By Rob Shore
When Kitsap SC came back from a two-goal halftime deficit for a 3-2 away victory over FC Mulhouse Portland on May 26, it seemed like a big result that night in Portland.
With FCM Portland coming to Bremerton’s Gordon Field tonight with the NPSL Northwest Division at stake, that result looks all the more critical. Kickoff for tonight’s game is at 7 p.m.
Both FCM Portland (18 points) and Kitsap SC (17 points) have clinched playoff berths, and a win by either side tonight would clinch the division. But without those three second-half Kitsap goals, it might be a different story.
“At the time, we had a feeling that winning that game versus any other result would be a big positive moving forward,” Kitsap SC associate head coach Liviu Bird said. “For a number of reasons, at the time, it seemed like an important result.”
Down 2-0 at the break, Joe Harris scored off a corner kick in the 65th minute, then Jorge Ruiz added the equalizer in the 81st minute, sending the Kitsap sideline into jubilation.
Kitsap wasn’t done. When Ryan Hill buried a Chuy Sanchez cross deep in injury time, it handed three points to the visitors.
Now, the Kitsap players can look over the game film to see what they did right in the contest. And many have done so.
“I’ve watched the game a few times over,” Ruiz said, “trying to see what I could have done better or we as a team have done better.”
That second half comeback — more than six weeks ago now — now has Kitsap entering tonight’s game buzzing with confidence.
“We know that we can beat them,” Hill said. “We’re a team that, if it comes down to it, we can get three goals in 45 minutes. In terms of their mentality, it puts a target on our back a little bit.”
Kitsap has trailed in three of their five wins this season, and again scored three second-half goals last week in a 4-2 victory over Pierce County FC.
But that doesn’t mean it’s a position the players and coaches want to revisit.
“At this stage of the season, we can’t afford to let that happen,” Bird said.
“Our biggest goal is not to let them get out to a lead like that again,” Hill said. “We want to be on the scoresheet first.”
That brings up the other quirk with Kitsap SC’s results this season: With two games to play, it is the only team which has yet to win at home, going 0-1-2 at Gordon Field. And that’s an oversight that Kitsap is keen to rectify.
Both teams come into the contest in winning form. PCM Portland has won two straight and four of its last five. Kitsap SC has won three straight, all away from home.
FCM Portland closes out its season tonight. While a win by either team would clinch the division, Kitsap SC has a home game against PDX FC on Wednesday and could still win the division then with a draw.
“You always keep in the back of your mind this could be the game that clinches the division title,” Ruiz said, “but you’ve got to remind yourself it’s just another game and we’ve got to do what we need to do every single day.”