Pro soccer team reconfigured for season-opener on Saturday
Last year was supposed to be the perfect marriage between professional soccer and one of the most thriving soccer communities in America. But the torrential downpour at Real Maryland F.C.'s first-ever home game at the Maryland SoccerPlex was an ominous premonition.
Literally everything is different about the United Soccer Leagues-Second Division club in 2009, from the players, to the coaching staff, to its new home on Richard Montgomery High's artificial turf field.
And when the Monarchs host the Bermuda Hogges in their season debut on Saturday at 6 p.m., first-year general manager David Noyes expects a rekindled romance between Montgomery County and the world's game.
"I want everything about this team to be dynamic," said Noyes, a goalkeeper coach for the USL-1 Carolina Railhawks last year. "I want this to be more than one thing in the community, from our outreach program to our camp system to our youth teams. The bottom line is this is a professional club and we have big goals for this to be the best pro team possible."
That starts at the top, with first-year head coach Anthony Hudson bringing a different on-field look to Real.
Last year, the team had a predominantly Latin American feel, with over a dozen players from Central and South America. Its two headline stars were Salvadorian national team midfielders Ronald Cerritos — who spent over 10 years in Major League Soccer — and Dennis Alas. Unfortunately for the Monarchs, that only resulted in a 3-15-2 record and a last-place finish.
The solution? A housecleaning. The Monarchs feature a roster with more experience, and purportedly more talent, than a year ago. Explosive midfielder Victor Ramirez, arguably the team's most dangerous offensive player by season's end, is the only holdover.
The changes start with three former D.C. United products. One is team captain Pat Carroll, a starting defender for the MLS club a season ago. The other two will play in midfield: Carroll's brother, Jeff, and Ryan Cordeiro, who made seven appearances for United a year ago. While last season's core featured older players, each of the three MLS transports is 25 or younger.
There's talent from all over. Former Colorado Rapids (MLS) starting goalkeeper Justin Hughes, who battled groin injuries a year ago, provides an experienced, high-level backstop. On the final day of the first international signing period, the Monarchs signed two Cuban U-23 National Team defects, midfielder Loanny Cartaya and defender Yendry Diaz, who Hudson found at a USL Combine earlier this month.
Hudson, a player/coach with the USL-2 Wilmington Hammerheads a year ago, brings the Monarchs a special brand of experience, himself. Hailing from the United Kingdom, he played with the Dutch First Division's NEC Nijmegen. He began his career with West Ham United of the English Premier League, a club whose youth system produced current England National Team regulars Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand, Joe Cole and Michael Carrick.
Much of Hudson's personnel reflects his background: the Monarchs have three British players on the roster. Former Manchester United signee Jody Banim, former USL-1 midfielder Tom Taylor and recent University of Texas-Brownsville graduate David Perser, whom Hudson says "will do fantastic in this league."
All told, it's a different environment at Real Maryland F.C., and look no further than the man at the helm. Last April, then-coach Silvino Gonzalo hoped the team would "be competitive."
The expectations are a little bolder this time around.
"We can be serious contenders to win the league," said Hudson. "We've certainly got the players to do it."