Sometimes all it takes for an upset in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup is a bit of homework.
Or for the Premier Development League’s Kitsap Pumas in its 3-1 victory over against the USL’s Sacramento Republic FC, a massive scouting report put together by a former Sports Illustrated writer.
“This genius to my right here put together a fantastic scouting report on [the Republic],” said Pumas head coach Cameron MacDonald, pointing to goalkeeper coach and former SI man Liviu Bird. “Our staff are pretty committed. We spend hours and hours studying footage. We had a plan.”
That game plan involved shutting down Sacramento’s bombing fullbacks to deny them of their biggest offensive threats and making the Republic play through the middle where its mainly defensive midfielders failed to create anything of consequence.
“We’ve prepared as well as we thought we possibly could,” MacDonald said. “In my reflection of the game, I don’t think anyone watching it back can be disappointed with the way they played and with the outcome.”
Of course, the ball still had to be dispatched into the back of the net by the young Pumas team, who with the victory earned a fourth round match-up with intrastate side Seattle Sounders FC.
The goals epitomized the players MacDonald lined up on his front line: they came in rapid bursts at great pace towards the goal.
First, Mike Ramos found Javier Castro near the edge of the box in the 60th minute. Castro quickly cut around his man and dispatched the ball into the back of the net for a shock 1-0 lead.
Sacramento scored one minute later when local high school product Cameron Iwasa tapped in a missed clearance.
But just two minutes after that, Ramos would tally the winner, driving home a rebound from a save that Republic goalkeeper Evan Newton couldn’t quite corral.
In the 65th it was over. Castro neatly curled a ball to the far post after a giveaway to complete his brace and give Kitsap one of the biggest upsets of the young tournament.
“If you look at our record in the PDL the last couple of seasons, unbeaten in the regular season last year, one loss the year before,” MacDonald said. “The (players) on the field are on the verge and we’ve seen we can go toe-to-toe with a strong USL lineup … The USL is only a small step away from us. If you do your homework and you have boys that believe in themselves and work together, we’ve seen you can grind out results like this.”
It was a milestone victory for the Pumas who have enjoyed so much success in league play over the years. Now, after four unsuccessful attempts, Kitsap can add “upset a professional team in the US Open Cup” to their club resume.
Republic head coach Paul Buckle didn’t mince his words when speaking to reporters after the match – there would be no excuses from his side.
“You certainly can’t make two mistakes like we did on the back line and expect to advance,” he said. “They’ve punished us and they deserved to go through.”
And as for that June 15 Kitsap date with the Sounders?
“It’s a huge ask for us, but it’s exciting,” MacDonald said. “Some of our guys will go on and play at a good level and maybe have many more nights like that, but other guys knew that they had 90 minutes tonight to earn what might be one shot against an MLS team in their career.
“When that’s the motivation going in it, it’s pretty incredible what can be achieved. We’ll look forward to it. We’ll prepare like we prepared for this and go in with our game plan and see what happens.”
Evan Ream covers Sacramento Republic FC and soccer in Northern California for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @EvanReam.