'Dream come true:' Thousands of excited Velocity soccer fans treated with win in franchise's first Spokane home game

Mar. 16—"Spokane Velocity" chants, smoke shooting into the air after home goals and fans donned in black and light blue shirts and scarves.

That was the scene of the Velocity's first home game as more than 5,000 fans watched its new professional soccer team beat the Richmond Kickers 2-1 on a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon at ONE Spokane Stadium.

It didn't take long for an already excited fan base to cheer as the Velocity, the newest member of the United Soccer League's League One, put two goals into the net in the first 15 minutes.

The sellout crowd roared louder on the second goal after an impressive header by Ahmed Longmire on a corner kick.

Two plumes of smoke burst out behind the goal on each score.

An hour before the game, fans formed a long line outside the west end of the stadium.

Season ticket holder Scott Linklater and his wife, Hillary Linklater, were two of them.

"We've been very excited about Velocity and professional soccer coming to Spokane for a long time, so this is a big day and the weather cooperated," Scott Linklater said. "What a beautiful day."

Linklater, wearing a wool kilt and Velocity scarf, was one of many fans who walked from the St. Patrick's Day parade in downtown Spokane through Riverfront Park, across the Spokane River and into the metal bleachers and seats of ONE Spokane Stadium.

"I think a lot of these folks are just excited to be a part of something for the first time," Linklater said.

He said soccer brings people together.

"For whatever reason, it's become the language internationally for a lot of people, and I think it'll do the same for Spokane," Linklater said.

Lena Cooley couldn't contain her excitement, calling the first home game a "dream come true" as she smiled in her Velocity shirt, scarf and bucket hat.

She's lived in Spokane 35 years and has coached, officiated and promoted the sport the entire time.

She's a member of the American Outlaws, a nonprofit group that supports soccer across the country, and the 509 Syndicate, which supports the Velocity and the future women's USL W League's Spokane Zephyr FC.

Cooley, a season ticket holder, said she was like a child the night before Christmas and could not sleep Friday night in anticipation of Saturday's home opener.

"This is the first time I've seen Spokane truly embrace soccer and there aren't words," she said. "Like I said, I'm bouncing up and down."

With sunny skies and temperatures in the 60s, lines at concessions stands were long as people waited for beer and other cold drinks.

Tony Berry and his two young children, all wearing black Velocity shirts, were sitting on the second-level west bleachers waiting for the game to start.

He said he and his children are Seattle Sounders fans and love the U.S. national teams. His children play the sport, too.

"But it's cool to have something like this here that we can come support and see and be right up close," said Berry, a season ticket holder, who also watched the parade with his family before coming to the game.

He said Spokane supports soccer and the sport is growing across the nation.

"I think (Spokane) is a soccer town and I think people will rally behind this," said Berry, noting the sold-out game and number of season ticket holders.

Chris Lee, who also has season tickets, grew up in Portland and is a big Portland Timbers fan. He said he's hoping for an exciting brand of soccer this season.

"It's very cool to be able to come down and watch some soccer and have a pro team," he said.