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Average Joes get ready to challenge the pros
Taylor Hyde of the Kitsap Pumas likes to talk a little trash with his friends.
This weekend, 30 amateur soccer players from across Kitsap County will force him to back up his words with action.
Beginning at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at The Zone Sportsplex in Poulsbo, Hyde and some of his teammates from the Pumas will take on five teams of recreational players at the Pumas Challenge. The event pits teams of six against the pro players in 25-minute indoor matches.
“It’ll just be fun because for a long time we’ve tried to get some of these guys that play for the Pumas to come out and play with us,” said Victor Green, who plays for one of the amateur teams.
The idea for the event began forming a couple of months ago when Hyde, 23, and Green, 22, both employees of The Zone, started ribbing each other about their respective soccer skills.
Although Green, who was in the Navy prior to working at The Zone, admits Hyde can outplay him — “There’s no contest. Somebody pays their bills by playing.” — he wanted to see how he would stack up against the pros.
“It’s more just for bragging rights,” Green said.
Green, who plays in a men’s league every Wednesday at The Zone, wasn’t the only player looking for a chance to boast.
“Throughout the season, I got a lot of challenges,” Hyde said. “It got really bad when I started reffing here.
“I threw out an idea to try and get back at the guys,” Hyde said of the Challenge. “A little joke turned into something real.”
The Pumas management liked the idea of giving fans personal interaction with the players.
Events such as the Challenge help the team stay in touch with fans during the long offseason, which began nearly three weeks ago and lasts until April.
“It’ll give everybody a chance to see the guys again,” Pumas Executive Director Ben Pecora said. “We’re trying to find any way we can to keep active in the community.”
There are no more open slots for teams in this event, but Hyde said if the Challenge is a success the Pumas could hold similar events in the future.
The Zone will also have its bounce house open during the Challenge. The Challenge will also include an extra game in which the Pumas will team up with children in a just-for-fun format.
“It’d be fun to mix it up and maybe set one of them up for a goal,” Hyde said.
Many of the challengers, though, are old enough and skilled enough to test the mettle of the pros. Bainbridge Island resident Peterson Browne, 19, missed last spring’s Pumas tryouts in East Bremerton. He plans to be there next year, but in the meantime the Challenge will give him the chance to see how he measures up.
“I get to play against some great players,” Browne said. “I’m excited to see how far I can go with it, and challenge myself.”
Hyde isn’t underestimating the skill and drive of players like Browne, with something to prove. He and Green continue to trade jabs, with Green trying to summon a little optimism before Saturday’s kickoff.
“They have the experience of playing against the pros,” Green said. “But this is our home turf.”
The Pumas Challenge
When: Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
Where: The Zone Sportsplex, 21291 Urdahl Road NW, Poulsbo
Who: Kitsap Pumas players Taylor Hyde, Cameron Hepple, Tye Perdido, Matt Friesen, Greg Miley, Todd Wallenius, Kellen Wantulok, John Fishbaugher and Nik Besagno. (Note: Roster is subject to change. Some players may not be present for all matches.)
Cost to watch: Free