Kitsap Pumas pumped for extended home stand

Pumas midfielder David Gray attempts to dribble past Manuel Vasquez of the Bay Area Ambassadors Tuesday at Bremerton Memorial Stadium.  - Brian Olson/Staff Photo
Pumas midfielder David Gray attempts to dribble past Manuel Vasquez of the Bay Area Ambassadors Tuesday at Bremerton Memorial Stadium.
— image credit: Brian Olson/Staff Photo

BREMERTON — The Kitsap Pumas have one down, four to go.

The team opened a five-game home stand Tuesday with a 4-2 victory over the Bay Area Ambassadors. It was the first U.S. Open Cup victory for the 2-year-old club, and set the Pumas up for a rematch with the Portland Timbers June 22. Kitsap edged Portland 3-2 the last time the clubs met, in an April 2 preseason match.

“They’re angry at us, I know that,” Pumas forward Stephen Phillips said. “It’s going to be a physical game, but we want to beat them. We’ve just got to play our game and make sure we keep possession.”

Phillips scored the clincher Tuesday in what turned out to be the longest game the Pumas (7-1-0) have played. With first-half goals from John Fishbaugher and Taylor Hyde, Kitsap sat on a 2-0 lead until the 71st minute. Then, in the span of six minutes, the Ambassadors’ Phil Da Silva tied things up with two goals of his own.

“I’ll always take a two-goal lead, but we might have got a little complacent,” Pumas coach Peter Fewing said. “And we knew they were a counter-attack team, and they did well to finish their chances.”

With the score still tied at the end of regulation, the game entered two, 15-minute overtime periods. Phillips ignited the crowd with the eventual game-winner in the 96th minute and Fishbaugher added the final goal in the second overtime.

“I was pleased that we came back in the overtime,” Fewing said. “In a game where you’re up two-nothing, it’s real important that you get that third goal, because they get one goal and they’re right back in it.”

The Pumas, who are ranked third in the Premier Development League’s Northwest Division with 18 points, continue their home stand Saturday against the Spokane Spiders (1-6-1). Kitsap beat Spokane 3-0 in a May 8 match, but the club is not looking past the Spiders.

“There’s no gimmes,” Fewing said.

Even so, the rematch with the Timbers is drawing more attention than Kitsap’s surrounding games. Portland brings intensity on the field and in the stands. The Timbers Army, a group of superfans that often travels with the team, is known for its passionate displays. The club itself is prepped to join Major League Soccer next year. The Pumas’ only loss this season was a 3-0 beating at the hands of the Timbers’ U23 team on June 5. But Kitsap has played up to Portland’s level in the past and remains undaunted.

“We’ll work hard all week and go into that game with nothing but confidence,” Pumas midfielder David Gray said. “Every game’s a tough game. But we go into the game with the same attitude every week: to win. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t take three points from any game.”

Following the Timbers match, the Pumas will have another tough contest. They host the Victoria Highlanders, who sit just one point ahead of Kitsap in league standings, June 25.

“They’ll come in here ready to play,” Fewing said of the Highlanders.

Kitsap wraps up its extended home stand June 27, with a match against last-place Vancouver.

As the club nears the busy middle portion of its season, it hopes to stay on track.

“I like what we’re doing,” Fewing said. “We just have to keep it going.”

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