By Rob Shore
The Kitsap Pumas will try to keep their strong start of the National Premier Soccer League season going on Sunday as they host Spokane SC Shadow in their home opener at Gordon Field.
Tickets for the home opener are BOGO — buy one and get one free. Kickoff is at 3 p.m.
The Pumas already sit on top of the NPSL Northwest Division on goal difference, having won 2-0 at PDX FC last week. But playing at home presents a new challenge, one the returning players are eager to see again.
“It’s going to be great to see the fans again,” left back Mike Scharf said. “They were great last year, and I expect they’ll be great again this year. It’s always fun to play in front of your home fans and get an extra boost of morale, so I’m excited.”
Pumas head coach Liviu Bird noted that playing at Gordon Field could give the players an advantage.
“Obviously, we think we have the best home atmosphere in the league,” he said. “Every team thinks its home atmosphre is the best in the league, but it’s always more comfortable being at home. It’s always nice to be back in front of our home fans, especially for the first time this season.
“It should be a good game, and we’re looking forward to it.”
For Spokane, which had a bye last week, it will be the second game in as many days. The Shadow was making its season debut on Saturday night against OSA FC at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila.
The Pumas will be trying to build off a solid opener, their victory over PDX FC in Portland.
“It was really big,” defender Matt Eronemo said. “The U.S. Open Cup didn’t go as we wanted for a number of reasons, but we moved on from that. It was important for team morale to get the first win of the regular season and build off of that. Our heads could drop if we lost a couple in a row.”
The Pumas will also be looking to get off to a good start at home. Though Kitsap took maximum points away from Gordon Field last season, they went 1-2-2 at home and opened the season with a 1-1 draw against Spokane.
Bird said his team’s improvement over the last week is mostly seen in its cohesiveness.
“There’s a lot of good players here, but getting the understanding as a group (has improved),” he said. “The communication, the decision-making, the execution in terms of what we want to do, how we want to play. The base is what’s important here.”