Sam Garza sprinted to the sideline and hugged his teammates after the ball hit the back of the net on Saturday night. Garza’s goal broke a 1-1 draw between S2 and the visiting Sacramento Republic FC in the second half of S2’s inaugural match, and the host side never looked back during an unforgettable evening at Starfire Stadium.
In front of nearly 3,000 fans at the Tukwila complex, S2 commenced its first-ever USL campaign with a 4-2 victory over the league’s defending champion.
“We’re happy that we were able to send our fans home happy and excited,” S2 Head Coach Ezra Hendrickson said after the match. “Hopefully they want to come back and see some more exciting soccer, because that’s what we’re trying to do.”
After an uneventful opening 45 minutes in which neither team recorded a shot on target, the second half featured six goals and a number of exciting moments for the home side and its supporters.
Andy Craven notched the first goal in team history, opening the scoring four minutes into the half by chipping Sac Republic goalkeeper Patrick McLain from inside the box. The visitors equalized in the 64th minute, but S2 would respond with three straight goals to put the game out of reach.
Garza, a 25-year old forward who has two years of MLS experience, scored his goal moments after coming on as a substitute in the 69th minute. Six minutes later, Pablo Rossi found the back of the net on a free kick from 20 yards out to make it 3-1.
Sounders FC rookie midfielder Cristian Roldan scored the team’s fourth goal in the 89th minute before Sac Republic added a second goal of its own in the 90th.
The atmosphere at Saturday night’s match was reminiscent of a Sounders FC U.S. Open Cup fixture at Starfire, as the 2,951 in attendance were chanting from start to finish. For the S2 players, many of whom are just beginning their professional careers, it was a night they will never forget.
“It truly was beautiful,” Rossi said of the atmosphere. “It was emotional for me to play in a place like this, and I’m grateful for all the love.”
Garza added: “It was almost like being at CenturyLink [Field]. What an amazing atmosphere.”
S2’s lineup featured a mixture of its own signings and several young First-Team players. Rookie keeper Charlie Lyon played all 90 minutes in goal, and in front of him was the duo of second-year centerbacks Damion Lowe and Jimmy Ockford. On the left side of the backline was Dylan Remick, who appeared in 13 MLS games for the club last season.
Saturday’s win was the first for Hendrickson as a Head Coach at the professional level. The former MLS defender was an Assistant of the First Team for six years before being hired to coach S2.
S2 has two more matches coming up at Starfire Stadium in the next few weeks, the first being a clash with Cascadia rival Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 next Sunday evening.
“We have a lot of work to do still. This is just the first game,” Hendrickson said. “We can’t just sit back on that. We’re going to get back to work on Monday and prepare for Vancouver. It’s just the beginning.”