By Rob Shore
LAKE OSWEGO, Ore. — With the finish of the season now within sight, the Kitsap Pumas’ biggest issue is suddenly, well, finishing.
The Pumas were shut out in their second straight game on Saturday, a 1-0 loss to PDX FC at Lakeridge High School with Ryo Asai’s strike in the 85th minute being decider.
It was a frustrating result for the Kitsap, which dictated play for much of the game, but couldn’t produce quality chances in front of the net. The Pumas also missed an opportunity when Uriel Herrera had a penalty saved in the 62nd minute.
“We create multiple, multiple chances, can’t put the ball in the back of the net,” Kitsap head coach Liviu Bird said. “We miss a penalty. It’s on us and it’s 100 percent on us. We had our chances and just couldn’t do anything with them.”
It was a setback for the playoff hopes of the Pumas (3-3-2, 11 points), who are still within striking distance of the NPSL Northwest Conference Division’s two postseason spots.
There might even be enough time for PDX FC (2-4-2, 8 points) to have a sneak into the postseason picture if the results fall their way. But the Pumas’ main focus is on division leaders Spokane SC Shadow and FC Mulhouse Portland, who are both sitting on 13 points.
But for Kitsap to make to run in the final two weeks, the team will need to be more productive in front of goal. And after Saturday’s loss, the players are aware of it.
“We’ve got a lot of possession,” Pumas left back Mike Scharf said. “We moved the ball more than they did. … We’re knocking the ball around and were getting to the final third, but it’s not coming off for us. I think that final pass and final shot wasn’t there.”
Indeed, the best chances in the first half went to PDX, a rifled shot by Victor Garcia that Kitsap keeper Marc Girones had to parry wide and a Gerson Mejia chance after eluding Girones that Kevin Francis needed to clear off the line.
The Pumas did produce some opportunities, such as a corner kick in the 17th minute that produced a cross into the box that Edgar Torres headed wide.
The breakthrough for Kitsap nearly came in the 61st minute after Uriel Herrera was brought down in the box for a penalty.
But PDX FC keeper Kienan Weekes ably saved Herrera’s penalty, leaving both team still searching for that elusive strike.
“Obviously, you want to see him make it and want to see us go up 1-0 on a penalty like that,” Scharf said. “He misses it, we always have our teammate’s back in this sport, so we just keep going. It’s hard to see him miss, but we keep going, no matter what happens.”
Asai’s strike in the 85th minute, beating Girones to the left side of the net, just added to the heartbreak for Kitsap.
It also highlighted the Pumas’ issues putting goals on the scoresheet.
“You can’t win games if you don’t score,” Bird said. “You can draw games if you don’t score goals. But you can’t win games if you don’t score. If I had to pick one thing that concerns me more than anything, it’s the lack of production, putting the ball in the goal.”
It now leaves the Pumas with a big four matches to end the season — three of them against te teams ahead of them in the table.
“To be able to play those teams, the ones ahead of us, that gives us a leg up if we can get good results,” Scharf said. “It’ll help us jump up in the table. I know we’re looking forward to those games and we’re looking to bounce back.”
Kitsap returns to action on Wednesday with an away matchup against OSA FC at Starfire Stadium. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.