Timbers Down Pumas, Two Matches Remain
Bremerton, Wash. – Put the celebration on hold – at least for one more match.
With a berth to the playoffs on the line, the Kitsap Pumas dropped their regular-season home finale 1-0 against the Portland Timbers U23 in front of 1,267 fans tonight at Bremerton Memorial Stadium.
Brian Ramsey’s goal in the 22nd minute proved enough for the Timbers U23, who finished the regular season with a perfect 16-0-0 record and handed Kitsap it’s only two losses this season.
“Portland, God bless ’em, they had a great year,” Pumas coach Peter Fewing said. “You’ve got to give them credit for creating their own luck.”
Sunday’s luck wasn’t on the side of the Pumas (10-2-2, 32 points), who had numerous scoring opportunities but couldn’t convert any of them. The loss was the first-ever on the Pumas’ home turf in a regular-season match.
Kitsap though nearly took the lead before the crowd had settled into their seats. In the 1st minute, forward Cameron Hepple sent a cross through the box to an open John Fishbaugher, whose shot was deflected by goalkeeper Jacob Gleeson. Hepple also created two chances in the second half, making a deep run in the 72nd minute before getting tripped up in a collision with Gleeson en route to the net. That incident led to some incidental pushing and shoving between players from both sides and two yellow cards were awarded, one to Hepple and one to Portland’s Dylan Kowanchuk.
In the 86th minute, the first-year forward nearly found the far post on a free kick from 35 yards out on the left side, but the ball sailed just over the crossbar, leaving Hepple staring at the sky and shaking his head.
“We had chances, they had chances,” Hepple said. “I guess today just wasn’t our day. It’s just frustrating.”
What may have been most frustrating for Kitsap was the fact it didn’t clinch its second berth to the playoffs in as many seasons.
The second-place Pumas hold a three-point lead over the Tacoma Tide for the second and final playoff spot from the Premier Development League Northwest Division, but they must wait for another chance to clinch. Kitsap visits the Vancouver Whitecaps Wednesday night before concluding the regular season next Saturday, July 24 on the road against the Tide.
Portland, the highest-scoring team in the league with 53 goals, has clinched the division and a No. 1 seed. The Timbers U23 also defeated Kitsap 3-0 June 5.
The win also made Portland the first PDL team since 1998 to finish with an unblemished record.
“We wanted to pay them back for the game at their place,” Fewing said. “Hopefully we get another chance.”
Despite the outcome, the Pumas walked away feeling as though they were the better team, something Portland coach Jim Rilatt acknowledged, too.
“Kitsap, still to me, organizationally, is the class (of the league)” Rilatt said. “Their players are good. It’s just the breaks.”
Added Hepple, “Tonight we thought we deserved it. Everything was there. The ball just didn’t go into the back of the net.”
This was the second game in as many nights for the Timbers U23, who defeated the Victoria Highlanders 4-1 last night, also on the road.
The club is finalizing its bid to host the Western Conference playoffs, to be held a week from Thursday here in Kitsap. That format will feature the top two teams from the Northwest Division squaring off against the top two from the Southwest Division. Most likely it would feature a double header on Thursday or Friday, July 29 or 30th with the two winners of those matches facing each other Sunday, August 1.
“Bremerton Memorial and it’s pristine natural grass surface, our organization and our fans should provide a great advantage to us in landing the playoffs, said Pumas executive director Ben Pecora. “We feel we have put together a very attractive and compelling bid.”