What a kick off!
This past Saturday, minor league soccer start-up North County Battalion hosted its inaugural season home opener at the Del Norte Nighthawks Stadium in 4S Ranch. I was invited to attend as media, and despite the threat of rain, I couldn’t resist the opportunity.
I’ve interviewed NC Battalion owner Jason Barbato on two previous occasions for my column. I’m familiar with his ambitious vision to build a team franchise here in North County, and all the work he’s put in to get the team off and running.
The opener didn’t disappoint. Some early evening drizzle cleared up right in time for the start of the match. NC Battalion beat Agoura Hills-based FC Hasental 4-2 before an estimated 500 fans in attendance. FC Hasental rallied in the second half, but it wasn’t enough against the NC Battalion offense, which included a thrilling goal by Carlsbad native Ryan Guy from 35 yards out.
I saw both teams play their hearts out on the field, something that we don’t see often enough in San Diego. Many of the international “friendly” soccer matches San Diego hosts throughout the year are played soft and safe — players don’t want to get too physical or aggressive, for fear of injuring themselves before matches that actually matter — same for some of the Padres and Chargers players that later leave us and quickly reach new career records in other cities.
I also saw the best of North County on display that night. An immaculate sports facility greeted fans. Community pride and spirit poured out from the stadium stands. Young families attended with their children in tow. North County-based vendors sold food and beverages. It was a fun, family-friendly event, and a great home start to a promising season.
The NC Battalion may be the first sports team to ever identify with the North County region. The opportunity to highlight our part of the region excites me — it raises our profile and our reputation as a desirable, visitor-friendly community. What a marketable brand. If the team is successful this year on and off the field, who knows where they could go?
To me, team sponsorships and collaborations seem like a no-brainer. North County brewers — anyone interested in brewing up a “Battalion Blonde” for soccer season?
With last Saturday’s win, the NC Battalion is 2-0. Next up is a rivalry match against undefeated San Diego-based Albion Pro SC this Saturday, April 16 at 7 p.m. at the Del Norte Nighthawks Stadium. Sounds like the stands should be packed for that one.
Plans for Saturday night? Check out the upcoming game, and cheer on North County!
For more information on the upcoming match, and the rest of the North County Battalion season, visit ncbattalion.com.
Vince Vasquez is a think tank analyst based in Torrey Pines. He is a Carlsbad resident.