By Rob Shore
BREMERTON, Wash. – If Kitsap SC’s first friendly of the preseason showed the NPSL new boys could win with style, the second showed they could grind out three points as well.
Brian Charles scored a go-ahead goal in the 75th minute — his fourth goal of the preseason — lifting Kitsap to a 3-2 victory over EPLWA frontrunners South Sound FC at Gordon Field. The result came after surrendering a two-goal halftime advantage.
But Kitsap head coach Roy Lassiter said this was the sort of primer the team really needed.
“We needed this – we needed the competition to be a little stiffer than it was a couple of days ago,” Lassiter said, referring to a 4-0 victory over Harbor SC on Saturday. “We needed to be able to solve some problems on the field together, work through some tough moments. I thought for the most part, the boys did that.”
The victory takes Kitsap SC up to Saturday’s NPSL season opener against Spokane Shadow at Gordon Field.
Charles’ match-winner was jaw-dropping, taking the pass from Hamidou Kante, chipping past South Sound defender Logan Jones and firing past keeper Mike Arguello.
The result went a little against the run of play, with the Shock peppering Kitsap keeper Joe Wheelwright with 10 shots on goal, forcing eight saves.
“It was good to get a higher intensity game,” Wheelwright said. “A little bit more pressure to see what improvements we can make on the defensive side before the first season game.”
The offensive side was sharp from the start.
Charles kept up his preseason scoring form early on, firing past South Sound keeper Julian Tafolla in the sixth minute. The former CSU Bakersfield man took a pass from Jack Philp, then created enough space for a snap shot for Kitsap’s first score.
But South Sound quickly had Kitsap on the defensive as forward Cayman John ripped a pair of shots around the box, one which forced Wheelwright to make a diving stop — this already was more trouble than Wheelwright saw in the preseason opener against Harbor SC.
But the freshman keeper from Utah Valley showed his stuff on a freak double save in the 15th minute. Wheelwright was forced to come out of net to make a save on South Sound’s Austin Sweeney, then had to scramble back for a stop on Isidro Prado-Huerta.
At that point, it looked as if Wheelwright — Kitsap’s lone active goalkeeper on the roster Wednesday night – would play a blinder in his last preseason tuneup. Or that it simply wasn’t South Sound’s night.
Or maybe Kitsap was finding its preseason stride.
Hamaguchi made the case for that in the 22nd minute, burying a rebound after a blast by Joe Harris after a corner kick.
South Sound had another chance get away close to halftime. Shock forward Brandon Madsen stole the ball in the Kitsap area for a golden chance. But Madsen’s hit the crossbar and deflected downward and out of danger.
But South Sound added goals from Alex Vogt (51st minute) and Brandon Madsen (62nd) to tie the score and set up Charles’ heroics.