Bremerton, Wa. – The Kitsap Pumas (10-0-2, 33 pts) completed an undefeated PDL Northwest Division season for the first time in club history and sealed their fourth consecutive Ruffneck Scarves Cup after a single goal victory over the Seattle Sounders U23’s (7-4-1, 22 pts) in front of close to 1200 fans at Gordon Field.
The Pumas, who had wrapped up the Northwest Division Championship the previous week, took the game to the Sounders right from the start. Prolific frontman Logan Miller was first to threaten when he turned his mark on the edge of the box and fired his shot just wide. Moments later Miller again went close to opening the scoring before the Sounders had any grip on the game. This time Mike Ramos danced around two defenders on the right and squared for Miller however his powerful effort cannoned agonizingly off the crossbar.
The home faithful, encouraged by these early chances, wouldn’t have long to wait for the first goal to arrive. After nine minutes, Matt Eronemo rose highest to nod a Joe Masumiya corner back across goal. The ball was lashed towards goal by Jake Bond and after his effort was block, Eronemo was on hand to thunder the rebound in to the roof of the net.
The Pumas continued to dictate the flow of the game to the delight of the noisy home fans but couldn’t increase their lead before the break.
Half-Time: Kitsap Pumas 1-0 Seattle Sounders U23
The Sounders U23, who needed a point or more to host the Timbers U23 in Sunday’s Northwest Division play-off game, were clearly not happy with the first half performance and introduced three players at half-time in the hopes of turning things around. Kento Sakurai, Matthew Reinikka and top scorer Guillermo Delgado all enter and immediately had an impact on the game.
A quick combination on the left between Sakurai, Delgado and Florian Valot allowed Delgado space at the edge of the box but with quick Pumas pressure he could only poke his snapshot into Matt Grosey’s grateful grasp. It was better offensive play from the Sounders yet the Pumas could have found themselves two ahead during the next attack when Miller chased down center back Jonathan Campbell and stole the ball from him. Miller was clean through on goal with only Sounders keeper’ Jefferson Caldwell to beat. He shimmied past him before astonishingly rolling his left-footed effort in to the side netting.
As legs began to tire, the game became increasingly stretched. Time was running out and the Sounders in search of the vital equalizing goal, were going more and more direct with their attacks but PDL leading goalkeeper Grosey marshaled his defense expertly to thwart them. The closest they came to leveling the score was when Valot crashed a 25-yard free kick off the crossbar. The rebound flew high in to the air and ask it came down, Grosey rose highest to punch to safety.
In the dying moments, Ramos could have put some gloss on the scoreline after wrestling past Lee but his lobbed effort dropped just the wrong side of the crossbar.
Full-Time: Kitsap Pumas 1-0 Seattle Sounders U23
Pumas head coach Cameron MacDonald was understandably delighted with the win, “Yet again, the boys were fantastic. We were up front with them in preseason about how much work was needed to learn our system and how much hard work it would be every game and they’ve responded in the best possible way” .
Pumas assistant coach Shaun Scobie echoed MacDonald’s sentiments, “To have the best defensive record in the entire league is not a fluke. The boys work hard every day trying to be better than they were the day before and its that mentality thats got us to this point”.
Kitsap will now wait to see if they will host the Western Conference finals to be held on July 24 & 25.