By Rob Shore
In some ways, Kitsap Soccer Club is now out of its comfort zone.
Its NPSL Western Conference semifinal tonight against CD Aguiluchos USA will be its first NPSL match against an opponent from outside its own division. For that matter, it will be the first road trip that has required plane travel.
Then again, away matches were one thing Kitsap SC have one really well so far this season, winning all five league matches away from Bremerton’s Gordon Field.
“That seems to be what we do,” Kitsap SC associate head coach Liviu Bird said. “That seems to be the running joke, we might not do so well at home, but on the road, we do well. Maybe it’s a good thing we travel every week now.”
Whether Kitsap will do as well on plane trips to the San Francisco Bay Area as well as van trips to Tukwila or Portland remains to be seen.
Waiting for Kitsap on Saturday night will be CD Aguiluchos USA, the Golden Gate Conference Division champion. The sides will meet at Burrell Field in San Leandro with a kickoff scheduled for 7 p.m.
Even though CD Aguiluchos USA won its first division title this season, it does have some history in the NPSL, reaching the national semifinal in 2015 before falling to eventual champion New York Cosmos B.
CD Aguiluchos USA won its division going away, winning its first six matches and going 8-0-1 to start the season. The side — whose name is a tribute to El Salvadoran club Aguila — finished the season 8-3-1 with a three-game losing streak.
If that seems like a team on the slide, CD Aguiluchos USA fixed that in a hurry in its playoff opener, trouncing division rival Sonoma County Sol FC 4-0 in its postseason opener last week. Simon Rawnsley — the team’s leading scorer with 13 goals this season – scored three goals in the blowout.
“They were very good in their division, they like to play and they’re good at playing a good possession style of game,” Bird said. “It should be a good, competitive game for 90 minutes — or longer.”
That last bit was a reminder that in the postseason, any draws after 90 minutes go to extra time and possibly, penalty kicks. Kitsap SC has yet to concede a penalty this season.
Jorge Ruiz, who leads Kitsap with four goals this season, is looking forward to the matchup for personal reasons.
“I have Salvadoran descent in my blood,” the University of San Francisco rising sophomore said. ‘It’s pretty interesting to see a Salvadoran team. It’s pretty cool.”
Saturday night’s playoff game will be the first meeting between the two sides.