In a new, rare way to qualify for the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, the Kitsap Pumas defeated the Portland Timbers U23s 3-2 in a PDL regular season match that doubled as a tiebreaker for qualification. The Pumas received a pair of scores from Robbie Christner, a bicycle kick goal from former Major League Soccer No. 1 pick Nik Besagno and a pair of saves by Bryan Meredith on a penalty kick to send them to the 98th consecutive edition of the United States’ championship.
The Pumas will travel to El Paso, Tx. for their opening round match on June 14 where they will face fellow PDL side Chivas El Paso Patriots. The winner of that match will play the team that emerges between Real Colorado Foxes (PDL) and DV8 Defenders (USASA – North CA) a week later.
It marks the third year in a row that the Pumas have qualified for the tournament, making them the first PDL club to qualify in each of their first three seasons. They and fellow 2011 qualifier Reading United AC, join the Michigan Bucks as the only PDL teams to ever make the cut three years in a row. (Michigan did it twice: 1999-2001 and 2006-08).
There was very little ‘normal’ associated with Friday afternoon’s US Open Cup qualifying match. This was the first qualifying match added after the qualifying deadline to break a tie in the Professional Era (1995-present). The special 11:00 a.m. local time kickoff (also rare) for a Health and Fitness School Day, presented by Providence Health & Services, attracted a crowd of 4,754, which was bigger than than all but two of the Major League Soccer play-in matches from the last two years. Only the Portland Timbers’ two games this year (vs. Chivas USA at Merlo Field – 5,061 / vs. San Jose Earthquakes at Jeld-Wen Field – 11,412) drew more fans.
|2011 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup
Map of 2011 participants
The Pumas opened the scoring in the 20th minute when Christner headed home a David Gray cross from the right wing, snapping a 415-minute shutout streak Portland was riding.
Moments later, Besagno doubled the lead for the visitors with a bicycle kick. The former Real Salt Lake midfielder connected on the overhead kick and Brent Richards of the Timbers attempted to head it clear, but instead the ball found the underside of the crossbar and was called a goal by the referee.
Richards would bring the Timbers back into the game with his head after the halftime break when he nodded home a Steven Evans cross to make it 2-1 nine minutes into the second stanza.
The Portland pressure continued to mount but Kitsap restored the two-goal advantage in the 66th minute when Christner tallied his second of the day, knocking in the rebound of a Dan Scott attempt that was blocked. It marked the first time since July of 2009 that the Timbers U23s had allowed three goals in a league match.
Then the wheels started to come off for Kitsap as it looked like Portland would make the unlikely comeback with less than 20 minutes to play. It all started on the Portland defensive end in the 72nd minute when Pumas forward Brian Burke was sent off with a straight card for a tackle just outside of the box, leaving Kitsap with 10 men.
Three minutes later Ricky Abrego was taken down in the box, giving the Timbers a chance to cut the lead back to one again. Miles Byass sent his attempt down the middle of the goal, allowing Meredith to make the stop. The ball fell right back out to Byass though for a rebound finish, but a casual second try also enabled Meredith to stuff Byass again, stunning everyone.
With 10 minutes to play, Nick Palodichuk made for a thrilling finish, finally finding that second goal for the hosts and making Portland the first team to notch two goals against Kitsap in a game this season.
The play proved quite lively in the final moments for the young eyes on hand for the match. The clubs exchanged opportunities amidst numerous substitutions as the clock ran out on Portland’s chance to end Kitsap’s reign as the kings of Open Cup qualifying in the division.
For a full report on the match, visit Prost Amerika