Ballard FC hosts Spokane Velocity FC in 2024 US Open Cup First Round

Ballard FC 0
Spokane Velocity FC 1
March 20, 2024
Seattle, WA – Memorial Stadium
2024 US Open Cup – First Round

Ballard FC hosted Spokane Velocity FC in the 1st round of the 2024 US Open Cup in Seattle Wednesday evening at Memorial Stadium. The USL League One and League Two clubs both entered the tournament at this stage.

The 2024 US Open Cup opened play amidst controversy. With US Soccer and MLS at odds over participation, the tournament was modified with a compromise of some but not all MLS clubs participating.

2023 League Two champions Ballard FC were playing their first competitive match of 2024 with new head coach James Riley in a different setting. Seattle’s Memorial Stadium is the temporary home for the club due to renovations at Interbay Stadium. Memorial Stadium has an interesting soccer history in the town with the NASL and USL era Seattle Sounders, NWSL Seattle Reign FC, and other clubs and colleges having used the stadium for many decades. The old crumbling stadium has seen much better days.

Spokane Velocity FC are joining the USL League One in 2024 as an expansion side. This first season also gives them their first opportunity to play in the national cup. Having already played and split two league matches, the midweek cup match is sandwiched between two home league matches. The Velocity dropped their opener on the road, but opened the brand new One Spokane Stadium this past weekend with three points.

The early stages of the match was played at a fairly brisk pace. Both sides attacked long and direct, trying for the early lead on the Memorial Stadium fast and narrow pitch. The challenges were tough, neither side flinching from contact with only the winner advancing.

Ballard took it right at their new cross state rivals. But, despite the pressure and chances, the Velocity defense did not break. Near misses in the middle of the first half could have really altered the match. Spokane pressed back, having success on the flank getting into dangerous places. However, the lack of goals and score remaining level into the interval set up an interesting dynamic for the second half.

The second half showed no signs of the match slowing down. Ballard kept their foot on the pedal, but the goal did not come. Eventually, Spokane began to own more of the possession and as the second half progressed, the ball was more and more in front of the Ballard goal.

The later stages got tense, as the ongoing physical play led to a number of second half yellow cards in short succession. Even with all of the action in front of both goals the regulation ninety minutes did not see either side breaking through, setting the match into stoppage time looking for the goal that actually came late in the chilly March Seattle evening.

Spokane would take their chance on what was essentially the final sequence of the match late in stoppage time. Andre Lewis’ late stoppage volley in the 96th minute would suddenly silence the 2,452 raucous fans. Moments later, it was the final whistle. Spokane moves on. Ballard now has a bit of a wait to regroup and sort out their regular season roster prior to the May opener.

Ballard is looking to build on their two seasons of success, and the Wednesday night cup crowd was loud and solid from the early stages. A bit of a makeshift line up was needed due to the scheduling of the first round, but that did not seem to be evident from watching the match. Ballard has a solid core of players to continue to build on.

Spokane new must quickly return to league play at home this weekend, with a second round match also now on their schedule.

Seattle Reign FC sale saga nears end

OL Groupe announced March 18 an agreement on the sale of Seattle Reign FC to a group including the Seattle Sounders FC and the investment firm Carlyle.

The sale price has been noted as $58m with NWSL Board of Directors approval pending. Closing is expected soon.

The Reign recently rebranded back to the original Seattle Reign FC from OL Reign. The club has also moved training to the Starfire space the Sounders used for many seasons prior to the opening of their Longacres operations site.

The press release indicates additional details will be announced over time, along with the final approval. The long rumored sale saga appears to be nearing completion.

The Reign opened the 2024 NWSL regular season Sunday with a 1-0 win over Washington Spirit at Lumen Field.

Seattle Reign FC opens 2024 season versus Washington Spirit

Seattle Reign FC 1
Washington Spirit 0
March 17, 2024
Lumen Field – Seattle, WA
NWSL Regular Season

Seattle Reign FC and Washington Spirit opened their 2024 NWSL seasons on a beautiful St. Patrick’s Day afternoon in Seattle.

