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Pumas sprinting toward inaugural season
The Kitsap Pumas' proverbial roar reached fever pitch Tuesday in Bremerton.
The county's first fully professional soccer franchise unveiled its official home and away jerseys and team crest, announced the signing of its first player, Steve Mohn, and identified "key partnerships" with local and global corporations, including the German multi-national apparel and equipment supplier Puma.
Flanked by Mohn, the team's three-man coaching staff and executive director Ben Pecora, club owner Robin Waite expressed both excitement for the road ahead and reverence for what at times has been a tedious process in launching a professional soccer franchise from scratch.
About 25 people attended Tuesday's press conference, held four doors down from club headquarters on Wheaton Way at the soon-to-be-open retail store Soccer Nation, which in concert with Puma will supply the club's equipment needs.
"I must say I didn't realize how much work it was going to be," Waite said of beginning the franchise, pointing to logistical hurdles such as establishing business partnerships, outfitting the players, hiring a staff and coordinating the supplier deal with Puma, among others.
"Kitsap is not a sleeping giant, but it is sleeping at the moment. We do intend to wake up the soccer people here, get them pulling behind us."
The alarm clock's first chirp will be May 2, when the Pumas' inaugural season begins on the road against the Spokane Spiders. From now until then, coach John Wedge is tasked with cementing a blue-collar, winning lineup while front-office staffers Waite and Pecora continue to generate a buzz in the soccer community regarding Kitsap's newest team.
"It's exciting because it's now starting to develop into a reality," said Wedge, who was hired in February. "Before, we had a vision of where we wanted to go. But now, we can see with the players that either signed or are about to sign that there is a team.
"Now it's our job as coaches to get them prepared for the opening day of the season. This is where it really gets fun, I'm really looking forward to the next couple of weeks."
As for what the next few weeks will entail, Wedge said the first order of business is to build and maintain a yet-to-be-established team chemistry, something he expects to see happen over time.
"Getting the team to play together. We have a lot of talented players, but for the most part, they don't know each other," Wedge said. "So now we've got to see how they fit together, what kind of system works for us."
That process will begin with strenuous training sessions in which players' positions are established, talent is evaluated and the team's style of play emerges.
"We need to really work on being organized, set plays, decide how we're going to defend certain situations, decide what style of play we're going to adopt," Wedge said. "I know that we're going to play fast, attacking soccer. Where everybody's plays will come out when we start to look at the training and we see what particular talents people have."
Among the talent is Mohn, 23, who played at Pacific Lutheran University, Highline Community College and the University of Washington before landing a roster spot on the Tacoma Tide, which, like the Pumas, belongs to the United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League (USL PDL).
Two summers ago, however, between his junior and senior year at UW, Mohn broke his leg and was forced to the sidelines during a difficult rehab process.
"Luckily I got back, came out to these tryouts and they gave me another shot," he said.
Mohn was among 75 to 80 players who showed up for the club's first open tryout at North Kitsap High School in February. He and nine other hopefuls were invited back for a second tryout the following weekend. Shortly thereafter, Wedge informed him he had earned a spot on the team.
"I've kind of been anxious the whole time," said Mohn, whose position has yet to be determined, although he's most comfortable at right defender. "I can't wait for the season to start."
Mohn wasn't the only player at Tuesday's conference — five additional signees attended as well — but due to international clearance policies, he was the only one who could be formerly introduced.
The club's circular crest, designed by Joel DuChesne of Lake Stevens, who was awarded season tickets after his design prevailed in a "design-the-crest" contest, has a yellow outer border and a black inner border with Kitsap SC and Pumas ’09 etched in white lettering against the black. The middle of the crest is horizontal blue with white stripes — similar to the home jerseys — with a yellow Puma head inside a black circle.
"He absolutely nailed what we were after," said Pecora of DuChesne's design. "It's traditional, it incorporates our colors, it gives a little bit of an edge, we were absolutely thrilled."
The team's home jersey is horizontally striped in blue and white, a look Waite called "retro-modern" and "distinctive."
"I think that the bands, the stripes are more imposing than vertical stripes," Waite said, partially joking. "It makes them look bigger, makes them look meaner, makes them look more snarly."
Waite added there are about 8,500 youth soccer players in Kitsap County and he hopes at least half of them attend the Pumas' games.
The club continues to sell season tickets, which can be purchased online at www.kitsapsoccerclub.com or via phone at (360) 377-6008.
The first home game is at 7:30 p.m. May 15 at Bremerton's Memorial Stadium.