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Clock strikes midnight for Kitsap Pumas
Taylor Hyde already wants a rematch.
The Kitsap Pumas defender believes his team came close to upsetting the Seattle Sounders, but instead lost 2-1 to the Major League Soccer franchise in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup Tuesday night at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila.
But at the final whistle, Hyde had to attribute the loss to missed opportunities.
With four shots in the first half, the Pumas didn’t tally their lone goal until midfielder Nik Besagno scored in the 71st minute. The Sounders outshot the Pumas 25-7 en route to eliminating the Bremerton team from the five-tier tournament.
Despite the strong showing and the Pumas’ underdog status, the defeat still stung.
“We came out to win and move on,” Hyde said. “That was our goal, we didn’t reach it and we’re not happy about it.”
The Sounders have a payroll in the millions, while the Pumas’ total lists at $36,000. Seattle draws crowds at Seahawks Stadium in a more elite soccer league, but Tuesday’s game between the Puget Sound foes remained close for the full 90 minutes.
As for Hyde, who has played with the Pumas since their inception three years ago, all opponents are equal, he said, even if Kitsap is facing the two-time defending Cup champions.
“They’re soccer players just like us and they’re men just like us,” Hyde added. “I would love to have a rematch with them because this was close.”
Rookie goalkeeper Bryan Meredith helped keep the Pumas within reach of a win by not allowing a goal early in the first half to the team that drafted him last winter.
The Pumas took the first 10 minutes to “get a feeling” for the Sounders, midfielder Matt Friesen said after the loss, and for the first half-hour, Kitsap held Seattle to 0-0 in front of a crowd of 3,800 fans.
“There were some nerves at first,” Friesen added. “For a lot of us, that’s more people than we’re used to seeing. We didn’t know what to expect, they play in two leagues above us.”
In the 39th minute, Sounders forward Mike Fucito delivered the first blow to Kitsap, scoring on an assist from Nate Jaqua. Fucito scored again in the 62nd minute to extend the lead to 2-0, jeopardizing the Pumas’ chances at upending the champs on their home turf.
“The longer we didn’t score, the longer they thought they would be in the game, so it was good to get that goal in the first half,” Fucito said.
Besagno trimmed the lead with a goal late in the second half, but the Pumas didn’t score again. Kitsap missed two open shots at the end of the match to fall short of a surprise ending.
Kitsap Pumas head coach Peter Fewing, who expressed frustration after Tuesday’s Cup loss, also added that the defeat was not due to a lack of effort.
“I’m not disappointed at all,” Fewing said. “I know the guys are down, because they know they can play with these guys.”
Forward Robby Christner joined his Pumas teammates in frustration. However, Christner and Hyde agreed that Kitsap was one or two shots away from beating a multi-million dollar franchise, which they hope to join at some point.
“We all want to be there,” Christner said. “We played with the Sounders tonight. That’s where we want to be, and we all could be there.”
For now, the Pumas are moving forward with the Premier Development League season. First-place Kitsap is still undefeated in league play atop the Northwest Division standings.
While Hyde would love another shot at the Sounders, the Pumas are focused on making the postseason this summer now that their U.S. Open Cup run has concluded.
“We lost, but the game gives us confidence for the rest of the year,” Hyde said. “If we play well and keep it up, there won’t be another PDL team that can hang with us.”