By Rob Shore
BREMERTON, Wash. — All season, Kitsap SC had been a second-half team, and the bulk of its Northwestern Conference Division points total came after halftime.
In the second half Wednesday night, with enormous playoff implications, PDX FC made Kitsap feel the other end of that.
Blake Leonetti and Jacob Young scored in the last 11 minutes, with Young netting the match-winner in injury time as PDX stunned Kitsap, 2-1, at Gordon Field.
Young nodded home a Nick Evans corner kick from close range in injury time as Kitsap was clinging to a 1-1 draw. The late strike sent the downsized PDX team — the Portland side brought one substitution to its season finale — into jubilation.
“I think we kind of didn’t keep it all together in terms of rhythm,” Kitsap coach Roy Lassiter said. “The rhythm was swinging too fast and it didn’t stay with us as long as we normally have rhythm. We gave up a goal in the wrong time of the game, to be sure.
“Two of them, on both sides.”
It was a stunning turnaround that cost Kitsap the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, which would have guaranteed the club home-field advantage through the first two rounds of the postseason.
Instead, Kitsap (6-2-2) enter the NPSL postseason at the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference and will host FC Mulhouse Portland on Saturday, a week after defeating that team to clinch the division title. And it means Kitsap has little time to get over letting this one get away.
“We really have to put this behind us,” center back Joe Harris said. “But there’s a lesson to be learned that you can’t take anyone lightly at any point in the game, even for a moment.”
Meanwhile, PDX (5-4-1) saw its season end on a high note.
Harris scored Kitsap’s only goal in the 34th minute, one of the team’s wonder goals of the season even as the result turned sour.
Kitsap SC broke through in unusual form in the 34th minute, when Habib Barry played Harris through on goal from midfield. Harris took a couple of touches, then powered a shot past PDX goalkeeper Hector Delgado. It was Harris’ second goal of the season.
The goal came as Barry continually looked dangerous up front, but was hit by a bevy offsides calls. He had a goal called back in the 21st minute on a late offsides, also on a breakaway from midfield.
Kitsap also missed a gift chance early on, when Barry found Sean Bowman in front of an empty PDX net. But Bowman couldn’t get a foot on it.
The start was typical in a contest that saw Kitsap in control for wide stretches without much to show for it. Kitsap ended up outshooting PDX 13-6, but the Portland visitors ended up with the better chances.
Kitsap made nine changes from the side that defeated FC Mulhouse Portland on Saturday, a move to allow some starters a rest and give an opportunity for some players that hadn’t seen much playing time.
It was a move that might have cost Kitsap and one that Lassiter took responsibility for.
“I take full responsibility for the result,” Lassiter said. “I knew about the implications of the game, but I wanted to trust my team. I wanted to trust my players.”
Now, Kitsap needs to bounce back in a few days before meeting a Mulhouse side with vengeance on its mind.
“Tonight, they’ll be not happy with the result,” Lassiter said. “I wouldn’t say they’re all that unhappy with the performance, but I think they’ll be unhappy with the result. They’ll bounce back tomorrow and come back and be fine.”