By Rob Shore
BREMERTON, Wash. — Alvaro Rubio converted a penalty kick in the 84th minute, sparing the blushes of the Kitsap Pumas in their home opener in a 2-2 draw against Spokane SC Shadow on Sunday afternoon at Gordon Field.
Rubio went right — and Spokane keeper Bryan Hernandez guessed right — but the ball found the back of the net to give the Pumas a point.
“I practice it pulling right, that’s my comfortable side,” Rubio said. “I knew if I was comfortable to that side, I’d have a chance to score. So I went for that on that side, and the ball went in. I’m very happy.”
Kitsap earned the penalty after sub Ed Jabbari was brought down dribbling into the box in the 83rd minute. There was no hesitation from the referee, who immediately pointed to the spot.
The late penalty spoiled the homecoming of former Puma Mike Ramos, who had a goal and an assist and appeared to score the game-winner until late.
The draw kept the Pumas (1-0-1, 4 points) on top of the NPSL Northwest Conference Division on goal difference after OSA FC earned a draw with the Shadow (0-0-2, 2 points) on Saturday.
Pumas coach Liviu Bird was pleased with the way his team played, coming off a season-opening 2-0 victory at PDX FC in Portland last week.
“I thought we played well,” Bird said. “From the very first minute, our goal is always to control games and to be the aggressor and to be the protagonist in the game, and I thought we did that start to finish, really.”
If only it were that simple.
Kitsap got off to a solid start, keeping Spokane under constant pressure early on. The Pumas finally got on the scoresheet with a bit of trickery in the 34th minute. Brian Charles whipped a cross into the box, and striker Uriel Herrera flicked it off the left post with a nifty backheel for a 1-0 lead.
“I don’t use (the backheel) very often,” said Herrera, who tallied his second goal of the season. “But it came up, and I pulled it off.”
Spokane looked threatening throughout, though most of their promising situations were nullified by offsides whistles. The Shadow evened the score in the 44th minute as Ramos lobbed a cross into the box and Chase Reidt headed home from point-blank range.
Ramos then added a goal in the 64th minute deftly chipping the ball over Pumas keeper Marc Girones, who was making his first start of the season.
But Jabbari earned the penalty, and Rubio converted it to leave their home opener without a loss.
In fact, the Pumas had a good shot at a match-winner as Aria Shahmirzadi had a free shot from just outside the penalty area in the 90th minute, but it sailed a little high and wide.
“We set a team goal to be undefeated at home,” Bird said. “We were behind and we fought back and we did well enough to earn ourselves a point, we scored the goal. Then the question was, do we settle for one or do we go for three. and were always going to go for three.”
Girones made four saves in his first start for the Pumas.
The Pumas next face OSA FC at Gordon Field on Saturday in a 7 p.m. start.