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1987-1990 Washington Commandos / Maryland Commandos

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Washington CommandosArena Football League (1987, 1989-1990)

Born: 1987 – Arena Football founding franchise
Folded: Postseason 1990


Team Colors: Silver & Red

Owner: Arena Football League

Arena Bowl Championships: None


The Washington Commandos were one of four original franchises in the Arena Football League when the AFL launched in 1987. The league’s inaugural season featured a brief six-week schedule between mid-June and early August 1987. Six games were broadcast nationwide on ESPN, including the Commandos home debut at the Capital Centre against the Denver Dynamite on June 27, 1987. The Commandos won that contest 36-20 in front of an announced crowd of 13,587.

The Commandos finished the 1987 season 2-4. Wide Receiver/Defensive Back Dwayne Dixon, Quarterback Rich Ingold, and lineman Jon Roehlk were named to the All-Arena 1st Team.

During the 1987 season all four of the league’s teams were owned centrally by AFL founder Jim Foster’s company Arena Sports Ventures Unlimited. In 1988, the AFL expanded to six teams and doubled its schedule to 12 games per team. Most significantly, Foster started licensing teams to local owner-operators. When no interested owners stepped forward for the Commandos, the team was closed down.

The AFL suffered a crisis after its second season in 1988. The league’s new crop of owners revolted against Foster and his licensing structure. Three of six clubs folded. The league scrambled to put on an abbreviated showcase schedule in 1989. The old Commandos gear was hauled out of storage and the Maryland Commandos were formed to fill out a tiny four-team league. Each club would play just four games in 1989, many in neutral site test markets around the country. The Maryland Commandos played one game at the Capital Centre in Landover and one at the Baltimore Arena. The Commandos went 0-4.

The AFL found itself on slightly more solid footing by the spring of 1990. As the league’s fourth season dawned, Foster successfully patented the league’s unique game system that March. Expansion teams in Albany and Dallas joined the league and the schedule grew back to 8 games.

The Commandos returned and took back their old “Washington” moniker instead of “Maryland” for the 1990 season. The team did not return to the 17,000-seat Capital Centre though. The 1990 Commandos played in the smaller, cheaper Patriot Center on the campus of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Wide receiver Charlie Brown, a Pro Bowl Selection on the Washington Redskins Super Bowl XVII championship team in 1983, suited up for the Commandos and caught 11 passes with 2 touchdowns.

The Commandos went 2-6 in 1990 and folded quietly at the end of the season.

Arena Football returned to the nation’s capital in 2017 when Washington Capitals and Wizards owner Ted Leonsis  launched his Washington Valor franchise at the Verizon Center.


Commandos Video


In Memoriam

Head Coach Ray Willsey (Commandos ’89) passed away at age 85 on November 4, 2013.

Head Coach Bob Harrison (Commandos ’87) passed away on February 4, 2016 at age 78.

Lineman Jon Roehlk (Commandos ’87) died on March 13, 2016. The Arena Football Hall-of-Famer was 54 years old.

Lineman Patrick Cain (Commandos ’90) died on lung cancer at age 53 on March 14, 2016.

Quarterback Rich Ingold (Commandos ’87) died of pneumonia on February 15, 2017. Ingold was 53. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette obituary.



James F. Foster U.S. Patent #4,911,443 for Arena Football Game System and Method of Play. March 27, 1990



Arena Football League Media Guides

Arena Football League Programs


1988-1990 Washington Stars


American Soccer League (1988-1990)
American Professional Soccer League (1990)

Born: May 1987 – ASL founding franchise
Died: October 1990 – Merged with the Maryland Bays


Team Colors: Burgundy & Silver

Owner: John Koskinen


The Washington Stars were a professional soccer franchise based in Fairfax, Virginia that operated for three seasons between 1988 and 1990.  The Stars were a founding franchise in the American Soccer League, which debuted in the summer of 1988 with ten East Coast franchises stretching from Albany to Miami.

Three of the ASL’s founding clubs were clustered in the Baltimore-Washington metroplex.  The Washington Diplomats revived the brand name of the old North American Soccer League (NASL) club of the 1970’s and early 80’s and, like the original Dips in their glory years, played out of RFK Stadium in D.C. proper.  The Maryland Bays played 50 miles away in Catonsville, MD.  The Stars, originally dubbed Washington F.C. before a name change, hoped to play at George Mason University’s 5,000-seat stadium.  But the university declined and the Stars split time instead between Stalnaker Stadium at Fairfax (VA) High School and Fairfax’s nearby W.T. Woodson High School.

The Stars owner was John Koskinen, a corporate turnaround specialist and the Chairman of the Washington, D.C. Host Committee as the United States prepared to host the 1994 World Cup.  ASL clubs worked on much more modest budgets than their NASL predecessors.  Koskinen told The Washington Post that the Stars first-year budget was around $350,000 with $50,000 or so earmarked for player salaries.

Also unlike the NASL, the American Soccer League planned to feature American players.  The Stars had several very good ones, including the young U.S. National Team midfielder Bruce Murray and the former Duke Blue Devil John Kerr, Jr.  Kerr’s father, John Kerr, Sr. coached the Stars and was himself a veteran of the Washington Darts and Diplomats NASL teams of the 1970’s.  The Stars also brought in 31-year midfielder Sonny Askew who played for the old Dips from 1977-1980.  Askew would make the league’s postseason All-Star team in 1988.

On the field, the club’s brightest moments came during the 1989 campaign, when the Stars posted the best regular season record at 14-6.  The Stars lost to the eventual champion Ft. Lauderdale Strikers in the 1989 ASL playoffs.

Prior to the 1990 season, the twelve clubs of the ASL merged with the eleven-team Western Soccer League and re-branded itself as the American Professional Soccer League.  The teams would still stick to a regional schedule in 1990, with the champions of the ASL and WSL meeting for a national championship match.

After the 1990 season, fifteen franchises dropped out of the APSL, reducing membership from 23 clubs to just 8 in a matter of months.  The Stars were among the casualties.  John Koskinen finalized a long-planned merger with the APSL champion Maryland Bays in October 1990.  The Bays continued for one more year themselves with Koskinen as a part owner, before folding in January 1992.


John Koskinen later served as President of the United States Soccer Foundation from 2004 to 2008.

Stars midfielder Bruce Murray earned 86 caps with the U.S. National Team between 1985 and 1993.   He started all three games for the United States and scored a goal in the 1990 World Cup.  Murray earned induction to the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2011.


==Washington Stars Programs on Fun While It Lasted==


Date Opponent Score Program Other


1988 7/30/1988 vs. Orlando Lions ?? Program


1989 4/23/1989 @ New Jersey Eagles  W 1-0 (PK) Program Game Notes


1990 4/14/1990 @ Penn-Jersey Spirit L 1-0 Program
1990 7/13/1990 @ New Jersey Eagles  W 3-0 Program Game Notes



Washington Stars sources



American Soccer League Media Guides

American Soccer League Programs



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