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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane Velocity rounds out roster, aims to make impact on and off the field in first season

By Ethan Myers The Spokesman-Review

The Spokane Velocity’s roster is beginning to take shape as its inaugural season draws closer.

With less than a month remaining until the Mar. 16 home opener at the ONE Spokane Stadium, the Velocity has announced the signing of 16 players as of Monday.

Ryan Harnetiaux, who owns the club with his wife Katie Harnetiaux, said the team will likely have around 20 players rostered before the season kicks off.

“If you see who we’ve brought in, you can see it’s a really strong blend of guys that have been in pro soccer for five or six years or longer, coupled with some new people,” Harnetiaux said. “It’s great – the roster is being built out in a really smart way.”

The team, competing as a Division III team in the USL League One, has been pieced together with athletes with a variety of backgrounds and playing experience.

Some notable names include Romain Metanire, a French defender and former MLS all-star, and Kimarni Smith, an English midfielder and the fourth overall pick in the 2021 MLS Superdraft.

Harnetiaux credits Gareth Smith, the team’s sporting department consultant whom he called one of the “premier soccer minds in the U.S.,” for helping construct the roster.

Many of the players have signed contracts for longer than a year, said Harnetiaux, citing the importance of continuity for the young club.

“We think it’s really special to be able to build this in Spokane and we know that the Spokane fans are going to love the product on the field, but I think they’re also going to love what we’re doing in and around the community off the pitch,” Harnetiaux said.

The club may look to supplement its roster from the players who get cut from MLS rosters this month.

Some younger players from the community will also be brought on as academy players.

In November, the team named Leigh Veidman as its head coach. Veidman, who has played and coached at a number of levels in the soccer world, was picked from a pool of 140 applicants from over 20 countries, Harnetiaux said. Veidman has spent the past five years coaching in the USL.

“Having the opportunity to be part of building a professional organization and laying strong foundations for a successful future is key in an industry where winning is imperative,” Veidman said in a release after being hired. “The ownership has shown a clear intent with the investment in a high-level environment to bring world-class soccer to the Spokane fans.”

Earlier this month, the club added Renato Bustamante, a Peru native and former professional soccer player, as an assistant coach.

The Velocity spent the past week at a training camp in Arizona, partaking in friendlies and closed-door scrimmages. The club returned to Spokane this week to continue training before debuting for fans against the Tacoma Defiance, the Seattle Sounders MLS Next Pro club, in a preseason match in Kennewick on Mar. 2.

The Velocity will kick off its regular season on Mar. 9 against the Greenville Triumph in South Carolina, then will face the Richmond Kickers in their home opener on Mar. 16. The club will play every team in its league at least twice and will also participate in a new in-season cup competition.

Season tickets and single -game tickets for the 16 home games are available for purchase on the club’s website. Additional playoff, tournament or friendly matches may be added to the home schedule.

The team is also offering a ticket package – the “Rumble Pack” – that includes the home opener and seven other games of choice.

Despite the club’s infancy, Harnetiaux has high hopes for the Velocity in year one.

“I think that most of the time when you have an expansion team, you would not anticipate being incredibly successful in your first season as you build,” he said. “However, I would say that given our level of investment in our roster with the players that we are acquiring right now, our expectations are much higher and our goal this year is to make the playoffs.

“We believe that it’s very possible with this group.”

The Harnetiaux couple, through Aequus Sports LLC, will also run the Spokane Zephyr, a women’s USL Super League team, and another pre-professional women’s team in the USL W League. Harnetiaux, a Gonzaga graduate who lives in Seattle but is originally from Spokane, emphasized the intention of community impact and local partnerships with the new clubs.

“For us, this is a bit of a giveback – building something that we think is going to benefit a whole lot of people in Spokane, not just a few,” he said. “It’s a lot bigger, I think, than anything that has ever happened Spokane-sports wise.”