By Rob Shore
BREMERTON, Wash. — When Mike Scharf’s free kick arrived at Ismael DeLuna’s feet right in front of goal, the former North Kitsap High School standout was a little stunned.
It was a play the Kitsap Pumas had practiced, but to receive the ball so cleanly in such a dangerous position was unexpected.
“I was actually pretty surprised,” DeLuna said. “But it was a good ball whipped in by Mike, though. So it kind of just fell there, reacted quick, had a good first touch, and then just tapped it in, pretty much.”
DeLuna scored twice, burying Scharf’s free kick in the 51st minute, and the Kitsap Pumas defeated PDX FC, 2-0, at Gordon Field on Wednesday night. Goalkeeper Marc Girones, playing his first game since the home opener on May 20, posted a clean sheet, the Pumas’ second of the season.
The victory lifted Kitsap (3-1-2, 11 points) to first place in the NPSL Northwest Conference Division ahead of a showdown at second-place Spokane (2-0-3, 9 points) on Saturday.
PDX FC (0-3-2, 2 points) left Gordon Field still in search of its first victory in 2018.
Afterward, Pumas head coach Liviu Bird said it was one of the team’s most complete performances this season.
“It was a good step forward tonight,” Bird said. “The performance was good, but it got better. This was the first 90 minutes, I would say, that we put together. And we were good pretty much throughout. But it only got better as we grew into the game.”
Scharf admitted it was a big win for the club.
“For us, it was another chance to get a win at home, that was something we really wanted,” he said. “Then, on top of that, we get the shutout at home. That’s great. That’s always the goal for us. … This was a great opportunity for us, and I think we seized it.”
Girones looked steady in his return to the starting lineup, making four saves — including a couple of heart-in-mouth stops in the second half to protect the clean sheet.
“I think I’ve been working well during the week,” Girones said. “We put in some hard work in the practice time and everything. You play as you practice, so that’s the effort in there.”
The attacking trio of Uriel Herrera, Alex Hernandez and Ed Jabbari had the PDX FC defense under duress from the start. But Kitsap couldn’t turn that pressure into a goal until a wild sequence near halftime that saw Herrera have a shot saved by PDX keeper Kienan Weekes, then have a second shot blocked before Hernandez was brought down in the penalty area.
DeLuna slotted the ball into the left corner for a 1-0 lead in the 44th minute.
“I don’t have the best history with PKs, so I was a little nervous, to be honest,” he said. “But I’ve been working on them at practice, so I did feel pretty comfortable today.”
DeLuna added another after halftime when Scharf’s free kick fell to his feel right in front of goal. It seems as if he had nearly as much time on the ball as when he took the penalty.
“I was a little bit surprised that it fell to his foot and he was unmarked and able to put it in,” Scharf said. “But that’s a designed play we wanted to do and it worked. So I was happy.”
The Pumas had opportunities to add to their lead with a heavy advantage on shots — though PDX FC matched them in shots on target. Tomas Jamett ripped a shot off the crossbar in the 74th minute that could have added to the Kitsap lead.
Girones lauded the defense in front of him, as Scharf, Max Schellmann, Jack Sluys and Matt Eronemo had the PDX FC attack under wraps for much of the contest.
“The defense really did a good job,” he said. “I think the response for all of them, including the guys who came at the end, they stepped up. They played a really good game.”