With an ease akin to placing a food delivery order, Jason Farrell pressed hard last winter.
The former MLS midfielder read a newspaper article about Ballard FC, a fourth division soccer team that will be making their USL2 debut this spring. A longtime resident of the borough, he wanted to get involved.
“I contacted them. Not even necessarily because I want to be your first coach, plus how can I get involved in some way,” Farrell said. “I already see him as an asset to the community even though they haven’t played a single game.”
The club’s founders – Sam Zisette, Chris Kaimmer and former Sounders FC striker Lamar Neagle – signed Farrell to a one-year contract in January as their first manager.
Farrell’s hire followed the club’s flash announcement in early December where 400 season tickets were sold in five hours. A week later, the founders unveiled the kit at a fan party which was immediately rated by football enthusiasts as one of the best in the game.
Interbay Stadium is the home ground and the USL2 season opener is May 21 against Oregon’s Lane United FC. Only one thing is missing: the real team.
This is where Farrell, 51, is another key piece in the evolution of Ballard FC.
The Shorecrest High alum has stopped playing for University of the Pacific in Seattle, Skagit Valley and Washington. He scored the last goal in the 1995 league game for the then APSL Sounders, spent four seasons with the Columbus Crew in MLS and finished his professional career with the Sounders USL in 2004 under coach Brian Schmetzer. . Farrell went on to become Sounders and SU assistant coach and finally technical director of the youth club.
The wealth of knowledge was nearly exhausted when Farrell stepped down in December as coach/manager of Sound FC, a top soccer club attracting youth from Snohomish County and North Seattle. But then he made the call.
“Jason was going to be at the games regardless of any of the things he said,” said Naegle, who hadn’t met Farrell before the interview process despite their relationship with the Sounders. “We understand that we have to put a good product on the pitch, first and foremost it’s about my mentality (and Jason) has a ton of football experience. It’s not like we’re going to pick a guy up the street from Ballard to train just because he’s from Ballard. … He has experience on the administrative and operational side, which we knew we could exploit. Three guys who didn’t start a football club, Jason is someone who has a bit of experience in that area (and) the timing seemed perfect.
“It’s been with a lot with Ballard FC, so far. It’s been in the stage. We’re waiting for this shocking experience which baffles us, but it’s been pretty good so we’re still rolling with it. .
The pending glitch could be the squad as, again, there are no players. And that’s where the pressure comes in.
But like the initial announcement, Farrell’s phone and email were flooded with interest. Farrell is now holed up in his home office, listing players and answering calls. It has already filled the spaces for a two-day open trial in March and the invite-only trial is expected to result in a few signings.
“There’s a lot of good momentum,” said Farrell, who could start player announcements this month. “But we still have to make sure we get the right part on the pitch. It’s a sport and we keep score and the fans like to be entertained so we have to make sure we’re doing that part right.
“It’s so much easier to start a team like this from scratch than it was 10 or 15 years ago just because of access. Whether it’s Google.doc or some of the scouting programs that exist and are very helpful. All the coaches I have spoken to all have incredible video libraries on all of their players. It’s not an easy thing. It’s definitely a tedious process.
USL2 athletes are unpaid but Farrell will receive a modest salary. The fluctuating 89-team league runs from May through July, which is ideal for college players, although some veteran athletes participate. He’s billed as a route to the pros and MLS clubs selected 49 former USL2 players in last month’s SuperDraft.
While Ballard FC’s management and sponsors are steeped in ties to the once-independent city, the roster is likely to have more of a national feel.
Seattle alone has three successful college programs to spot. Washington reached the NCAA championship game in December, Seattle U won the WAC title last fall, and SPU is the defending Great Northwest Athletic Conference champion.
USL2 rules limit how many college players from the same school can be on a roster. SU manager Pete Fewing, who led the Kitsap Pumas to a Professional Development League title in 2011, is intrigued by the possibility of his players staying local to continue their off-season development.
“I read some stuff that Jason has written for different football journals and thought, wow, he’s really articulate and had a good view of how the game should be played,” Fewing said. “He will be a new voice for players to hear. He was an attacking type of player, so players (would) be in good hands.
Farrell looks forward to that day when he steps onto the Interbay pitch for the first training session where his team can decide what style of play they would like Ballard FC to debut. Building up to this moment matches his personality. He enjoys the challenge of finding as much information as possible and is motivated by helping his adopted neighborhood have a successful football team.
Basically, that’s all he asked for.
“Once we’re on the court, that’s definitely where the real fun comes in,” Farrell said. “Right now it’s phone and computer and if I work now it will make the product even better in May.”