Bay FC draws sell-out crowd in home debut

San Jose – Albertin Montoya (Bay FC) remembers a time when women’s football was niche, a small loyal fan with up to 2,000-4,000 fans. Games were played in a small college field and post-game interviews with just, at most, a handful of reporters on the pitch after the match. 

Montoya walked into his press conference at PayPal Park dissatisfied with the Bay FC’s 3-2 loss to the Houston Dash. But the inaugural home game Saturday night in front of a sellout crowd was a new memory he’s looking forward to this season.

“It felt like a win before and during the game.” Montoya said. “Fans… I mean, 18,000 plus – we haven’t seen that here, ever. Last time we had a team here and I was coaching, we probably had 2,000-to-3,000 fans. It’s just surreal, the energy, the excitement, all these young players watching these players here, they’re pretty special.”

Photo by Jeff Weisinger

Bay FC announced a record sellout crowd of 18,000 Saturday night with lines of people going from the entry gates to PayPal Park, all the way past the Roku offices and parking structures across the stadium. Saturday night’s match recorded the largest standalone women’s professional soccer crowd in the Bay Area history since the Bay Area CyberRays drew 16,174 on July 16, 2001. 

Saturday night’s match was also the first women’s professional home match since the FC Gold Pride of Women’s Professional Soccer defeated Philadelphia 4-0 in the WPS Final on Sept. 26, 2010, at Pioneer Stadium in Hayward. It was also the first women’s match “on the Peninsula” since August 9, 2009, when FC Gold Pride hosted St. Louis Athletic at Buck Shaw Stadium. 

Montoya coached the FC Gold Pride’s for two years from 2009-10.  FC Gold Pride was the last women’s professional soccer team in the Bay Area. The storied franchsie ended their season by winning the WPS Championship over Philadelphia 4-0 on Sept. 16, 2010. 

A former player of the Bay FC’s “Fab Four”is now a part of the ownership group, USWNT great Brandi Chastain, best known for her match-winning penalty kick in the 1999 Women’s FIFA World Cup. Many who attended the match was excited for the Bay FC’s home debut, but none matched Chastain’s enthusiasm throughout the night.

Brandi Chastain photo by Jeff Weisinger

“It’s exponentially more exciting than I ever thought it would be,” said Chastain in the group’s media availability before the match. “I think it’s bigger and better than we ever thought it could be and that’s a tribute to every single person who put effort and energy into the project. Also, to every single fan tonight and every game going forward.”

“This was the dream,” fellow owner and USWNT great Aly Wagner said. “Lines of people down the street, a sold-out crowd, the vibe in this building. When we started on this journey, it was literally to be able to provide this environment for these athletes. This is the new normal.”

The Bay FC’s debut match tonight was a moment that everyone had circled on their calendars. Midfielder Deyna Castellanos, who is one of the Bay FC’s several big signings from Manchester City during the offseason.

Photo by Jeff Weisinger

“We are very happy,” said Castellanos after the match.” We knew our fans were going to be the best in the league and they showed up today. They were right there with us and rallied in the tough moments and we are very, very honored to play for them.”

Castellanos took the honor of scoring the club’s first goal, knocking in an originally deflected shot from teammate Asisat Oshoala that bounced to her near the top of the 18-yard-box. Castellanos fired in the shot into the upper corner of the net for the opening, historic, goal of the match.

“For me, it was one of the best moments of my career,” she explained. “Obviously, right now, it’s a bittersweet kind of feeling that we all have, but I’m very happy to score the first goal at home for the club.”

Houston pulled even midway through the second half on a goal by Maria Sanchez in the 66th minute, who headed in the equalizer at the back post to make it 1-1. Diana Ordonez gave Houston the lead in the 87th minute on a penalty kick after a handball in the 18-yard-box by Bay FC, the second time in as many matches that Bay FC conceded a late, go-ahead goal.

Bay FC’s Racheal Kundananji tied the match at 2-2 with a highlight-worthy goal early in second half stoppage time, however Houston’s Havana Solaun fired in a shot to the left corner of the goal at the death to seal the win for Houston.

“It’s painful losing like that now,” said Castellanos. “We need to keep working on trying to stay focused the whole game, but we are going to get better and better. We’re still a new team.”

Photos by Jeff Weisinger

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