Both clubs are in interesting spots heading into their first matches. The Spirit began a new era with coach Adrián González Morales and some lofty expectations. The Spirit attack would be without Trinity Rodman for the opener, serving a red card suspension from the final match of 2023.

The Reign move forward after high profile departures and the retirement of Megan Rapinoe, but return a sizeable core. The Reign introduced their international signings earlier in the week, along with the signings of Sam Meza and Maddie Mercado from their 2024 draft class and the club’s first U18 signing Emeri Adames. There are lingering questions about the club sale and ownership behind the scenes. All three new international signings were in the Reign starting XI.

It did not take long for the match to ramp up. Eleven seconds into the match after kickoff, the Reign won a penalty when Jordyn Huitema was fouled in the box. Bethany Balcer would step up and convert and it was one nil to the home side almost immediately.

The quick goal did not seem to alter the approach either side took early in the match. Both clubs press and attack and did so. Spirit keeper Aubrey Kingsbury was called upon for multiple saves in the first stanza, as Seattle found some success going down the wing and getting crosses into dangerous places.

The Spirit attack pressed hard against a Reign defense that was without two presumed starters in Lu Barnes and Alana Cook, but were unable to break through in the first half. The penalty would stand as the only goal of the half and the two teams would go into the interval with the one nil scoreline.

The second half was similar to the first. Both midfields were tough to crack through, with much of the offensive pressure coming from getting down a flank. Where the Spirit were often looking to find Ashley Hatch and the Reign would go wide to get the ball in to Balcer or Huitema.

Washington found the net in the 69th minute, but VAR review would negate it and leave the match a open goal affair entering the final twenty minutes.

VAR would again play a role down the stretch, as Spirit keeper Kingsbury would be sent off for a handball just over the 18 yard line.

In the end, a fairly balanced match with an early penalty goal holding up.

After the match Bethany Balcer commented about the early penalty. “We’re always trying to score of kickoff, but it’s never worked, so this was the first time it worked and it was kind of like, ‘Oh, we’ve got a PK, so let’s put this away,’ and I think it set the tone for the game, which was exactly what we wanted to do.”

Seattle would give the debut appearance to their first U18 signing Emeri Adames for the lengthy stoppage time. When asked about the debut, Seattle coach Laura Harvey on what she told Adames prior to going on the pitch, “‘Go score kid because you’re good.’ You wait, this kid is unbelievable.”

Next up, Seattle travels to Chicago March 23rd to face the Red Stars and Washington hosts expansion Bay FC the same evening at Audi Field.


Scoring Summary

SEA: Balcer – 3’
WAS: None


SEA: None
WAS: Wiesner (Caution – 13′), Krueger (Caution – 83’), Kingsbury (Red card – 90+1)


SEA: GK Dickey, D Huerta, D Holmes (Brown 90+5’), D McClernon, D Woodham (Barnes 63’), M Fishlock (c), M So-Yun (Athens 90+4’), M Quinn, M James-Turner (Van der Jagt 63’), F Balcer (Adames 90+6’), F Huitema
Unused substitutes: GK Ivory, M Stanton, F King, M Meza

Total Shots: 15 (So-Yun, Huitema – 3)
Shots on Goal: 6 (Fishlock – 2)
Fouls: 10 (Woodham – 3)
Offsides: 2
Corner Kicks: 4
Saves: 1 (Dickey – 1)

WAS: GK Kingsbury (c), D Krueger, D Wiesner (Butel 45+2’), D McKeown, D Carle, M Bethune (Bosselman 90+3’), M Sullivan, M Hershfelt, F Sarr, F Ratcliffe (Morris 65’), F Hatch (Brown 65’)
Unused substitutes: F Silano, DHeilferty, M Stainbrook, M Metayer, F Ricketts

Total Shots: 2 (Bethune, Hatch – 2)
Shots on Goal: 1 (Hatch – 1)
Fouls: 13 (Hershfelt – 3)
Offsides: 0
Corner Kicks: 3
Saves: 5 (Kingsbury – 5)

Referee: Natalie Simon
Assistant Referee 1: Seth Maritn
Assistant Referee 2: Melissa Beck
4th Official: Jaclyn Metz
VAR: Kevin Broadley
AVAR: Maggie Short