By Rob Shore
BREMERTON, Wash. — There might have been a danger of the Kitsap Pumas overlooking PDX FC on Saturday, considering that they’d already posted pair of victories against the Portland side.
And then last week’s 5-0 loss to Spokane SC Shadow happened. Now, you know the Pumas aren’t in a mood to overlook anything.
“I think there’s always that danger that you might not take them seriously (after being them twice,” midfielder Aria Shahmirzadi said. “But after a loss like (Saturday’s), I think that’s out the window.”
Pumas head coach Liviu Bird admitted last week’s defeat might serve as fresh motivation.
“In that regard, it helps us,” he said. “You try to take the positives out of losing 5-0, and I guess that’s one of them is that the next game, you’re looking for a response.”
That response will come on Saturday at Lakeridge High School in Lake Oswego, Ore. in a contest the NPSL has picked as its National Game of the Week. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
With the Pumas (3-2-2, 11 points) now sitting in third place in the NPSL Northwest Conference Division, there wasn’t a lot of room to be comfortable to be begin with, whether the next opponent was PDX FC (1-3-2, 5 points) or anyone else.
But then, Bird has lauded his team’s resiliency all season long. And Kitsap has followed each of its losses this season to date with victories in the very next game.
“It’s good attitudes and reactions,” defender Matt Eronemo said of the team’s resiliency this season. “You can continue to sulk and lay low if things don’t go your way. Or you can take it as a learning lesson and try to improve in all aspects, so I think we try to do that each time.”
The Pumas have the benefit of a week off coming into Saturday’s contest. They had previously played five games in the 15 days culminating with last week’s trip to Spokane.
Shahmirzadi said the initial feeling of wanting to get back on the pitch is strong, but the week off comes at a good time.
“You want to go out right away and win and get that back,” he said. “But as far as healthwise and recovering, it’s great to have a week. It’s kind of relaxing to get in a rhythm after a couple of days off and work out the kinks if you can.”
Saturday’s game will start another stretch of five games in 15 days for Kitsap — one that will finish its regular season.
Another key factor is that PDX is coming off its first win of the season on Saturday, a 4-0 blowout of OSA FC in Tukwila behind two goals from Derek Johnson. So confidence their confidence should be high.
PDX faces OSA again on Friday night ahead of Saturday’s clash with Kitsap.
Last Saturday’s loss was also notable for this season’s debut of forward Jorge Ruiz, the leading goalscorer from last season’s Kitsap team.
But Ruiz, who scored five goals for Kitsap last season and is coming off his sophomore season at the University of San Francisco, admitted it was a difficult way to make his introduction.
“Coming into a game like that, it’s never ideal or easy when your team is down like that,” Ruiz said. “It’s hard to change the game in a big manner. But it was good to get out the and get my legs moving again.”
So Ruiz is looking for another chance to show what the club can do.
“The group is already bouncing back from last weekend,” Ruiz said. “We’re looking to fix what we couldn’t do last weekend and go from there.”