By Rob Shore
BREMERTON, Wash. – As it turned out, two meetings wasn’t enough for Kitsap SC and FC Mulhouse Portland.
The division rivals will meet for a climactic third match on Saturday at Gordon Field in the first round of the NPSL playoffs. The postseason opener will kickoff at 7 p.m.
The playoff matchup was determined when PDX FC defeated Kitsap SC 2-1 on Wednesday night in Bremerton, with the winner coming on a Jacob Young header in injury time.
There was no time for Kitsap to be introspective over its stunning loss in the regular-season finale. The players were back at the training ground early on Thursday morning, their focus squarely shifted to the playoff opener.
“With such a big game on Saturday, you have to let it go,” midfielder Chuy Sanchez said. “I hope all the boys recognize that. You reflect and move on and see what you can do better next time. This is a big one right here. This is do or die.”
This latest meeting between Kitsap and FC Mulhouse comes a week since the teams met on the same pitch in a 1-0 Kitsap SC victory that decided the Northwest Conference Division title.
So no additional scouting will be required. These teams should know each other rather well by now.
Midfielder Javo Reyes, who started against Mulhouse on Saturday and PDX FC on Wednesday, said the familiarity might make preparations a little easier.
“We know the style they play and the players they’ve used,” he said. “They’ve been here already.”
Kitsap SC coach Roy Lassiter said that the opponent might be familiar, but that won’t make the matchup any easier.
“That team is not going to stop playing,” Lassiter said of FC Mulhouse Portland. “They’re just like the Portland team we just played (PDX FC). They are a hard-fighting team and anything can happen with these guys.”
And as two regular-season Kitsap-Mulhouse matchups have shown, anything has happened.
Kitsap’s 1-0 victory on Saturday came on Nico D’Amato’s deflected shot from outside the box in the 69th minute. That set up a tense 20-plus minutes of Mulhouse pressure, capped by a point-blank open look from Luis Fabeano deep in injury time. But Fabeano’s final shot skied over the crossbar.
That came after Kitsap’s 3-2 thrilling fightback victory on May 26 at Concordia University’s Tuominen Yard. Joe Harris, Jorge Ruiz and Ryan Hill scored in the last 25 minutes to get out of town with three points. Galeano and Brody Yoge netted goals for Mulhouse in the loss.
Galeano leads FC Mulhouse Portland with six goals this season. Ruiz tops the Kitsap scoring list with three goals.
“They’re a very organized and physical team,” Sanchez said of FC Mulhouse Portland. “They make it hard to play against. They’re a team you can’t switch off for a second, because if you do, they’ll score a goal and they’ll look to keep that lead.
“We’ve got to be intelligent the way we come out, and we’ve got to have a lot of intensity because they’ll look to push us off the ball. They’ll look to bully us. And if we let them do that, it will be a long game for us.”
Both teams are coming off losses that ultimately cost them playoff positioning: Kitsap’s loss to PDX on Wednesday and FC Mulhouse Portland’s loss to Kitsap last week.
Lassiter said Saturday’s game will be a test of character for his club.
“These boys will bounce back,” Lassiter said. “They’re resilient and they’ve proved that and they’ll do it again.”
For ticket information for Saturday’s game call the club at 360-377-6008.