By Rob Shore
BREMERTON, Wash. — Alex White scored on a volley in the 67th minute after chesting the ball down and that was enough for FC Mulhouse Portland in a 1-0 victory over the Kitsap Pumas at Gordon Field on Wednesday night.
The loss dropped the Pumas (1-1-2, 5 points) to second place in the NPSL Northwest Conference Division. It was the team’s first loss of the season and the first time another team had posted a clean sheet on Kitsap since 2016.
On the other side, FC Mulhouse Portland (2-1-2, 8 points) — a team Kitsap had beaten twice in the 2017 regular season and in the first round of last year’s playoffs — ascended to the top spot in the division.
Mulhouse finished the contest with a 5-3 advantage in shots on target, and held Kitsap without one in the first half, keeping the home side off balance.
“To me, it kind of came down to work ethic in the end,” left back Mike Scharf said. “They wanted it a little more in the air, they wanted it more with the 50-50 tackles and I think in the final third, we didn’t play the right balls in, we didn’t finish our chances. It was kind of one of those nights.”
Pumas head coach Liviu Bird was philosophical about the result.
“It’s another step in the process,” he said. “We really can’t look at it as anything more than another step. It’s a short season. If we start putting too much stock into one particular game, one particular result, we’ll drive ourselves crazy. It’s just another step. The key now is how we react from the result.”
That reaction will need to come quickly. Kitsap will next travel to Starfire in Tukwila to face OSA FC on Saturday. The Pumas managed a 2-2 draw against OSA FC (1-1-2, 5 points) last week.
The Pumas got off to a productive start early. Tomas Jamett whipped a cross into the box in the first minute, but midfielder Jacob Arrieta was a step slow to get to it. Similarly, an Ismael DeLuna through ball to Arrieta a couple of minutes later was too long for the midfielder.
But then, those chances began to dry up as FC Mulhouse Portland began to impose itself on the contest. Mulhouse outshot Kitsap 6-1 in the first half — the Pumas’ lone shot was a Matt Eronemo header on a corner kick that he couldn’t redirect goalward.
“It took us a long time to settle into the game,” Bird said. “It was slow, lethargic from us. We let them play the way that they wanted to play, and we didn’t really impose ourselves on the game as much as we should have.”
Again in the second half, Kitsap saw its best chance come early as Jamett ripped a shot on net that Mulhouse keeper Scott Dalrymple stopped, but spilled in front of the net. But there was no Puma attacker there to make him pay for the indiscretion.
Jamett had another golden chance in the 66th minute, taking an insighful diagonal from sub Edgar Torres and fire wide right.
“It was a counter on us,” Pumas keeper Cody Lang said. “It’s one of the things we’re kind of succeptible to the way we play. It just kind of dropped to the guy pretty nicely, and he struck it pretty well. I just kind of helpless on it.”
The Pumas’ final chance came during injury time on a pair of corner kicks that saw Lang run up from his line to possibly snatch a point at the death. Lang did get his head on the second corner kick, but the ball wildly caromed over the crossbar.
Bird played down the idea that Saturday’s away match at OSA FC became any bigger after Wednesday’s defeat.
“I think every game is just that,” he said. “Another game, another opportunity. It’s just another chance to learn, another chance to grow as a team, another chance to react. … it really doesn’t become any bigger than what tonight was, just because of the result.”