By Rob Shore
BREMERTON, Wash. — The Kitsap Pumas will be looking for their first win at Gordon Field this season when they host FC Mulhouse Portland tonight in a matchup featuring two teams at the top of the division table.
It’s a critical stretch of the season for the Pumas (1-0-2, 5 points), one where they play five matches in 15 days. Just as important, Kitsap’s next two games will come against FC Mulhouse Portand (1-1-2, 5 points) and at OSA FC (1-1-2, 5 points).
Pumas center back Jack Sluys downplayed the notion that the week feels different.
“It really feels like every other week — well, you have to take that approach,” he said. “You want to go out and play every game the same, but it is a big week. It’s nice that we get Mulhouse at home, so that’ll be good, try to defend our home field, have our fans behind us.”
Midfielder Brian Charles said that the team is looking forward to a chance to improve the team’s home form with Kitsap having earned draws in its first two games at Gordon Field.
“Up to this point, we’ve done well,” he said. “We’re dropped a couple points, but we’ve still been able to pick up some ties in games where we think we can win. I think it’ll be good to try to get a home win (Wednesday). And then we’re on the road for hopefully another. But I don’t think anyone’s happy with the ties that we’ve gotten, so we have to get those things right.”
The match tonight will also be Fan Appreciation Day at Gordon Field as the first 50 fan through the gate will receive a match-worn jersey. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
Kitsap saved its best work for Mulhouse last season, first coming back from a two-goal deficit in Portland, earning a 3-2 victory on Ryan Hill’s decider in injury time. Then, Kitsap clinched the NPSL Northwest Conference Division title with a 1-0 victory in the regular-season’s penultimate game on a strike from Nico D’Amato.
Kitsap also defeated FC Mulhouse Portland, 2-0, in the first round of the NPSL playoffs, behind goals from Romario Lomeli and Jorge Ruiz.
As for this year’s Mulhouse team, Pumas head coach Liviu Bird said he’s watched film, but it more concerned with the form of his own squad.
“There’s really no secrets in this league,” he said. “So we know what every team’s going to bring, and they know what we’re going to bring. I don’t focus too much on what other teams do in any case. I’m more worried about getting our style down, getting our system right.
“After that, we’re confident if we can do our thing, the things we want to do well, no matter who we play against, we’ll have success.”
Jacob Arrieta leads the Pumas with three goals, two coming in Saturday’s 2-2 home draw against OSA FC, while Uriel Herrera has added two. Omani Evans, Jr. leads Mulhouse with three goals in four matches this season.
Bird downplayed the significance of Wednesday’s game, noting that in a short season, it’s difficult to attach too much importance to any single game. But the importance of this game against FC Mulhouse Portland — from the standpoint that it’s the next game on the schedule — is unquestionable.
“In a 12-game season, dropping points in any one game could have an adverse effect in the back end of it,” he said. “You want to make sure you’re as sharp as you can be every single time you play.”