By Kevin Kay, media intern
A few of players on the Kitsap Pumas soccer team could be classed as anomalies.
Because the Pumas are in the PDL, most of the athletes stay for one, maybe two years. The PDL is used as a stepping stone for players who are still in college, just out of college or in transition periods before moving onto teams in the upper levels of American soccer.
However, goalkeeper Matt Grosey, defenders Cory Keitz and Rene DeZorzi and midfielder Trevor Jensen just finished their third seasons with the Pumas.
Coming out of college, Grosey had heard about the PDL, especially in the Northwest as it is one of the most competitive divisions in the league. Coming from University of Nebraska Omaha, he thought he would give it the old college try—or fresh-out-of-college try.
“I came up here and saw that it was a very competitive league, a very hard league,” Grosey said. “It was a lot of fun to come up here and play.”
Jensen joined the Pumas after playing for Willamette University in Oregon.
“I knew I wanted to keep playing,” Jensen said. “My coach pointed me in this direction as well. They gave me a shot, and it’s been great.”
Jensen chose the PDL because he wanted to play as competitively as possible out of college, and he felt the PDL and Kitsap was the right next step to make.
Members of the Kitsap community definitely know that there is a soccer team in their midst. Hundreds of fans turn out for home games at Gordon Field.
Grosey said he loves the support, and it’s made it hard to leave.
“Everybody understands the game in Kitsap,” Grosey said. “They love it. They come out and support whenever they can. It’s unbelievable; it’s fun to be around.”
The Pacific Northwest is known for supporting soccer on all levels. The Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders draw crowds large enough to make even NFL stadiums feel cozy.
Jensen noted the benefits of being a player on a small-market team in terms of the fan support and personal connections.
“They are awesome. They are very cool people,” Jensen said. “They are very supportive and welcoming. They invite us over to their houses for barbeques every year. Some of the fans travel with us to Canada and Oregon. Those are long trips, but they make it. They bring their support all the time.”
Grosey and Jensen also attributed the coaching staff as a major reason why they have stuck around so long. Head coach Cameron MacDonald and assistants Shaun Scobie and Liviu Bird not only give them a spot on the roster, but the club also pays its players and provides housing, which not every PDL team does for its players.
“The coaching environment is great, the players are great, trainings are unbelievable,” Grosey said. “The amount I’ve learned here these past three years is by far the most I’ve learned in my entire career playing.”
The coaches also try to help develop the athletes in areas other than just becoming a better soccer player. For example, Jensen has always been interested in journalistic writing, so the Pumas gave him the opportunity to write content for their website.
The players also appreciate how the coaches aren’t that much older than most of the players, while still having loads of experience. It makes the relationship easier for some of the players.
“I get a good amount of games on a good level,” Grosey said. “It keeps that exposure going.”
One aspect that Grosey and Jensen appreciate about the PDL is that everyone involved with the team—coaches, players, other staff members—know that it’s a stepping stone for the next level. And it’s that common mentality to do as much as you can before moving on that forms a special bond between the players.
Even the ones that are there for just a year or two.
“Everyone has their own story,” Jensen said. “Everyone took different ways to get here, but we all have the same goal of playing well and moving onto a higher level. Everyone has the same collective idea of what they want.”
The Pumas just finished their 2016 campaign with a fourth-place finish after a 5-4-5 record and amassed a total of 17 points after the team finished the 2015 season undefeated, with Jensen, DeZorzi, Grosey and Keitz all playing important roles.
Every offseason for players in the PDL is interesting, as they always go and try to test their luck at the higher levels, and after three years with the Pumas, both Grosey and Jensen felt it may be time to move on and test the waters at the higher levels.
“I’m looking for my career—I’m looking for the higher levels,” Grosey said. “This year was my last year, I’d say. I know the coaching staff is very supportive, saying things like, ‘Hey, you’ve done well, let’s move you along.’ ”
Despite Grosey being named the 2015 PDL Goalkeeper of the Year, nothing came of it, so he is looking to cash in his awards at a higher level this coming offseason.
But no matter where Jensen, Grosey, Keitz, DeZorzi or any of the Pumas venture off to next year—up the levels of American soccer or back in the PDL with the Pumas or another team—they will always have the memories of the coaches, the fans and the success in Kitsap.
Especially those who have been there longer than most.
— #AllezPumas —