First up is FC Baltimore. If you witnessed the big run by Christos last season and continued to follow them, you'll know that there was a major announcement made concerning both Christos and FC Baltimore. While it looked as though the 'Roons of FC Baltimore ('Roons being their nickname based on the color of their kits) was absorbing the Christos brand initially, Larry Sancomb (originally of Christos) assured me that this was not the case. He explained that it was more of a partnership than a takeover because the 'Roons would be helping coordinate players and matchday help for Christos, while they both continued as separate entities in their respective leagues.
While the team finished top of their region, Sancomb feels that they could do things better this year due to having one of the better coaching staffs in the country. He also points to FC Frederick as being the biggest rival for the club. This could be seen as an obvious thing, given that Baltimore and Frederick are less than an hour apart and could be seen as a Maryland pride thing, with both clubs wanting to be top dog in the state. After being told that most of the roster would be returning this season, I fully expect the 'Roons to keep their conference title and perhaps make a deep run in the playoffs.
Charlottesville Alliance FC
Last season wasn't a huge success for Charlottesville, ending up fifth in the six club region with 11 points and a minus 11 goal difference. While the season may be viewed as a disappointment, the Alliance haven’t been sitting back and resting. They’ve been giving back to the community, while also keeping in shape by going into a local Youth Detention Center and playing against a squad of those youth there. The Alliance look to produce results both on and off the pitch, as they are about giving back to the community. The club look to producing better results in this upcoming season with a solid core of players returning, but they also realize that some players had a lot of success and will be moving on to bigger clubs. However, the Alliance don’t view this as a negative, rather they see it as raising the profile of the community and the club.
While they had an impressive goal difference (+17) last season, Frederick ended up finishing third with a 4-4-2 record. Unfortunately, there isn't much known about what Frederick is planning on doing for this year. While they do have a youth academy they could potentially draw players from, there is nothing else known as of this moment.
Northern Virginia United
NVU, as they like to be known, look to build on a solid 2018 season after finishing second to their fellow league debutant, FC Baltimore. Even though they were runners up, they can lay claim to handing Baltimore one of their two losses last season. Director of Soccer Chris Jennings also told me, “We learned that the quality in the league is very high and we look forward to that quality continuing each season.” He also went on to tell me that while they’re currently building their roster, he hopes to bring back around 70% of last season’s roster and push even harder for this year’s conference championship.
Virginia Beach City FC
Last season was a particularly good one for Virginia Beach City. It was a season plagued by injuries to some of the veteran guys in the team that disrupted the rhythm of the entire squad. However, despite that, they finished just outside of the playoffs. Brian Hinkey, VBC head coach/DCU Head Scout for Hampton Roads/VBC VP of soccer ops, spoke with me and told me that the club will learn from the experiences of last season and take nothing granted this upcoming season.
He also explained that the club learned that they need more depth and quality within the squad, as well as having a better system in place to help in injury prevention and rehabilitation. Even though FC Baltimore considers FC Frederick their biggest rivals, VB City looks at FC Baltimore as their biggest rival. This was a surprise to me, as Baltimore is one of the furthest clubs to travel to for VB City. However, I'm sure there is a solid reason as to why they look at them as such. While they currently have no nickname for the club, maybe someone can make a suggestion via their social media accounts. You can find them on Twitter at @vbcityfc and on Instagram at @vbcityfc. I fully expect this club to make a push due to their year-round academy that could help fuel the roster in times of need in the upcoming season.
While this club isn't participating in the upcoming season, I feel I wouldn't be doing my due diligence if I didn't at least give them a shout out here. Granted, they finished at the bottom of their conference last season and probably made a group choice to sit out this upcoming season, I feel like last year was nothing more than a fluke thing. I could be wrong and they could have had a lot of issues internally that caused them to fail, but we won't know as of now.
Photos courtesy of club social media and Protagonist Soccer, unless otherwise mentioned. Custom art designed by Laura Mills. Previews written by Shawn Laird with input from David Baker, Joshua Duder, and Dan Vaughn.