Fredericksburg Hotspur, one of the Premier Development League’s newest entrants, held a “meet the team” event at a local restaurant on Thursday night in preparation for their home opener, a 2:00 pm match against the West Virginia Chaos at the University of Mary Washington on Sunday.
The gathering was well attended by fans, friends and families whose children are part of Hotspur’s parent club, the Fredericksburg Area Soccer Association. But its most remarkable aspect – and the key to long-term success for Hotspur and its female counterpart, the Impact, who kick off in W-League later this month – was the fact that so much of the squad is actually quite familiar to this tightly-knit community.
“The majority of these players have some connection to central Virginia soccer in some way or another,” said head coach Carl Gray, who is also FASA’s technical director and a longtime Virginia ODP coach. “Many of them have come up in this program right here. And we wanted that connection. I got plenty – plenty – of emails from internationals who wanted to come and play, from people from many other states who wanted to come in for tryouts.
“But being that this was our first year, I wanted to have as much local connection as possible. We did bring in a few players from out of state on recommendations of some coaches that I know down in South Carolina, West Virginia, Pennsylvania. But for the most part, it’s local talent.”
FASA has grown spectacularly in recent years, blossoming from a small recreational league into one of the state’s largest elite clubs, and the creation of PDL and W-League teams reflect another ambitious step forward. But the organization has retained a family atmosphere that gives club officials hope that their new ventures will be well-received, not to mention well-attended, this summer.
Hotspur even has two brothers on the roster, Nate and Nick Foglesong. Both play their college soccer at Old Dominion University, where their older Bobby starred before moving on to join the Richmond Kickers’ USL PRO team, and both are ecstatic at the opportunity to represent their club and their hometown while also preparing for fall NCAA action.
“FASA was the first travel team I ever played for, my first club team. I was eight years old,” explained Nick at Thursday’s event. “I was stuck in Norfolk the last two summers, playing for those teams, just waiting for something to come up here. The second we heard FASA [had a PDL team], we both just instantly came running back here and couldn’t wait to play for this club again.”
Hotspur’s entry into PDL also offers role models for younger FASA players, and a clear development path from Under-5 level all the way up to the doorstep of the professional game.
“Growing up playing soccer, I always wanted to watch older guys play,” noted Nick Foglesong. “You learn from experience and all these kids growing up in Fredericksburg, now they have an even higher level – rather than just an older club, they have a PDL team. It’s something for them to get excited for, because they can work their way through the club.”
Gray has also sprinkled his roster with experienced performers like Doug Boateng, a 25-year-old Elon University product with pro ambitions, and defender Daryl Ferguson, a former Real Maryland standout who has also represented Barbados at the international level. Hotspur lost their season opener at Virginia Beach last weekend, but Gray was encouraged to see his team compete well despite missing several college players due to final exams and only having one full training session beforehand.
Fredericksburg have limited information about the Chaos, Sunday’s opponents. But Gray and his charges are focused on entertaining and inspiring the home fans while making positive strides in their own development.
“I just want to improve every game,” said Gray. “The real measure of our success for our first year, though we’re going to look real hard at the win-loss column, obviously, and nobody’s more competitive than I am, is I want a core of guys who are committed to this program and who are going to want to come back next year. The program can flourish from there. The most important thing is building that foundation, making sure that we’re accepted in the community.”