Velocity Opener – Facts & Figures

Though Spokane boasts a significant amount of history in the annals of USL soccer history, Saturday marks a new height for the sport in the community and there probably could not have been a better selection for an opponent than the Richmond Kickers… one of the grandest of USL history.

Here’s a look at the Velocity, Kickers, the match and much more:

Game Day Need to Know
As a fan there are a number of things you need to know going into the game, which kicks off at 2:00 (gates open at 1:00).
– First, the St Patrick’s Day parade downtown is going on around the same time so parking availability and street closures could be issues – check out local tv media for updates.
– NO CASH TRANSACTIONS are available at the venue so make sure you bring your plastic/digital payment options with you for parking, concessions and merch.
– Go Clear: If you are bringing a bag, it has to be clear if larger than 6.5″ x 4.5″, and all bags are subject to search
– Arriving early is advised as there will be a number of pre-game events.

Josh Dolling tallied the club’s first goal in USL League One last week

Opening Week in USL League One:
In the opening weekend of league play the Velocity were in action for one of the first three games. They fell on the road 3-1 to Greenville Triumph. Josh Dolling scored the opening goal on a penalty in the 14th minute but the hosts replied with an equalizer four minutes later and added two more in the second half. In other games Lexington and Northern Colorado finished 0-0 and Fuego won 2-1 at South Georgia. With just three games (one scoreless) combined with the history of his tally, Dolling was named to the USL League One Team of the Week with Pierre Reedy earning a spot on the TotW Bench. Since no other player scored more than once, Dolling is also officially tied for the league-lead in goals. Also on the ‘it is a bit early to mention’ topics: eight of the dozen teams in the league advance to the postseason.

Local Velocity Players:
The squad is comprised nearly entirely of players from around the country or abroad. In fact, visiting Richmond has more players with experience playing in the northwest than the Velocity. Former Spokane Shadow First Team player Michael Rojas of Othello leads the way. He saw action off the bench of the team’s opener last weekend. The other player from the region is Camron Miller of Snohomish. He played at Western Washington.

Darren Sawatzky Back in the NW:
The Kickers coach has a long history with the Northwest. A Seattle native, he attended Thomas Jefferson in Federal Way and went on to play at the University of Portland, graduating in 1994. With MLS yet to launch, he spent 1995 with the then Oregon Surge (later Cascade Surge) of the Pro League (equivalent to what is now USL League One) and scored 18 goals. He was chosen by the New England Revolution in the inaugural MLS draft and bounced around primarily the east coast with MLS teams and on loan to USL clubs before returning west to join the Colorado Rapids in 1999. He fully returned to the northwest in 2000 with the Sounders and after a 2001 campaign in Portland was back with Seattle from 2002-04 before retiring, coaching his former HS as well over the last few seasons. He also spent time with the University of Washington as an assistant (04-06) before joining the Sounders staff as an assistant (07-08). He was later appointed head coach of the Sounders U23 side from 2012-2018 and also coached the indoor Tacoma Stars from 2015-18 [he played indoors briefly with Kansas City in 2001-02 before retiring] and the Guam National Team from 2016-17. He moved on to FC Tucson in 2018 and later the Kickers in 2019. Spokane is the first Northwest opponent for the Kickers, marking his first return to the region in a competitive capacity.

Richmond’s NW Ties:
In addition to coach Sawatzky, the Kickers’ squad features a pair of players making their returns to the northwest. Defender Chris Cole was born in North Carolina but grew up in the Seattle area. He spent a year at Lenoir-Rhynes University (NC) in 2014 before returning home to Bellevue College and Seattle Pacific University (2016-18). After graduation he played for the Sounders U23 in USL League Two in 2019 and signed with the Kickers in 2021. Defender Nathan Aune was born in Everett and played for Seattle University (2015-18) collegiately along with amateur sides Washington Crossfire (2016) and Sounders U23 (2017-18). He was drafted by San Jose 50th overall in 2019 but ended up with USL Championship Reno 1868 in 2019 and moved to USL League One Union Omaha the following year. He signed with Richmond in 2021. Defender Dakota Barnathan spent the 2015-16 seasons with the Portland Timbers U23s. Forward Ryan Sierakowski played with the Timbers U23s in 2019-20.

Season Opener for Richmond:
There were only three games in the opening weekend of play last weekend for USL League One, and Richmond was not among the participants. Over the last five years Richmond has gone 2-2-1 in their season openers.
2023: 0-0 D at Charlotte Independence
2022: 4-0 W v FC Tucson
2021: 3-0 W at New England Revolution II
2020: 2-3 L at Greenville Triumph
2019: 203 L v Lansing Ignite

Richmond Most Storied USL League One Club:
With the First Round of the US Open Cup on the horizon against USL League Two Ballard Wednesday on the other side of the state, the Velocity are facing the last team to win the US Open Cup prior to the launch of Major League Soccer in 1996. As a semi-professional club in 1995 the Kickers downed a few pro teams en route to becoming the first champions of the Modern Era of the tournament as the event had been comprised of amateur clubs for decades prior.

