By Jim McGrath | email@example.com
For local soccer fans, Saturday evening marked a new beginning for Alexandria’s party on the pitch – also known as the opening home game for Alexandria’s hometown summer soccer team, the ASA Reds.
Last season, their inaugural campaign, the semi-pro Reds took the National Premier Soccer League by storm, winning the Mid-Atlantic Championship and finishing as regional semifinalists in postseason play.
For the Reds, 2022 made for an auspicious beginning as the NPSL serves as one of the largest established men’s soccer leagues in the United States – more than 90 teams from across the country calling the NPSL their home league.
With a successful first season to build on, the Reds took to the pitch at their Limerick Field home, ready to square off against local rival the Virginia Dream.
It only took eight minutes to unite the Reds faithful in celebration. Midfielder Jeffrey
Aguilar, who played for Alexandria City High School and is now on the James Madison University roster, found Sheriff Secka with a pass, and Secka drilled home the first goal of the season.
The Reds added two more scores in the next 17 minutes.
Ethan Stewart tallied the assist on a Seni Joseph goal, and then Secka struck again, off a pass from Maxwel DeBodene for the game-winning goal. Late in the match, Axel Gamez found the back of the net on a solo effort, and the hosts earned a 4-2 win.
The executive core of the Reds remains intact from last year. Will Hanna has returned as the coach, assisted by Matt Curtin and Christian Mejia. Leland Creadick is also back as the squad’s general manager.
But the draw of the Reds comes from its local flavor. The team’s popularity stems from the fans’ connection to the players, and the names of local standouts are interspersed through the team roster.
Many of the local players worked their way up through the Alexandria Soccer Association’s Academy program. They are joined by several international players, some of whom move to the Alexandria area for the season. The combination of homegrown and international talent provides the opportunity for fans to witness a high level of play on the pitch, as college athletes match skills with more seasoned competitors.
And if the action between the lines isn’t enough, the Reds are adding bells and whistles designed to enhance the holistic soccer outing.
“We are looking forward to growing the experience for local soccer fans,” Reds team spokesperson Katie Brooks said. On Saturday, this included a “Skybox Happy Hour,” held on the roof of the building adjacent to Limerick. The Reds are hiring food trucks, vendors, merchandisers and are awaiting final permissions for a beer garden.
After the match, Hanna was asked about the expectations for his team, which is only one within the Alexandria umbrella.
“Our coaches and General Manager (Creadick) have done an exceptional job recruiting and adding players from all over the country,” Hanna said. “The staff has a difficult challenge ahead to manage all the talented, competitive and ambitious guys who are hitting their prime years of performance. I don’t think any coach enters a season not wanting to win, but wanting to win is not enough. My expectation is that we don’t waste a moment preparing for each match. The rest will work itself out.”
While the team makes improvements, the Reds organization sees the bigger picture, and its place within the Alexandria Soccer Association. The Association was founded in 1970, and as part of its post-50th Anniversary celebration, a strategic plan was developed, one which addresses the soccer needs of Alexandria players from the age of two through adulthood.
Brooks works among a staff of 17 as the prime marketer and public relations contact for ASA. She loves having a semi-pro team among ASA’s many offerings.
“We feel great! The more high-level sports in Alexandria the better. It’s also great to have a pro level track offered as both a pathway for kids and a way to engage the community,” Brooks said.
According to the ASA website, participation in youth sports and recreation has sky-rocketed during the last 15 years – from 1,500 annual participants in 2005 to over 15,000 in 2022.
Brooks is interested in working with the other summer team in Alexandria, the Alexandria Aces, the collegiate baseball team of 15 years which last year won the Cal Ripken Baseball League for the first time.
“We don’t have any combined promotions as of yet, but that would be fun! We love the idea of creatively tying together our two pro-level groups and will consider that for the future,” Brooks said.
The current version of the Reds is not the only one to have existed. Starting in 2008, Reds United served as the first iteration of today’s group. Reds United was an amateur men’s team that competed in the local leagues, such as the Washington International Soccer League and then Washington Premier League.
Andy Lowden, who led the Reds in 2008, invited many of the then-DC United staff members to join the team. Lowden then transitioned the Reds’ leadership over to Alexandria Soccer’s Executive Director Tommy Park in 2011. Park felt that it made sense to integrate the team fully into ASA as the adult amateur option for its male coaches and youth team graduates to continue playing.
According to Brooks, in the early days, the team won multiple WPL championships and has since transformed into a robust amateur team. The Reds are currently defending their crown as the reigning East Region NPSL champions.
Former players of this illustrious team include Lyle Adams (DC United), Pat Nyarko (Chicago Fire), Andrew Dykstra (DC United), as well as many ASA staffers including Ryan Rich, Jim Hogan, Chris Arnold, Peja Ilic and Coach Hanna.
The Reds will prepare for another home game this Saturday at 6 p.m. on the pitch at Limerick Field, located at 1800 Limerick St., in Carlyle Plaza. It’s Military Appreciation Night and all active and for- mer military members receive a discount. For tickets, see: app.gopassage.com/events/ asa-reds-vs-northern-virgin-ia-united