Pumas look back on 2010, head into offseason

BREMERTON — For the Kitsap Pumas, the 2010 season began with the highest of hopes. The second-year team returned to the pitch this spring with a talented, confident cast and marched through preseason play undefeated. The club hoped to improve on its 2009 showing, in which it qualified for the Premier Development League’s national quarterfinals and lost to the eventual champion Ventura County Fusion.

The Pumas (13-3-2) had their revenge July 31, when they defeated Ventura in the league’s Western Conference playoffs in Bremerton. But the celebration was short-lived. The following evening, Kitsap ended its season with a 2-1 loss to the Portland Timbers U23 team.

“We’re a bit unsatisfied ... we have a little bit of a bitter taste in our mouths,” Pumas defender Daniel Scott said, summing up the season.

Portland was a thorn in Kitsap’s side all year. The Timbers, who play in the Northwest Division with Kitsap, have a perfect 18-0-0 record and are responsible for each of the Pumas’ three losses. They’re also favored to win the national championship, which takes place this weekend in Portland.

“I do hope they go on to win it,” Scott said. “It would be kind of a testament to the Northwest Division if they can reel off some wins and capture a national championship.”

Despite falling once again in the quarterfinals, the Pumas posted the second-best win total in the league during the regular season. Only the Thunder Bay Chill of Ontario, Canada, had as many wins as Kitsap, and only the Timbers had a greater win total.

“It was a very good season,” Pumas goalkeeper Dustyn Brim said Monday. “It’s kind of hard to look back and think of positives, but we came to play every day.”

After winning eight of their first nine games this season, the Pumas hit a bump in the road, Scott said. They tied two in a row, and, locked in a battle with rival Tacoma for the division’s second playoff spot, the Pumas ground out a handful of wins to earn the points they needed to qualify for the postseason.

“The last five, six games, we came together collectively as a unit,” Scott said. “I thought we definitely took the high road. I think we have a lot to be proud of.”

Indeed, Scott and two of his teammates, defender Mark Lee and forward Cameron Hepple, were named to the league’s all-Western Conference team this week. Lee also became the first Puma selected to the all-league team. Scott was chosen last year, but as a member of the Seattle Wolves.

The season’s abrupt end, though, has left some disappointment.

“I’m sad the season’s over,” head coach Peter Fewing said. “It ended quicker than any of us wanted it to.”

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