Kitsap Pumas secured a glamour cup tie with Sounders FC after a pulsating 3-1 US Open Cup win over Real Colorado Foxes. Despite a strong challenge from their visitors, goals from Cameron Hepple, and two from Robbie Christner canceled out a Sterling Copeland effort.
The Pumas must now venture over the water to Tukwila to play the cup holders Sounders FC in what can be billed either a local derby or a David v Goliath.
Pumas coach Pete Fewing said:
“The guys played very well. We were nervous at the beginning. We’ve played three games in seven days, one in 104 degrees in Texas, 90 minutes, 30 minutes over time and penalty kicks. Tonight some of the guys were tired. It took us a while to get a rhythm. Second half I though we found the ball a little better. We were fortunate to be up 2-1 at half time.
We were fortunate because I thought they were dangerous, they were talented. I’m proud of the guys. We were sluggish yesterday in practise, so to come out and get a 3-1 result, we had to dig and battle. I told them at half time this was one of the better teams. We had to deal with something we hadn’t had to deal with yet. That kind of pace and that kind of ball movement.”
When asked his scouting report on the Sounders, he quipped:
“I’ve seen them, I’ve watched them a little bit so it will be interesting. It’s big. They’re the big team in the neighbourhood. We know their players. They’ve got a great coach so it’s a big honour to go play them. That’s the beauty of this cup. You get a situation where the Kitsap Pumas get to play the Seattle Sounders.”
And asked if he would be welcomed back at Sounders training tomorrow, Fewing joked, “I don’t know, Sigi might say ‘get him out of here.’ We have to figure out what’s proper etiquette.”
And this thoroughly decent man will of course do the right thing.
Bryan Meredith returned in goal for the Pumas, having recovered from a foot injury and Elliott Fauske started at right midfield for the Pumas for David Gray.
Real Colorado Foxes started the brighter with some early pressure as 80 degree sunshine beat down on the Memorial Stadium.The first chance fell to them the ninth minute. Sterling Copeland broke into the penalty box but drove wide of the right hand post in an early warning to the hosts.
Bryan Meredith, returning from a foot injury, saved the Pumas two minutes later after a superb through ball by Kristopher Banghart found Curtis Stecyk whose shot was superbly saved by Meredith.
A minute later, at the other end Matt Friesen’s shot looped over the bar as he shot under pressure from two defenders.
Banghart looked to be a constant threat with his accurate quality passes from center midfield and the Pumas were taking their time to find their feet.
Kitsap took the lead against the run of play in the 17th minute. Bahamian international Hepple prodded the ball home after a scramble in the Foxes box. The defence had missed an opportunity to clear a bobbling ball and paid the price.
It was hard on the visitors, who had been the better team for the first 15 minutes but had fallen victim to a moment’s lapse of concentration. Colorado equalised after a breakaway by Sterling Copeland saw his shot rebound off the bar with Meredith beaten. However, he was sharp enough to be first to the rebound and headed the ball over the line despite a despairing attempt to clear the ball from under the bar.
The Pumas now knew they were in for a battle and Nik Besagno was booked for a midfield tackle on Joseph Madigan.
Pumas nearly regained the lead moments after but a chip by Elliott Fauske was headed away by Isaac Cowles with the keeper beaten and the net gaping behind Cowles. Pumas forward Bryan Burke shot over from 25 yards in an entertaining game which was now vacillating from end to end.
Taylor Kemp on the left hand side of the Colorado midfield was having an outstanding game and on one occasion ran 60 yards up the touchline, burning up three opponents in his wake. Unfortunately for his valiant effort, the move came to nothing.
Pumas regained the lead three minutes before half time and it was a corker of a goal from Robbie Christner. He rifled past keeper Miguel Rosales after receiving the ball from Burke inside the area.
However, the Pumas can have had no illusions of the tough battle to come in the second half against a very competent and effective Colorado side.
Even before half time Meredith was called into action by a decent long range drive by Kyle Christensen.
There were no changes at half time. Nik Besagno had the first chance of the second half after some excellent work by Mark Lee, who forced two defenders into a mistake.
The first 15 minutes of the second half presented Kitsap with far fewer problems than the first 15 of the first period. However, the danger was never far away, and the need for a third goal was apparent.
Isaac Schafer made some space but the shot was weak and although the sunshine was beautiful for the spectators, substitutions were surely going to follow.
There was a curious incident just after the hour. The ball was running through the Pumas keeper Bryan Meredith. The Foxes’ Copeland made an unnecessary challenge on the keeper and seemed to come off in a degree of pain. Pumas were a trifle fortunate shortly after when Banghart was penalized for what seemed a clean tackle on Burke. Matt Friesen curled the ball straight into the keeper’s arms when his traditional trademark of power may have served him better.
In the 63rd minute Pete Fewing made his first change, withdrawing Friesen for the Scottish midfielder David Gray. Gray took up a role in central midfield. Three minutes later, Fewing made a second change, bringing on Warlen Silva for Nik Besagno.
Surprisingly, Foxes were still to make a change.
Fauske nearly put the Pumas 3-1 ahead after a neatly worked move from the corner after Bryan Burke and he produced a neat 1-2. Seconds later, Meredith had to be smart to collect a drive cleanly. With 17 minutes to go, the game was in the balance. Brazilian substitute Silva volleyed past the post seconds later, but the game was becoming too open for the side holding the lead. However, with extra time a possibility, Fewing needed to save a substitution.
Pumas won a free kick from 23 yards out after Hepple was held back by Zelin. With Friesen off the pitch it fell to David Gray to take the free kick. Gray’s free kick made Rosales work hard, but the Foxes keeper was well up to the task.
With 15 minutes to go, Foxes’ coach Leigh Davies made his first change, bringing on Peter Davies for Zelin. Davis made another change when Tony Rosales came on for the industrious Madigan.
Daniel Scott made a timely interception from a Mike Lind cross with a forward poised to head goalward. His interception had all the hallmarks of a game saver if the Pumas could hold out.
As the sun finally dipped behind the clouds, the Foxes upped the pace a little and suddenly a new sense of urgency was in their game, with nine minutes to go.
Meredith was in no hurry to restart the game, but the Pumas seemed to have run out of any desire to further their lead and had moved into lead protection mode.
The Foxes continued to threaten, looking a stronger side with Schafer on the left and Mike Lind on the right.
On a breakaway, Fauske found Hepple on the left. He won a corner to allow the Pumas to eat up the clock a little more. From the corner, Fauske’s cross eluded Daniel Scott’s head by three inches. Then came a moment of madness when the Pumas hit the crossbar twice, Rosales made another save and David Gray had a shot blocked on the line. Moments later, the Pumas secured the match with a Robbie Christner header. Colorado had thrown too many men forward and the Pumas had exploited the gaps by an adventurous spirit, prompted by David Gray.
Moments later, Pumas survived a penalty shout when Copeland went down way too easily under pressure from Scott. Had he stayed on his feet he might have had a shooting chance. He was cautioned as the last act of a highly competent refereeing display.
Before the end Adam Tormoehlen replaced Schafer, and Fewing made his last substitution, bringing in Tye Perdido for Bryan Burke.
The final whistle preceded joyous scenes as this quite remarkable cup run continued.
TheCup.us Match MVP: Robbie Christner
KIT: Cameron Hepple – 17th min.
RCF: Steve Mohn (Own Goal) – 23rd min.
KIT: Robbie Christner – 43rd min.
KIT: Robbie Christner – 88th min.