Rhode Island FC Makes History with Inaugural USL Championship Match

 Rhode Island FC Makes History with Inaugural USL Championship Match
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Club draws 1-1 against New Mexico United in front of sold out Beirne Stadium

SMITHFIELD, R.I. (March 16, 2024) – Rhode Island FC’s historic inaugural match at Beirne Stadium came to a dramatic close Saturday evening in a 1-1 draw against New Mexico United. The physical matchup from start to finish was highlighted by a sold out atmosphere of fans and supporters coming together to witness the Ocean State’s only professional soccer team take the pitch for the very first time.

Despite being down 1-0 deep into second half stoppage time, the sold out crowd came alive when New Mexico defender Christopher Gloster recorded an own goal off a dangerous Noah Fuson cross for the first goal in RIFC history. The late strike secured the 1-1 draw and earned Rhode Island its first-ever USL Championship point, sending fans across Beirne Stadium into euphoria as fireworks erupted.

Fans from across the Ocean State’s eight cities and 31 towns witnessed the historic moment, proudly supporting A Club for All Rhode Island until the very last second. The Ocean State soccer dream became a reality when Rhode Island FC Head Coach Khano Smith and the starting 11 marched onto the pitch for the first time. Led by the energy and passion of Defiance 1636, the Rhode Island faithful took in a full day of live performances, local food trucks, giveaways, family-friendly activities and special guests.

Rhode Island Governor Daniel McKee, Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien and Bryant University President Ross Gittell were joined by Rhode Island FC Chairman Brett Johnson to conduct the ceremonial coin toss. The electrified fanbase stood united for the first ever National Anthem on their own pitch, sung by Rhode Island native and former American Idol finalist Erika Van Pelt. After a U.S. Army Black Hawk Helicopter flew over Beirne Stadium, fans took to their seats as fireworks exploded before the highly anticipated match finally kicked off.

The first goal of the afternoon came from New Mexico (1W-0L-1D) in the 67th minute of play by defender Talen Maples. After an out swinging free kick was poked away by Rhode Island FC goalkeeper Koke Vegas, Maples found an opening on the rebound and sent a right-footed shot from close range to the bottom right corner to give New Mexico the 1-0 lead.

Despite a flurry of Clay Holstad crossbar ricochets and multiple Albert Dikwa (Chico) close calls, the home side was unable to equalize in regulation. Rhode Island FC (0W-0L-1D) continued to have its offensive moments and found ways to take control of the match, but the team simply could not find a way to finish.

The club’s inaugural match would take a dramatic turn in the dying moments of second half stoppage time, rewriting the Ocean State history books. Pressing the New Mexico defense once again, Fuson sent in a cross from left to right as Doyle charged into the box. Diving to get his foot on the ball, Doyle was closely marked by Gloster, who’s mis-timed defensive effort saw the ball slice past New Mexico goalkeeper Alex Tambakis. Bringing every fan to its feet, the last-second goal would forever go down in Rhode Island soccer history as the first time fans celebrated a goal in the Ocean State.

Rhode Island FC returns to USL Championship action on Sunday, March 24 (6 p.m. ET) when the club travels to California to take on Monterey Bay F.C. Fans can take in the match from the Rhode Island FC Official Watch Party at Providence Brewing Company or tune in live on NESN or ESPN+. After another road match the following week at Tampa Bay Rowdies (7:30 p.m., ESPN+), Rhode Island FC returns to Beirne Stadium on Saturday, April 6 to host defending Eastern Conference Champions Charleston Battery. Tickets to the next home match are available now at rhodeislandfc.com/tickets.


NM – Talen Maples, 68th minute: Maples gets on the end of a Koke Vegas rebound to finish from point-blank range. RI 0, NM 1

RI – Christopher Gloster (own goal), 90+2: Gloster gets on the wrong end of a Noah Fuson cross. RI 1, NM 1


  • Rhode Island FC played in its first ever USL Championship match in front of a sold out crowd of 5,252 at Beirne Stadium.
  • The first goal in club history was an own goal scored by New Mexico’s Christopher Gloster, who redirected a close-range shot from second-half substitute Mark Doyle in second-half stoppage time.
  • Veteran defender Grant Stoneman played in his 100th career USL Championship match.


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