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June 27, 2011 at 4:39 PM

A stop and chat with Kitsap Pumas coach Peter Fewing

fewing mug.jpgThis picture from our archive is a little old, but Peter Fewing doesn’t look like he’s aged a day from this shot from 2000. Back then he was coaching at Seattle University. Now he leads the Kitsap Pumas, a PDL team, into a U.S. Open Cup third-round match against Sounders FC (a team he’s a TV analyst for). The game kicks off at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Starfire. Here are highlights from a Q&A reporters had with Fewing recently.

* * *

(Is this game going to be a bit strange for you with you connection to both sides?) “It is. No question. It will be a bit strange, but a big honor. Our guys are excited, and so am I. I’d love to fast forward … to 7 o’ clock on Tuesday night, but it is interesting. It’s interesting to have the opportunity. The guys are excited about it. I’m excited about it. We’re trying to keep it as another game, but there are a lot of factors. The fact that the Sounders are the Sounders and we’re the Kitsap Pumas, there’s a massive gap between us. On every level, they’re beyond us. All our guys would love to be wearing the Sounders jersey at some point in their lives, so keeping everybody on task is going to be important.”

(Do you have to guard against your players just trying to impress the Sounders and Sigi Schmid?) “Exactly, we really have to keep the guys level. We can’t get ahead of ourselves. For me, and I’ve had to manage this kind of emotion before for national championship finals, I’ve just got to keep the guys even, remind them it’s just another game. The start is very crucial for a team in our situation, in other words, don’t give up an early goal.”

(How do the lower leagues look at the Open Cup?) “I think everybody takes it as seriously as any game they will play during the season. Now we would really like to win the PDL and we’re rolling right now. We don’t want to lose a single game in the PDL. And when we went to El Paso, you could feel an energy and a nervousness on both teams for that game, and the anxiety of the fans. Every miss was a little more dramatic than it’d be for a league game. Even the same with Colorado. You could tell that their coaches and their players were amped up when they came in. We’re in the situation every PDL team would like to be in. That’s getting to play the Seattle Sounders.”

(Can you give us a little Kitsap Pumas 101? You guys are a rare PDL team that pays its players, right? And would you like to go up a level?) “We’re in our third year and we do pay our players. I think our total salary budget is around $36,000 for 22 players. So some guys don’t get paid. In past years we’ve done win-bonuses. We don’t do that this year. I think of the approximately 64 PDL teams, four pay their players. Really at the end of the day it’s expenses, between ferry costs and all that stuff. The ambition of the club is to build it. We have a really cool facility over there if you come over and see a game. We got nice grass fields. It’s narrow but it’s beautiful. We had 1,300 people at the last game, and when we have 300 people at games it’s still got good atmosphere and energy. Good signage around the field, good food and good music. It’s done right. When I went over that was a big thing that impressed me: what the field looked like and how it was on game day. We’ve got a great groundskeeper and the infrastructure is really fun to be apart of. To go into the USL-1 would be a goal, but geographic constraints would be an issue because we’d be an island out here. The cost to go play all these teams would be tough. To join the North American Soccer League would be great, but the reality is the budget would be over the top. I like the league we’re in. With my schedule it works perfectly for me. We have one team in Portland, three teams in Canada and the rest are western Washington. The team would love to do that, but the crowds have to be much bigger. We still do quite well with sponsorships. The community’s embraced us over there.”

(Is that why there’s a little disappointment that the game isn’t in Bremerton, because you could’ve exposed thousands and fans to your product at home?) “Yeah, if we had 5,000 at that stadium — holy mackerel — because it’s a big bowl. There would be people sitting on the grass. The stands go all around but there are gaps in the corners. That would be amazing. We’d have to be very organized to be able to host that game — SoundTransit, getting people off ferry boats — but it would be very fun. When we played the Portland Timbers in the Open Cup last year, and we lost, they brought two or three busloads. It was great, flares going off, smoke bombs, it was fun. It was really fun. Obviously we wanted to host this game, but I don’t begrudge the Sounders on that at all. They made that bid before we went to Texas. If would’ve lost to El Paso, they would’ve had to go to El Paso, and that’s the last thing they’d want to do with the 104-degree heat.”

(On the connection between the teams…) “Sigi’s been great about this. There’s been a little banter back and forth. Just a little, not that much, and the only reason I’ve stayed away (from practice) is because I didn’t want to be any kind of distraction. I thought it was inappropriate. I saw some of the players after the New York game and they were giving me grief, which is perfectly fine. It’s good banter. Sigi and I talked after the New York game and he repeated back to me a couple of quotes: the $36,000 budget versus the $3-million budget. I have no idea what the Sounders’ budget is, but it’s more than ours and the gap between our salary and their salary reflects the gap between my salary and Sigi’s. (laughs) It’s been fun. He’s been good about it, but they want to win. They’re the two-time defending champions. That’d be the last thing they want. They want to throttle us. They want it to be over in 12 minutes. We want to make it interesting. We want to hang on.”

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