TUKWILA, Wash. – A goal deep in second-half stoppage time by Cameron Martin lifted Ballard FC to a thrilling 2-1 victory against Lionsbridge FC to claim the 2023 USL League Two Final on Saturday night at Starfire Stadium, earning the second-year club its first League Two title after a remarkable postseason run.
Ballard first took the lead midway through the first half through Stas Korzeniowski before Lionsbridge was reduced to 10 players when Adam Kirkwood was sent off eight minutes before halftime. Despite being a player down, the visitors struck back with 10 minutes to go on a volleyed finish by Josh Baker, but as extra time beckoned Peter Kingston drove a free kick from the left flank into the penalty area where Martin’s flicked header found the right corner of the net to send a sellout crowd of 3,416 into wild celebrations.
Backed by a vocal crowd, the hosts opened brightly with Kingston threatening with a pair of early crosses from the left that just failed to connect with a teammate. Lionsbridge managed to weather the early pressure, but Kingston produced the first real threat of goal in the 17th minute when he was able to cut in at the top of the penalty area and curled a shot just wide of the right post.
The hosts broke through in the 23rd minute, however, as Korzeniowski corralled a long ball up the left flank at the corner of the penalty area, turned his defender with a quick outward move and laced home a shot into the top-right corner of the net from the left side of the penalty area.
Ballard threatened to double its lead 10 minutes later when Kingston floated a free kick from the left channel toward the top-right corner of the six-yard area where Leo Burney stretched to connect but angled his finish across the face of goal and wide of the left post. Lionsbridge was then reduced to 10 players when Adam Kirkwood was sent off for his second yellow card in the 37th minute, leaving the visitors with a steeper hill to climb to get back into the game.
Despite the man disadvantage, Lionsbridge’s first serious threat of the first half came five minutes before the break as Isaiah Chisholm broke onto a through-ball that was parried by onrushing Ballard goalkeeper Lars Helleren before Christian Hatley sent the second chance from a wide angle over the crossbar. The visitors also threatened in first-half stoppage time with a well delivered free kick, but Helleren came out well to attempt to punch clear and was fouled, ending the opportunity.
Kingston continued to be a threat for Ballard, meanwhile, and shortly before the halftime whistle he sent a free kick from 25 yards toward the left corner that was parried by Lionsbridge goalkeeper Tyler Hogan. Kingston then played creator early in the second half as he slid a through-ball to Danny Robles only for his effort to be saved as well, while Declan McGlynn fired just wide after spinning through a pair of defenders at the top of the penalty area to create space to shoot.
While Ballard continued to carry the majority of play up a player, Lionsbridge struck on one of its few chances after the break to level with 10 minutes to go. A long throw-in from the left by Coleman Jennings was flicked on in the left side of the penalty area by Sam Hall to Baker, who volleyed into the left corner of the net from 16 yards with a sharp finish.
The hosts were then reduced to 10 players with seven minutes to go when Korzeniowski was shown his second yellow card, evening up the sides, and Lionsbridge almost struck again immediately as Lockie Fay fired wide of the left post from just inside the top of the penalty area. As the game appeared set to go to extra time, however, Kingston’s free kick from the left found Martin for a dramatic finish to give his side its first league title.
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