SALEM, Ore. — After marching to the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup in 2016, the Kitsap Pumas waited two years to get back into the competition. This might not have been how the Pumas envisioned it.
Center back Kevin Francis was sent off in the 12th minute for a tackle from behind, the Pumas were forced into two own goals and were heavily outshot in a 5-0 loss to the PDL’s Timbers U23s in the first round of the U.S. Open Cup.
With the victory, the Timbers U23s will travel to face the USL’s Reno 1868 FC in the second round of the tournament next week. The Pumas will need to settle for regrouping for their National Premier Soccer League opener at PDX FC in Portland, Ore., on Saturday.
For the Pumas, the best part of Tuesday night’s setback will be getting past it.
Francis, a full international for St. Vincent and the Grenadines, was given a straight red in the 12th minute for bringing down the Timbers’ Benji Michael from behind, sending off the Kitsap player with the most big game experience.
Rey Ortiz followed with a rocket free kick from outside the area, giving the Timbers U23s a 1-0 lead.
An Ortiz cross deflected off midfielder Aria Shahmirzadi in the 33rd minute, and the Timbers U23s went into the half up 2-0.
But Pumas head coach Liviu Bird was pleased with the effort the squad still showed.
“It was always going to be tough for us after getting a man sent off so early in the game,” Bird said. “To our credit, we never stopped working or trying to play the entire game, even down multiple goals at the end.”
But the second half didn’t provide any relief. An own goal in the 50th minute by former Gig Harbor standout Jack Sluys and later strikes by Don Tchilao and Joel Walker provided the cruel final score for the Pumas.
Combined with last season’s 4-2 playoff loss to CD Aguiluchos USA in San Leandro, Calif., it was Kitsap’s second consecutive loss — the team had gone the entire 2017 season without consecutive losses.
Overall, the Pumas were outshot 17-4 in the loss.
“We’ll take the positives from tonight and move forward into the league season, since this was just the start of our time together,” Bird said. “We’re obviously not happy with the result, but we have a quick turnaround and another game on Saturday to prepare for”
Next on the Pumas’ slate is the NPSL opener at PDX FC at Hilken Community Stadium at Concordia University in Portland.
PDX handed Kitsap a 2-1 defeat to cap the 2017 regular season behind goals from Blake Leonetti and Jake Young, both of whom returned to the squad. That loss kept the Pumas from hosting a second-round playoff game.
For Kitsap, it offers a chance to continue an interesting streak — the Pumas went unbeaten away from Gordon Field during the NPSL regular season, going 5-0 in those games.