There is no argument to the fact that the Kickers are by far the most storied club in USL League One at the moment. The club has been in USL since 1993 and has experienced the highest of highs throughout its existence whilst no other team across the league even existed prior to 2014 (Charlotte Independence). It is not just its tenure, but also, the club’s achievements. It has won five regular season and three playoff championships throughout its history and boasts 16 confrontations with MLS opponents in the US Open Cup, winning five times and reaching the 2011 Semifinals. In those 16 meeting they only lost by a max of three goals in any outing, which only occurred three times. Though the Velocity are a new club, Spokane is possibly the second-most storied market in USL League One based on the history of the Spokane Shadow from 1995-2005, though Fresno has a good claim as well via the former USL PDL Fresno Fuego/Fresno FC and recently created Fuego FC sides.
A-League (now = USL Championship) – Regular Season 2001
USL Pro (now = USL League One) – Regular Season 2006, 2007, 2013, 2022 & Playoffs 2006, 2009
USL PDL (now = USL League Two) – Playoffs 1995
Richmond vs MLS in US Open Cup
7.17.15 Rd4… 1-3 L v Columbus
5.29.12 Rd3… 2-1 L v DC
8.30.11 Semi… 1-2 L @ Chicago
7.12.11 QF… 2-0 W @ Kansas City
6.28.11 R3… 2-1 W @ Columbus
6.30.10 R4… 0-2 L v DC
7.1.08 R3… 0-3 @ New England
7.10.07 R3… 1-0 v LA Galaxy
8.3.05 R4… 1-3 L v DC
8.4.04 QF… 0-1 L v Chicago
7.21.04 R4… 2-1 W v DC
7.17.02 R3… 0-3 L @ Columbus
7.24.01 R4… 1-2 L @ DC
7.25.00 R3… 0-2 L @ San Jose
6.14.00 R2… 3-0 W v Colorado
7.23.97 R3… 0-3 L v MetroStars

Richmond Last Five Years:
The 6-15-11 record of 2023 was an extreme rarity for a club that has a history of excellence on the field. It marked only the fifth time in 31 seasons that the club finished with a losing record. It was the first since a three-year run of misfortune from 2017-19 that had ended a stunning record of 22 consecutive winning seasons since their last losing campaign in 1994 and their 8-8 debut season in 1993.
Kickers in USL League One
2023: 6-15-11
2022: 14-7-9
2021: 11-7-10
2020: 8-6-2
2019: 9-5-14

Hackworth is one of many Velocity players with extensive pro experience

Player Info – Spokane:
The team is obviously brand new… so what is the composition of the team, particularly when it comes to experience as they go up against such a storied opponent. Four players actually boast multiple seasons in MLS. Luis Gil leads the way with six seasons plus one in Liga MX (Mexico) and one in USL League One. Roman Metanire is second with four MLS campaigns, though he does boast quite an impressive resume abroad, including French clubs Metz and Stade de Reims. Kimarni Smith spent two years in the top flight with an additional three in USL Championship and one in MLS Next. Collin Fernandez was in MLS for three years but spent much of it on loan. He has been a professional since 2015, playing on nine lower division teams through loans or contracts.

Gil, Metanire and Fernandez also have experience internationally. Gil routinely represented the US from U17-U23 with 64 youth appearances along with two for the senior national team. Metanire has 27 appearances for Madagascar since 2018 and Fernandez has played for the US U18 and U20s along with the Peru U20s. Similar to Fernandez, Andre Lewis signed with MLS but only played on loan, tallying nine seasons in the lower divisions along with a couple campaigns with Portmore United in his native Jamaica where he received 14 caps as a youth international and three with the senior team.

Other players with professional US experience in USL Championship experience include Morgan Hackworth (6 seasons, 4 with San Diego Loyal), Grayson Dupont (2), Carlos Merancio (2 + 3 in USL1), Ahmed Longmire, Marcelo Lage, Pierre Reedy and Josh Dolling. Previous USL League One players include Derek Waldeck (4 seasons) and Peter Swinkels. If Hackworth’s name sounds familiar you are not wrong. His father is John Hackworth, a longtime coach in the US Soccer coaching staff (numerous stints from 2002-2018) and for Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union (assistant 2010-12, head coach 2012-14).

Coach Leigh Veidman should be fully aware of Richmond’s story

The team is led by coach Leigh Veidman. Veidman came to Spokane after many stints as an assistant in the lower divisions, working for Midland University (2015-17), USL League Two Des Moines Menace (2016-17), USL Championship Fresno FC (2019), USL Championship OKC Energy (2020-21) and USL Championship Charleston Battery (2023). He was elevated by OKC in June of 2021 to Interim Head Coach with wins in three of his first four in charge, but after being named the head coach following the season the team later went on hiatus. If there is anyone on the staff who knows the history of the Kickers, it would be Veidman. He spent four seasons as a league foe with the Toronto Lynx (2011-2014) as a player.

Player Info – Richmond:
Following such a down campaign a year ago, it is probably not much of a surprise that only nine of the 26 rostered players have multiple seasons with the club on their resumes. Emiliano Terzaghi leads the way with four with Chris Cole, Zaca Moran, Nil Vinyals and Nathan Aune with three. The squad also features an impressive number of youth prospects as well from Richmond United. Among them is Nicholas Simmonds, who signed with the Kickers last season at the age of 16. Just a few weeks ago he was in Saint Kitts and Nevis playing for Jamaica in the CONCACAF U20 Championship qualifying. He played in all three wins and tallied a goal and assist in their 2-0 win against Grenada. He is not the only player with youth international experience. Moran is a former Argentine U17 international, though his bigger claim to fame may be that he has one Copa Libertadores appearance for River Plate on his resume from his formative years.