Facebook Support Group Logo for Salisbury Steaks soccer team with banner that says "We're Here To Help" and a hug emoji
Screenshot from Facebook support group for people having difficulty processing team name.

Maryland has a new minor league indoor soccer team, and locals are bullish on the future of this fresh franchise. Located on the Eastern Shore, the Pro Soccer Alliance team is called the Salisbury Steaks.

Baltimore Fishbowl spent some time chewing the fat with team owner Josh Danza, who patiently withstood a grilling from this seasoned reporter. Please don’t skewer her if she peppers her article with the occasional food pun — or sixteen.

Danza, who also owns the Baltimore Kings franchise, told Fishbowl that at the end-of-the-year owners’ meeting the commissioner brought up the need to expand the league. Of their choices, they settled on Salisbury because there weren’t many minor league sports there, yet there was what Danza described as “desire and passion of the fans to support something like that.”

“[T]here’s a lot of really good players that live on the Maryland Eastern Shore, in Delaware, in that Delmarva peninsula,” Danza said. “Some of them travel all the way to Baltimore to come play for the Baltimore Kings. We have around six guys that live on the Eastern Shore — some live as far as Salisbury — that drive a couple of hours to practices. So, it just made a good amount of sense to be able to have a team over that way.”

The mid-Atlantic division is fairly condensed geographically, with teams located from Philadelphia to as far south as Fredericksburg, Virginia. Within that region, Danza said there were very few potential locations where arena (or indoor) soccer could be played.

“There are outdoor soccer fields everywhere,” he said. “You can play futsal on basketball courts, but having a specific arena with walls and the correct hockey boards, that’s hard to find.” So, he decided to steer the franchise to Salisbury.

He’s fired up because they’ve had many players sign up for the first tryouts, which will be on Sept. 30. Danza is hoping to have good representation from the Delmarva and local peninsula area.

“We don’t want to bring a lot of players from out of the area into the mix,” he said. “We really want to focus on the players that live in the area, because those are the players that local fans want to see.”

Danza said they will be announcing their coaching staff within the next few weeks, so that item is on the front burner.

He was enthusiastic about the range of soccer options for Marylanders and discussing women’s soccer seemed especially to light a fire under him.

“There is a NWSL team which is the top league in the United States…. They play under the name of the Washington Spirit; that’s the highest level,” he said. “When it comes to minor leagues … I know the Baltimore Blast just started another minor league women’s team. There’s Coppermine United. I believe there are a few down in Prince George’s County.”

Danza said he also recently started a women’s futsal team, though that sport is a little different than indoor soccer. Futsal has five players per team and is played on a basketball court.

“We just started that team here in Baltimore, called the Baltimore Royals,” he said. “They just started practicing, they just held tryouts, and we’re going to start getting them ready for their next phase as they start to play games and transition to regionals this winter. They’ll be competing in regionals in Atlantic City, New Jersey on Presidents’ Day Weekend in February. That’s going to be our first big tournament.”

Danza got into the meaty details of how the new team in Salisbury got its name: the Steaks.

“[W]e had a ‘Name the Team’ competition, and we threw that name in there and it ended up winning, the Salisbury Steaks, so since then it’s really blown up faster than expected,” Danza said.

Of the contest, Danza said they had more than 4,000 people voting, and that he personally had been pulling for “Salisbury Storm.” He has three children, and they also had their favorite choices which they saw disappear as the rounds went by. Still, Danza said it was a lot of fun from his perspective.

“I’m sometimes in this role where you’re able to make a lot of decisions and execute on a lot of items; I now didn’t have control,” Danza laughed. “Taking a seat and watching the voting was fun. It really was a cool process and seeing people interact with it on social media … through all the rounds and it was something I think that gained traction and more and more people. I mean, the mayor of Salisbury, the mayor of Berlin, even politicians chimed in.”

While the name “Salisbury Steaks” won the popular vote, Danza admits he heard from people who wanted it sent back to the kitchen. They told him, “This is embarrassing, how can we name our team the Salisbury Steaks?”

Eager to please all the stakeholders involved, Danza created a Facebook online support group “for people who were having difficulty processing the team name.” It’s called “My hometown team is called the Salisbury Steaks (Support Group)” and the cover photo has a hug emoji and the tagline, “We’re here to help” next to the team logo. It’s got 158 members now, and in the interest of full disclosure (and journalistic integrity) this reporter joined to see the kind of services offered. Note there are occasional homework assignments given to the group, like dining out at a local restaurant.

“I always want to make sure in every single communication that we’ve had to be positive, that we want to earn everyone’s support,” Danza said. He’s even been able to turn around some of the negative responses with his humorous approach. “Some people originally respond with something very negative, and we’ll turn it into something maybe light and goofy and silly, and their response back will for a lot of people have been ‘This is funny, I actually like this now.’”

The Salisbury Steaks has been able to get the attention of even non-soccer fans, according to Danza, who feels not many people talk about indoor soccer in the United States as it is. So, he’s been pleased with how the name has gotten them attention.

“It’s all in good fun,” Danza said. “I think this will be a good way to just be able to give back to the community, where we’ll be able to have fun, be able to partner with other business that want to be involved with our game day operations and join the fun on game days.”

“At the minor league level, you have to be a little silly and it has to be a little weird and fun just because it’s a small sport,” he added. “It’s smaller market in Salisbury, so we want to be able to have fun. We want our game days to be a lot of fun. We want to have a lot of interaction with the fans. We’re really looking forward to the season.”

Danza assures Fishbowl that vegetarians are welcome.

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