Dave Johnson and Fred Matthes have decades of experience in the beautiful game and are popular figures in the soccer scene all across the DMV region. Recently they joined the Annapolis Blues FC leadership group that includes the likes of Kyle Beckerman, Alex Yi, and Michael Hitchcock. Johnson joined as a co-owner, while Matthes was recently named the club’s first GM.
Hitchcock was excited to get the impressive duo involved with the organization.
“Annapolis Blues are very fortunate to have these two MLS pioneers in the Blues family,” Hitchcock said. “As Blues General Manager, Fred brings 17 seasons of MLS experience as Vice President at D.C. United, while Dave has been the voice of D.C. United since the first MLS ball was kicked in 1996 and brings great value to our ownership group. They’re both key leaders in the local soccer community and will play a critical role in the success of the Annapolis Blues as we launch in Naptown.”
Johnson is one of America’s premier soccer announcers and the Washington D.C. market’s most visible media personalities. He has been the play-by-play television voice of D.C. United since 1996, making him the only broadcaster with the same team since the beginning of Major League Soccer (MLS). In 2006 Johnson was the lead voice from Germany in XM’s coverage of the FIFA World Cup. From 2007-2012 Johnson called Major League Soccer (MLS), U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT), and U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) matches for Fox.
Johnson’s influence goes well beyond the game of soccer. Johnson is actually the only radio play-by-play voice the Washington Wizards have ever had. After serving as fill-in announcer on Bullets television and radio broadcasts for six years, Johnson moved into a full-time role on radio before the team’s first season as the Wizards in 1997. He has also worked at NBC 4 and NBC Sports Washington and earned four regional Emmy awards.
Johnson was quick to share his enthusiasm for the Blues organization.
“It is an exciting feeling to be involved with the Blues,” Johnson said. “We have yet to play a game, and I can feel the energy like it is match day. Led by Michael Hitchcock, this is a group of winners who know the key to success is hard work. It is the best work when the hard work is all about making sure people have fun and feel connected to the Blues. Sports are about connections!”
He believes that the Annapolis market has a lot to offer fans and supporters.
“The Annapolis market has become more diverse,” Johnson said. “It is a market that loves a good party. To me it is one of the most beautiful towns in the world, and the beautiful game should be a part of it. With Navy Marine Corps Stadium as our home, we are blessed to be connected to the place to go to have a great time out with sports.”
Johnson is looking forward to the club’s first season.
“I want a season of smiles,” Johnson said. “I want to see Annapolis and everyone from all the wonderful places in Anne Arundel County, including my hometown of Gambrills, to just come together and get behind a club that truly belongs to them. I dream of tailgates and meeting people and making everyone feel they are what they truly are – a part of the Annapolis Blues. I can’t wait for pregame parties and walking to the stadium and post game parties. There will be wins and losses, but everyone that reads this has a chance to be the start of something that will truly become the fabric of Annapolis and enhance our game in our communities.”
Matthes, a native of Cupertino, CA, graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1983 with a Bachelor’s degree in Communications. He was also a goalkeeper with UCLA men’s soccer team for three seasons, playing under head coaches Steve Gay and Sigi Schmid.
He was part of MLS in D.C. United’s front office from the league’s outset in 1995 where he led their ticketing and service departments that won several MLS ticketing awards and have continually been regarded as one of the elite organizations in MLS. His entire tenure with the club lasted 17 seasons. Along the way, Matthes worked closely with the entire Washington, D.C. soccer community including the Northern Virginia and Maryland suburbs, and worked with corporate accounts and all other season ticket holders to build up the overall fan base as one of the largest in MLS in the early years. He was also actively involved in the development of supporter culture, working with La Barra Brava, The Screaming Eagles, and several future groups.
Matthes returned to California to serve as a Vice President with Sacramento Republic FC as they became an elite member of the United Soccer League in their first few years, winning the 2014 USL Championship and setting overall attendance and season ticket sales records in the USL at the time.
Matthes brings a lifetime of soccer experience to the first-year club.
“My experiences in Major League Soccer with D.C. United, with Sacramento Republic FC of the USL, and various other teams as acConsultant in those leagues as well as others gives me the benefit of having dealt with crowds of up to 85,000 as well as smaller crowds of just a couple of thousand or even smaller. I’ve worked with staffs over 100, including game day, and with a skeleton crew of just a few depending on the size of the teams or events. I have also been on the ground floor, in market, as several other teams in the USL, NWSL, and NPSL that have taken their very first steps in creating and developing their organization. I have helped to manage that growth with those start-ups from the earliest plans for how each club will present itself and how it will adapt and grow as the community begins to accept it and support it, very much the way Annapolis Blues FC is already beginning to do. I want to lend my experience to help continue the momentum that has already begun here and help it to grow as large as it can.”
That momentum has already led the club to experience success in the area of ticket and merchandise sales.
“With a season ticket base of well over 600 members already, this is a great beginning to acceptance on a regular basis by soccer fans in the area,” Matthes said. “We will have an extensive reach for group ticket sales from local youth soccer, corporate, and supporter groups as well as a good number of single game purchasers by offering affordable ticket prices and an overall fun experience for everyone.”
The club has also made great strides in terms of sponsorship and media coverage.
“To date we have already sold out all of the major items of sponsorship assets which is another great start for an expansion team that has yet to kick a ball,” Matthes said. “We have already made inroads with many local leaders, both from our own investors and their contacts, and have obtained a ton of coverage by local media, national media, and social media like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and TikTok. Our follower base is somewhere in the 2,000 range, and many of our latest posts are getting 10,000+ views. This is great presence for a first-year expansion club.”
It is clear that there is a lot of excitement surrounding Annapolis Blues FC, and much of that can be traced back to the experience and leadership of Dave Johnson and Fred Matthes. Both were a big part of D.C. United’s illustrious history, and now they are building something special in Annapolis, Maryland.
Photos Courtesy of Dave Johnson and Fred Matthes