SEATTLE, Wash. (WAVY) – Even a man down and playing nearly 3,000 miles away from home in front of a partisan Ballard FC crowd, Lionsbridge FC was poised to bring home the USL League Two championship to Newport News.
Alas, it was not to be.
On what was essentially the last play of the match in the fourth minute of second half added time, a free kick from Ballard FC’s Peter Kingston appeared to be flicked into the net by a Lionsbridge player, giving the second-year club a 2-1 win before 3,416 fans at Starfire Stadium Saturday.
“”It was a really difficult game,” said Lionsbridge coach Chris Whalley on the USL League Two final edition of the Coach’s Corner. “Obviously … the decision in the first half made it hard playing with 10 men for 70 minutes. Really, really proud of the group. It was really challenging, and they’re obviously a very good team, but we showed our character, and to come back the way we did, scored a great goal, really disappointed to lose in the last minute – a little bit unfortunate. Great, great effort and fight by our group for sure.”
Lionsbridge weathered early pressure, but Ballard FC scored the first goal of the match in the 23rd minute as Stas Korzeniowski took a long ball on the left side near the 18-yard box, turned his defender and hit a shot into the upper right corner of the net to give the hosts a 1-0 lead.
Ballard FC nearly doubled its lead 10 minutes later when a free kick from Kingston went to Leo Burney, but his finish went just wide left.
Lionsbridge went down to 10 players in the 37th minute when Adam Kirkwood was sent off for his second yellow card.
However, Lionsbridge still fought to create chances, and five minutes before halftime, Isaiah Chisholm got onto a through-ball that was parried by Ballard goalkeeper Lars Helleren. Christian Hatley sent the follow-up shot from a wide angle just over the bar. Helleren then punched a Lionsbridge free kick over the bar just before the halftime whistle.
Ballard had their own chances just before the break, but Tyler Hogan, who had a strong game in goal, parried a Kingston free kick from 25 yards over the bar, and they were stymied on two further chances in the second half.
Lionsbridge then got the tying goal against the run of play with about 10 minutes to go in the second half.
Sam Hall touched a long throw in from Coleman Jennings in the left side of the 18-yard box to Josh Baker, whose sharp volley from 16 yards beat Helleren to level the match at 1-1.
“We felt like with the long throw … Josh’s got an eye for goal, and we thought we always had a chance,” Whalley said. “I think he struck it really, really well. It was exciting. It’s just disappointing we couldn’t finish the job.”
Ballard also went down to 10 men three minutes later when Korzeniowski received his second yellow card. Lionsbridge nearly took advantage, as Lockie Fay’s shot from just inside the 18-yard box went just wide of the left post.
But just before the match would have gone into extra time, Kingston’s free kick found Martin, and his glancing header made for a dramatic finish to a hard-fought final.
“It was a great atmosphere for a game like this,” Whalley said. “But it was awesome to see our fan support, making it a special night.”
BFC – Stas Korzeniowski 23’
LFC – Josh Baker (Sam Hall) 80’
BFC – Cameron Martin (Peter Kingston) 90+4’
Ballard FC: GK – Lars Helleren; D – Taketo Onodera, Leo Burney, Demian Alvarez, Lesia Thetsane; M – Declan McGlynn (Cameron Martin 71’), Bailey Letherman, Danny Robles (Luke Thomas 71’); F – Charlie Gaffney (Kojo Dadzie 71’, Zane Baumgardt 90+4’), Stas Korzeniowski, Peter Kingston
Lionsbridge FC: GK – Tyler Hogan; D – Harri Rowe (Daniel Salom 61’), Adam Kirkwood, Dowid Materazzi, George Wyatt (Dom Foster 46’); M – Samuel Hall, Josh Baker, Andrew Bennett (Lockie Fay 66’), Matthew Cornish; F – Isaiah Chisholm (Coleman Jennings 46’), Christian Hatley (Celestin Blondel 61’)
MVP: Peter Kingston, Ballard FC