TAMPA - On Saturday, August 5th, Ballard FC will host Lionsbridge FC in the 2023 USL League Two Final at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, Washington. The match will kick off at 7 p.m. PT.
The USL League Two Final will be streamed on Eleven Sports.
This comes after a regular season played by 122 elite pre-professional clubs and four playoff rounds won by each finalist.
How we got here
Ballard FC finished the regular season top of the Northwest Division with a 10-1-1 record, scoring 41 goals and conceding 13. The club came into the League Two playoffs as the top seed in the Western Conference. The club joined the league as an expansion team in 2022 before seeing immediate success both with their fans and on the pitch.
In the first round, Ballard FC defeated New Mexico United U-23 3-0, and then defeated Oly Town FC 3-0 two days later. Due to their regular season record, both matches were held at their home in front of sellout crowds in Interbay Stadium.
They advanced to the Western Conference Final against Ventura County Fusion, where they overturned a 2-0 deficit to emerge victorious 4-3 in extra time. Ballard FC trailed until the 82nd minute, where striker Stas Korzeniowski poached his first of what would become three goals in the match. He scored again from a penalty kick in stoppage time, and once again in the first half of extra time. Ballard's Charlie Gaffney scored in extra time to double the lead before Ventura pulled back a goal, but it wouldn't be enough.
In the League Two Semifinal, Ballard FC rode a strike from distance from Taketo Onodera to defeat Central Conference Champions Flint City Bucks 1-0 at Atwood Stadium in Flint. Despite constant pressure from the league's all-time leader in Playoff Final victories, Ballard FC held tough and outlasted the Michigan hosts to punch their ticket for the first time in club history.
Semifinal Scoring Summary
BAL: Onodera 9' (Korzeniowski)
Lionsbridge FC finished the regular season 9-2-1, shaking off a worrisome June record to dominate their division in July, rattling off four straight wins to end the season. The club scored 31 goals and conceded ten over the course of the regular season.
Lionsbridge joined USL League Two in 2018, improving on their record every season between 2018 and 2022. With Chris Whalley at the helm every season of the club's existence, this is now the farthest in the League Two playoffs the club has ever advanced.
In the first round, Lionsbridge defeated Charlotte Eagles 1-0, after a 52nd minute goal from Isaiah Chisolm was enough to make the difference.
The club found the start of the second match much more comfortable for them - they scored three times in the opening 22 minutes of the match against NC Fusion. While the Fusion were able to pull one back, it wasn't enough to stop the Newport News club.
In the Eastern Conference Final against Ocean City Nor'Easters, Lionsbridge also faced a two-goal deficit after mistakes at the back cost them early. Lionsbridge walked away 4-2 winners after extra time in a match that lasted until 1:38 AM ET.
In the League Two Semifinal against stalwart defenders The Villages SC, Lionsbridge once again trailed first. The Villages got their opener at the very start of the second half, and a Josh Baker header equalized in the 68th minute in front of their fans at Townebank Stadium.
The match remained at a stalemate for the rest of regular and extra time, sending the semifinal to a penalty shootout. Keepers Mathias Tieppo (VIL) and Tyler Hogan (LBR) traded saves in the first two rounds, but it was Hogan who had the final say as he saved Pedro Santos' penalty in the fifth round to emerge victorious.
Semifinal Scoring Summary
VIL: Carrera 46' (Ferreira)
LBR: Baker 68'