gifts and memorabilia. All items will be sold at a first come, first serve basis.

Please keep playing the game like there is no tomorrow, support one another and you will reach great heights.

I hope to see all of you again soon.

Thank you everyone.


David B. Noyes
General Manager
Real Maryland FC
12114 B Heritage Park Circle
Silver Spring, MD 20906
P: 301-933-6460
F: Real Maryland FC Facebook Page
Whatever else might be said about the club, Real Maryland afforded a platform by which soccer players -- including Draymond Washington -- could either launch or sustain their professional careers.

With Real Maryland alum Mason Trafford again anchoring the back line, IFK Mariehamn recorded the club's best ever position in the Veikkausliiga table -- fourth on 51 points in 33 matches.  Trafford is out of contract, with some hope he will return to the club, and has had a remarkable run in Finland regardless.

Iceland's Thor Akureyri also had a terrific season, including continental competition in the Europa League and a return to the top flight after topping the second division table.  Real Maryland alum (and IFK Mariehamn dissident) Joe Funicello played a big part in the club's run and the team recently announced an agreement for his return next year.  Joe will be joined -- again -- by someone we saw in the stands at Richard Montgomery, as Josh Wicks has also signed up for another year with the club

And more recent Real Maryland alum Jake Pace headed home the winning goal yesterday that sent the Terrapins back to the College Cup as Maryland avenged Louisville's win at Ludwig in the tournament last season.

Four players:  NASL Champions, fourth in Finland's Veikkausliiga, first in Iceland's First Division, and in the NCAA men's college soccer final four.  Although Real Maryland may not have been a success as a financial operation, it had an impact and will be missed.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Premier Development

Due to scheduling conflicts and uncooperative weather, we failed to make a Real Maryland match this past summer.  I didn't try very hard, having also soured a bit on the United Soccer League's model in the face of the USL's repeated attacks aimed at the NASL.

Wednesday's announcement by the Tampa Bay Rowdies -- the NASL champions -- of Draymond Washington's new two-year deal (likely one year guaranteed and the second a club option) is a reminder of the value of Real Maryland and the USL Premier Development League.

We attended quite a few of Real Maryland's games in 2011 and Draymond, the team's captain, stood out as one of the most consistent, competent performers on the squad.  He was not, however, targeted by any MLS squads after graduating from George Mason University.  Instead, Draymond made the most of a trial with Tampa Bay earlier this year and earned his first professional contract.

Washington made his professional debut in May with four starts in a week and a half: first in a win over the Atlanta Silverbacks in Atlanta, then three days later in Tampa's second round U.S. Open Cup victory over Jacksonville United, then again three days later in a scoreless draw against the Minnesota Stars, concluding with the remarkable chance to go toe to toe with MLS players in the Rowdies' third-round Open Cup loss to the Colorado Rapids on May 29th.

Draymond started two more games for Tampa Bay in June before an injury to his knee, requiring surgery, cut short his season.  Now, with a new contract, Washington will have another great opportunity at establishing a career in professional soccer.

It was one season -- 15 games -- but the time with Real Maryland afforded Washington an opportunity to further hone his skills as a defender (after starting as a forward with George Mason) against talented opponents in a competitive atmosphere.  And for those outside of the MLS academy system, it is something that absent the USL PDL would be difficult to obtain.