It took 120 minutes of soccer, but Ballard FC clinched a spot in the Western Conference Finals on Sunday at Interbay Stadium.
Interbay Stadium was roaring all match, just like it has been all season, giving Ballard a measurable home-field advantage once more.
The San Francisco Glens had just come off a huge upset by defeating the top seeded CFC Atletico and were looking to play spoiler once again.
The match was tight throughout, with end-to-end action and lots of chances for each side. After some big stops from goalkeeper Akili Kasim early, it would be Ballard who opened the scoring. With his third goal in as many matches, Christian Engmann headed in a Charlie Gaffney cross in the 13th minute to give Ballard the lead.
In the 24th, Kasim came up big again as he sprawled to his left to stop a shot destined for the top corner.
The Glens would finally find their equalizer in the 35th minute after a well-worked solo effort from Diego Grande. However, the equalizer wouldn’t last long and Ballard would immediately respond. Charlie Gaffney got his second assist of the match, playing an inch-perfect cross to the head of Alex Mejia who finished to put Ballard back in front in the 37th minute.
Mejia finished the regular season as the Northwest Division’s leading scorer with seven goals, and today he opened his account for the postseason.
After Mejia’s finish, Ballard would go into halftime with a one goal advantage.
The Glens looked dangerous for almost the entire second half, testing Kasim’s goal plenty throughout the 45 minutes. Within the first 15 minutes of the second half, the Glens hit the crossbar and forced another big save from Kasim.
The last 30 minutes of regulation was full of yellow cards with both teams receiving their fair share.
In the 81st minute Kasim made another huge save for Ballard to keep the lead. But the lead would not hold.
The Glens did eventually find an equalizer in the 87th minute from a Dominic Valdivia free kick as he beat the wall and found the bottom left corner.
Ballard almost responded instantaneously once more but Taketo Onodera’s shot was cleared off the line by a Glens defender in the 88th minute.
The two teams would finish the 90 minutes tied at 2-2, setting up 30 more minutes of soccer at Interbay.
The first half of extra time was very tense with neither team creating many big chances, just two yellow cards for the Glens. But the first 15′ would end with the score still 2-2.
The last 15 minutes of the match however were full of action. It started in the 109th minute with Alex Mejia capitalizing on a bad back pass and scoring with a scissor kick to put Ballard in front. Mejia has scored important goals all season, but none more important than his brace on Sunday.
Three minutes later, Ballard’s Bailey Letherman would be sent off, receiving his second yellow for a late challenge. With a one-goal advantage and one-man down, Ballard FC had to close-up shop and hold on for the last ten minutes.
Stoppage time seemed to take forever, but eventually referee Justin St. Pierre would blow the final whistle with Ballard FC holding on to win 3-2.
Ballard FC will be in action again on Friday July 29th for the Western Conference Finals at 3:00 PM CST (1:00 PM PST) in Des Moines, Iowa. Both the Western Conference and Central Conference Finals will be in Des Moines, so that the winners can face off in the National Semifinals on Sunday July 31st.
Stay tuned for more information on live stream and a watch party to come.
Photos courtesy of Marissa Lordahl, Blake Dahlin and Lou Cuevas