By Rob Shore
BREMERTON, Wash. — This time, Kitsap SC left no doubt.
After two nailbiting victories over FC Mulhouse Portland during the regular season, this time Kitsap went ahead early and stayed there.
Romario Lomeli scored in the third minute, Jorge Ruiz added another in the 55th and Kitsap SC defeated FC Mulhouse Portland, 2-0, to advance in the NPSL Western Conference playoffs on Saturday night at Gordon Field.
“Tonight was very satisfying,” Lomeli said. “I thought we just came out, played with confidence and did what we had to do and won the game. With the team that we have, we can accomplish anything, so I felt good about the win today.”
With the victory, Kitsap SC (7-2-2) will advance to face CD Aguiluchos USA of Oakland, California. Aguiluchos defeated Sonoma County Sol FC 1-0 on Saturday to move on.
For Mulhouse (6-5-0), the loss was its third to Kitsap this season. To Kitsap, the contest was a chance to dissolved a dose of conventional wisdom — the old coachspeak about it being tough to beat a team three times in a season.
“It’s so satisfying,” center back Tyler LaCourse said. “Going into the game, we had a lot of people tell us you can never beat a team three times in one season. We just kind of came in with the mentality that we’re going to prove these people wrong. And we dominated the game.”
It marked the fourth clean sheet in five games for goalkeeper Paul-Andre Guerin, but the starting defensive back four of LaCourse, Mike Scharf, Joe Harris and Tony Mota could have claimed its share of the credit. For Guerin, his was his second straight clean sheet against the Mulhouse side.
While Kitsap’s shot advantage was only 9-7, the home side had the better chances for much of the night.
Kitsap jumped on Mulhouse early and might have changed the game in doing so. Chuy Sanchez took a pass at midfield, drove into the box and laid off to Lomeli. With Mulhouse keeper Dorian Lair committed to Sanchez, Lomeli fired in the go-ahead score. It was Lomeli’s first goal of the season.
“Romy, I don’t look at him as a goal-scorer, I just look at him as a clinical guy,” Kitsap head coach Roy Lassiter said. “Great skill and he’s like a rotary engine. He just winds up and gets better every game that goes on.”
But Lassiter wasn’t satisfied.
“I didn’t celebrate that goal because it was early and I knew anything could happen,” he said. “And I knew we were going to need another one.”
Kitsap had other chances to add to its lead in the first half, but couldn’t put the ball in the net.
Lomeli had another good chance in the 37th minute, ripping a shot from the outside of the box. But a diving Lair pushed the ball aside.
A few minutes later, Sanchez dragged a shot past Lair, but it went wide right. Lomeli arrived at the far post a split-second too late for the tap-in.
Mulhouse had plenty of possession in the Kitsap half, but couldn’t convert it into good chances. A Ryan Middleton free kick found Brady Voge’s head and went wide right, but chances on net were sparse.
By the time Ruiz found the net in the second half — his team-leading fourth — Kitsap had taken control. And that meant something against a team that had given it fits this season.
“We just took their intensity and physicality,” LaCourse said, “and we not only matched it, we exceeded it.”