By ROB SHORE
VANCOUVER, Wash. — A mishit pass by Kitsap goalkeeper Cody Lang led to a go-ahead strike by Reed McKenna in the 56th minute, and FC Mulhouse Portland added two more goals in the second half in a 4-1 victory over the Pumas on Saturday night at Kiggins Bowl.
Alex Hernandez scored for Kitsap, his first of the season. But it wasn’t enough on this night.
The victory gave Mulhouse a leg up in the NPSL Northwest Conference Division’s playoff chase, as the Portland side (4-2-4, 16 points) are now two points up on the Pumas (4-4-2, 14 points) with two games to play.
The loss damages Kitsap’s postseason ambitions, but the Pumas can still lock in a playoff spot with victories in their final two regular-season games against FC Mulhouse Portland on Wednesday and against Spokane SC Shadow on Saturday, both at Bremerton’s Gordon Field.
Mulhouse took the lead for good when Lang tried to play a pass short out of the back, but it was intercepted by McKenna, who drove down and fired it past the Kitsap keeper.
It was a theme for Saturday night, as Mulhouse repeatedly made the Pumas pay for mistakes, many of them on their own end of the field.
“Individual mistakes on our part gifted them all four goals,” Kitsap coach Liviu Bird said. “I didn’t really feel like we got broken down at any particular point, I just felt like individually, we made some errors that directly led to them scoring, every single time.”
The first goal in the 11th minute was another costly error by the Pumas, a backpass to Lang intercepted by Fred Braun, who then chipped the keeper to get Mulhouse started.
But Kitsap did start to find its rhythm midway through the first half and had its best chance just before halftime when Tomas Jamett beat his defender and found Hernandez with a centering pass just in front of goal. But Hernandez couldn’t get a foot on it.
But the striker made up for it in stoppage time, ripping home a shot that beat Mulhouse keeper Leyton Thommasen to his right to equalize.
“Alex has been a handful against anybody who plays against him,” Bird said. “His movement’s good, it’s a matter of him finally finishing one and getting on the scoresheet. I’m happy for him.”
The halftime introduction of Jorge Ruiz for Kitsap opened up some new opportunities for the visitors, but they couldn’t find the breakthrough against Thommasen.
Instead, it was McKenna who victimized the Pumas. Alex White added another six minutes to put Kitsap firmly on the back foot.
Nick Evans finished the scoring for Mulhouse in the 88th minute.
Bird noted the importance of the rematch against Mulhouse on Wednesday night at Gordon Field, now a must-win affair for Kitsap.
“The next game is the most important one,” he said. “We have to get three points in the next game, we have to focus all our energy on that one, then we can start thinking about the last one.”