It took 90 minutes for the Kitsap Pumas to find their first goal, but once they did, they had safely booked their passage into the third round of the 2016 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
Javier Castro smashed in a close-range shot in the final minute of regulation to lead Kitsap to a 1-0 victory over their PDL Northwest Division rivals, Seattle Sounders Under-23s, in Bremerton, Wash. on Wednesday night.
With the victory, the Pumas will travel to face Sacramento Republic of USL on June 1, with the winner of that match getting a chance to face off with a MLS squad. Sacramento easily defeated CD Aguiluchos USA 5-0 in their own Second Round matchup.
The Sounders began Wednesday’s match on the right foot, with David Olsen breaking into open space before firing a shot over the crossbar, but that was the best chance the visiting side would create in the first half. Kitsap began to earn more possession, resulting in a few dangerous looks at goal that kept Sounders goalkeeper Paul Christensen alert and busy.
Eighteen minutes into the first half, Kitsap’s Buba Jammeh smashed a long-range shot that the Sounders keeper was able to stay in front of and keep from the net. Then, in the 37th minute, Kitsap midfielder Jesus Sanchez curled a shot just to the outside of the post.
Kitsap continued to control possession as the second half began, although the Sounders were able to counter with numerous scoring chances of their own. One such opportunity from a free kick beat Kitsap keeper Matt Grosey but safely deflected off the crossbar.
The Pumas poured on the pressure as the second half wound down, hitting the bar once themselves and having a near-goal cleared off the goal line by a Sounders defender. But despite all the chances neither side could find the back of the net.
David Olsen came inches from giving the visitors the lead in the waning moments of the match. With the score somehow still 0-0, Olsen slalomed through the Kitsap defense, getting away a shot that caromed off the underside of the crossbar. But the ball did not go across the line, setting the stage for Kitsap’s Castro to provide a dramatic finish to the contest.
His goal came off a scramble in the goal box. The ball pinballed around the area until it deflected to Castro, lurking at the back post. He spun on his left foot and forced the ball into the net with his right, setting off a jubilant on-field celebration in front of the hometown Kitsap fans. Although there were still three minutes of stoppage time to be played, the wind was out of the Sounders’ sails and the game was effectively over.
Kitsap is in the middle of its sixth trip to the US Open Cup. Their most recent appearance came in 2015 when they crushed FC Tacoma 253 in the first round, 5-2, before getting knocked out 4-2 by Seattle Sounders FC 2.
The Sounders U-23s last entered the US Open Cup in in 2013 where they, too, succumbed in the second round. They defeated amateur side Doxa Italia 5-1 before being eliminated from the tournament by the then USL-PRO Charlotte Eagles.
The Pumas have had a rough start to the 2016 season. They sit at the bottom of the Premier Development League’s Northwest Division with -2 points after three games – the club was docked three points and awarded a forfeit for a violation of league roster rules in their opening match of the season.
There will be plenty of chances for the Sounders to gain revenge in the coming months. The two Northwest Division rivals face each other three more times in the 2016 PDL season, with the next matchup between the two coming in just 10 days.
But it will be Kitsap who moves on in the US Open Cup to face a very good Sacramento team – and maybe even get the chance to move on a little bit further.