Louisville City FC on Monday announced its first hometown signing, with DuPont Manual High School graduate Richard Ballard set to suit up for the club this year after an All-Big Ten Conference senior season at Indiana University.
Terms of Ballard’s contract, which is pending USSF approval, were not disclosed. He arrives at LouCity after playing most of his IU career at midfielder. Ballard shifted to striker last year, when he registered 4 goals and 2 assists.
“He actually scored against us in our first preseason game back in 2015, so we’ve been aware of him for a couple of years now,” said LouCity Coach James O’Connor. “Our goalkeepers coach, Thabane Sutu, knows Richard well having worked with him when he was younger.
“His versatility is important. We are excited, as think he has a lot of potential for growth. It is also great to have signed a local player who can relate to the community.”
Ballard earned a contract out of LouCity’s invitation tryouts held in January, upping the current 2017 roster count to 18 players. The team will train for two weeks later this month at Florida’s IMG Academy toward a March 25 United Soccer League season opener against Saint Louis FC. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. at Louisville Slugger Field.
Ballard could fit in at any number of positions having starred on the wing, in the attacking midfield and at forward for IU.
“Playing at Indiana, we trained at the highest level every day,” the 23-year-old said. “We had some of the most competitive players in the nation and played against the best competition. I think it prepared me well to be a professional.
“I’ve always dreamed we’d have a professional team in Louisville. Now that we do, to be able to play for it means the world to me. I think it’s going to be awesome to get out there and represent my hometown.”
During Ballard’s freshman season, in 2012, the Hoosiers won a national title. His role built from there, until he started all 21 games in 2016 as IU went 12-2-7 overall. Ballard earned All-Big Ten Second-Team honors.
Locally, Ballard cemented his reputation as a goal creator during three varsity letter seasons at Manual. He tallied 21 goals and 24 assists for the Crimsons, guiding them to the District 12 title in 2011. In high school, Ballard was named to the All-State First Team.
While still an IU student, Ballard attended his first LouCity game in 2015 to greet Sunny Jane, a Trinity High School product then playing for the Wilmington Hammerheads.
“I was impressed,” Ballard said. “I was glad to see the fans come out and create such a good atmosphere in Louisville. That’s the one game I could look back on when making my decision, knowing I could see myself playing for this team in that kind of environment.”